Every time I go down to San Diego, I drop by the world-famous Chino Farm to pick up some veggies/fruit.
Last weekend was no exception, and I bought a bunch of corn, peppers, beans etc...
Total cost: $49.50 incl. $10 for a dozen corn.
Having finally finished off all the food last night, I'm wondering if this place is more hype than substance. Yes, the quality is very high and the selection great, but I think I've gotten produce just as good at local farmers markets and even the supermarket.
Anyone else feel the same.
Oh, and what farmers markets/stand do you especially enjoy?
Seems really pricey. I go to the one in Torrance which is held on Tuesdays and Saturdays. As an example, last weekend I cooked a 14-course Moroccan feast for 18 people. Here's my shopping list (and those from the Farmer's Market with an asterisk) - spices and pantry-items excluded:
* 8 bell peppers
* Dozen onions
* 1 butternut squash
* Whole garlic
* 3 yellow squash
* 2 waxy potatoes
* 2 dozen carrots
* 6 yams
* 3 sweet potatoes
* 1 head of cabbage
* 6 eggplant
* bunches of radishes
* celery stalk
* 6 lemons
* 6 oranges
* 1 bunch mint
* 1 bunch parsley
* 1 bunch cilantro
* 3 pomegranates
1 leg of lamb
2 boxes instant couscous
4 cans garbanzo beans
2 cans chopped tomatoes
2 cartons vegetable stock
1 cup dried lentils
1 quart labne
1 jar pomegranate juice
2 bags pita
1 long flat-bread
1 box Middle Eastern cookies (I cheat and buy those)
1 quart Faloodi (an odd "ice cream"
Here's my menu -- the whole thing cost me under $175 and I only spent around $40 to $50 at the Farmer's Market for fruits and vegetables:
1. Moroccan soup with lentils and garbanzo beans
2. Eggplant Chermoula
3. Roasted Bell Peppers with Cumin
4. Sauteed sweet potatoes with Turmeric
5. Spicy carrots with cumin and coriander
6. Yellow squash with cinnamon and saffron
7. Roasted chicken couscous with carrots, yams, onions, garbanzos topped with dates and raisins
8. Marinated lamb skewers
9. Baba Ghanoush with Pita
10. Labne and Za'tar (a Middle Eastern cheese with herb blend) with flatbread
11. Radish salad with oranges and mint
13. Cookies with Middle Eastern coffee
14. Faloodi with Moroccan mint tea
By-the-way, I do this feast three or four times a year, so I consistently spend between $150 and $200, depending on the number of diners and the quality of lamb I decide to cook. I've got it down pretty pat by now...
re: Carolyn Tillie
Once a year, the LA Times prints all the Farmer's Markets times and locations -- sorry I don't have them at hand. I'm sure there is a website listing them...
For Torrance, on Tuesdays, it runs from 8:00am to 1:00pm and on Saturdays, from 8:00am to 12:00pm. It is in a public park (Wilson?)...
re: Carolyn Tillie
Point your web browser to the link below for a complete listing of all the South Coast Farmers' Markets, including locations, dates, and times. The biggest one, of course, is the Santa Monica Farmers' Market, but I particularly enjoy and often make the trek to the one in Torrance.
By the way, how do you get to Chino farm? I couldn't find any listings in the phone book, and I have only a general idea of the location from a Jeffrey Steingarten piece I read last year. Directions from the I-5 would be most appreciated.
As for Farmer's markets, the few I've been to locally tend to be vastly overpriced. The participants are the "gentlemen farmer" types: burnt out lawyers who move to places like Cambria and specialize in growing obscure strains of apricots. My wife and I -- especially during the summer -- get about 60 pounds of fruit and vegetables a week from a great Armenian produce market called Sendak's on Edgemont in LA, just south of Santa Monica. (Edgemont is just west of Vermont.) There are literally days where the entire back seat of our car is filled with fruit and we pay about $40. And the fruit is not over-ripe, like you're apt to get downtown at Grand Central Market.
The selection is also great: the dates are delectable -- better than anything you'll get at Hadley's. We've even had dried persimmons imported from northwest China. Anyway, take my word for it, and skip the overpriced farm stands.
How to get to to Chino Farm from I-5: Exit Via de la Valle (one of the two exits in Del Mar). Drive east for a ways (a few miles?). At Calzada del Bosque, turn right. Just before you get to Calzada del Bosque, you'll start passing by part of the farmland on your right. Drive on Calzada del Bosque until you get to a small stand on the right (it will be before the next intersection). That's it! It's very modest looking, except for all the fancy customers' cars in front.
As to whether it's worth going there: ABSOLUTELY. The corn is spectacular, the tomatoes are great, and there are lots of specialty vegetables that make the trip worthwhile.
Usually, when I go, some of my favorite chefs are there (Trey Forshee of George's at the Cove, Martin Woelse (misspelled, I'm sure) of Mille Fleur), and if you're lucky, the insufferable Jeffrey Steingarten WON'T be there.
You paid $10 for 12 ears of corn? Are you mad?
The farmers market in Santa Monica at 2nd and Arizona held on Wednesdays is glorious. I am partial to the apple merchants who dry-farm a wonderful variety (on Arizona halfway btw. Ocean and 2nd), the greens and herbs sold by the guy with the Cambodian shirts, his comely sons and moody Joy (on 2nd, 3 booths or so down from the Wilshire end--the chard here is beyond compare), the Asian pears sold just east of the promenade, the melons kitty-corner, the rainbow of eggplants at a stand on Arizona between 3rd and 2nd, Fairview Gardens (but nearly as spendy as Chino Farms) and the Barhi dates sold by the fellow on Arizona between Ocean and 2nd (the gentle contrast between the fresh Barhis and the year-old rehydrated ones is enchanting).