Market Scene: Santa Monica Pico Farmers' Market
Note: On Mondays, one of our various Market Scene correspondents checks in with what's fresh at farmstands, what's coming up, and what you better get while the gettin's good. This week, we hear from West Coast correspondent Leah Greenstein of Spicy Salty Sweet. Take us to the market, Leah!
Labor Day can mark the end of summer or the unofficial start of fall, depending on how you look at it. This time last year autumn's apples, pears, and pomegranates had already begun to arrive but this weekend at the Santa Monica Pico Farmers' Market on Cloverfield and Pico (map) summer seemed to be holding as tight as a kid to their last day's of freedom before school starts.
The Santa Monica Pico Farmers' Market is on the smaller side with incredibly wide aisles between stalls, perfect for chefs towing dollies full of produce. It's also a favorite among some area chefs. I ran into Brian Best, the sous chef at Hatfield's, stocking up on Gloria's summer squash and Weiser potatoes, and watched as one of the owners from Mar Vista's the Curious Palate loaded his car up with baby artichokes, tomatoes, avocados and potatoes for Sunday breakfast.
The smell of ripe melons floated through the air—orange-fleshed honeydews and perfumed cavaillons at Weiser Family Farms. Melons have just a couple weeks left so splurge on them now if you can.
Firm clusters of sweet, tangy grapes cascaded across tables like amethysts and emeralds. The Ruby Kings from Balderamas, with their leaves still attached, begged to be made into a granita or sorbet—if you can resist just eating them plain.
The best thing at the market, though, had to be the steaks, roasts and homemade sausages at J&J Grassfed Beef, perfect for Labor Day grilling. J&J is co-owned by Jay Shipman, who was manning the booth over the weekend.
J&J has two herds: one munches on grasses in Northern California and another roams the hillsides of the Imperial Valley, near San Diego. The cattle are Angus crossed with other breeds like Charolais and Hereford. The Southern California beef is dry-aged for 21 days and truly fantastic. Those fortunate to arrive early enough to the market could also get tri-tip and pre-formed burger patties to cook up for friends and family.
About the author: Leah Greenstein is a Los Angeles-based food and wine writer. Her favorite bumper sticker says: Talk Nerdy to Me. You can find more about L.A.'s farmers' markets and seasonal recipes on her blog SpicySaltySweet.com.