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Saturday Arizona Santa Monica Farmers' Market vs. Wednesday? Any thoughts?

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I usually go to the Sunday Beverly Hills Farmers' Market, but since it is closed for Easter, I went on Saturday to the Santa Monica farmers' market on Arizona..

It was kind of a hassle, since it is out of my way, I had to pay $5 to park becauseI didn't want to drive around trying to find a space and it was much more crowded than the Beverly Hills market, making for a less enjoyable shopping experience. I was also disappointed that although it is billed as the "organic" market, most of the stands did not appear to be organic. Plus the organic blood oranges that I did buy were a pale comparison to the organic ones that I had gotten the previous week at Beverly Hills.

The things I really liked compared to the Beverly Hills market were that there was a stand selling all kinds of organic dried fruits and nuts (I have not seen anything comparable at Beverly Hills), there was a guy selling wild nettles and he said he would have purslaine later in the season (wild greens don't seem big at the Beverly Hills market) and there were two vendors who had huge selections of beautiful organic greens (much bigger than the selections I have seen at the Beverly Hills market). Still, given the hassle, I think I will stick with the Sunday Beverly Hills' market. (Plus Beverly Hills has "Mom's', a Middle Eastern vendor who sells a feta cheese labeled "Tunisian" which is feta cheese lover's heaven).

Still, I was wondering how the the Wednesday Santa Monica market compares to the Saturday market? If people think that one is much better, I will give the Wednesday market a whirl.

Also, on my way home from the Saturday Arizona market, I did also stop at the Saturday farmers' market on Pico in Santa Monica. That one was a real disappointment. Not much organic produce and, in general, the selection and quality were not as high as at the Arizona market or the Beverly Hills' market.

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  1. OMG, I just tasted the lettuce/herb/edible flower mix that I picked up at the Saturday Arzona Santa Monica farmers' market. I served it with a homemade lemon mustard vinaigrette and some of the walnuts that I picked up at the market, and I have to say it was the best salad I have had in my life. Better than I have had at any restaurant anywhere. I forgot the name of the stand where I got this stuff. I'm hoping they are at the Wednesday market. If not, I will be trekking back and braving the hassle of the Saturday market.

    1. Definitely go to the Wed market. It is bigger than Sat, and has WAY more vendors and options. Some of the vendors are ONLY there on Wednesday, such as Rokenwager. A bigger variety of fruit, veggies, dried things and cheeses and stuff.

      The organic selection on Wed is much better, too.

      19 Replies
      1. re: Diana

        Agree about Wednesday being better. A lot of local restaurant chefs shop there too.

        1. re: J.L.

          Controversy at the Wed. Santa Monica Farmers' Market -- the LA Times (Sun Mar. 9, A1,29) reports that some of the chefs who are longtime shoppers there (they allow professionals to shop earlier) are being shut out because some of the vendors are preselling everything to big commercial distributors.

          1. re: nosh

            First off, the Wednesday market is incredible. I go to a lot of markets and this is the crown jewel of them all in terms of quality, quantity, and variety. The Saturday market in the same spot is probably a third or half the size of the Wednesday market. The Wed market probably beats out the Hollywood Sunday market because it has fewer prepared food vendors and craft vendors and more farmers.

            For what it's worth, I've found the prices at the BH market to be a tad higher than some of the other markets. My study is hardly scientific, but I noticed it.

            As someone who goes every week to the Wed market and is friends with a lot of the farmers, I think that LA Times piece was a bit overblown. Yes, some farmers are delivering big batches of produce to chefs and distributors, but that's been going on for years. Back in the day, everybody cried foul when the chefs started coming to the market. I think people should just settle down and celebrate the fact that all of this business is helping these farmers to make their businesses more viable. It's a tough way to make a living and Uncle Sam doesn't help.

            1. re: nosh

              Yeah, well those chefs only a year or so ago were shutting out the normal consumer by coming in the morning and buying all the good stuff beforee we could get there, or worse.

              Looks like they can dish out that kind of behavior, but not take it!

              They could, of course, as noted in the report, call the vendor before the market, ask what he had, and order ahead of time for the vendor to bring down specially for them. But they don't like that, it's an extra step.

          2. re: Diana

            I think Rockenwagner does a few of the FMs - for sure at the thursday Culver City FM. And yes, the Wednesday FM on Arizona dwarfs the Saturday market - I would guess on average by at least 50 percent. Go early as many of LA's chefs go early. In fact, even they are getting shut out of some of the better offerings as many of the growers have gained excellent reputations for offering fantastic produce and are now being paid top-dollar for their goods by wholesalers... oops - nosh already mentioned this... anyway, you get the point - the wednesday market is the one with the most and the best - and park in the public parking structures off 4th street - free parking for the first two hours... true Angelenos loathe pay parking...

            1. re: bulavinaka

              Exactly how early do you have to go? Will I be shut out of all the best vegetables if I don't get there at the crack of dawn? I went to the Saturday market late (11:45) and the only thing I think I was shut out of were pastured eggs (the fact that it was the day before Easter probably didn't help on that score).

              1. re: omotosando

                You should be good as long as you're there by 0900... but even if you get there after 0900, you'll still be amazed at the selection. It all depends on what you're after and what time of the year you're going. For example, if you're after mulberries, you'll be competing with LA's large Persian community for a relatively small harvest that has a short season and command a high price. Conversely, because So Cal abounds with great citrus, avocados, nuts, etc. etc. etc., you could probably show up at 1100 and still have a good selection. Just keep in mind that alot of the farmers will sell to the chefs in relatively large quantities before the market even officially opens. So if you're after something that may be in limited supply or season (like wild mushrooms as another example), go early.

                The whole organics issue is kinda crazy as alot of the original folks - mainly small specialized farmers - who spawned the organic craze - particularly at the FMs - were somewhat shut out of the certification process. The mountain of red tape and other costs involved in the certification process was viewed as too much and unnecessary by many of the small farms. They felt that their reputation would trump any regulatory title handed down by the government. I don't know if this is still the case in terms of the effort involved in certification but one of my favorite growers - Harry's Berries - mentioned the whole issue when it arose years ago. They opted not to deal with the process and they seem to be doing just fine. They are loved and respected for their produce by the general public as well as by many chefs.

                1. re: bulavinaka

                  The certification process can be a big hurdle and there are lots of vendors who are transitional or uncertified and practice organic farming technituq. And Harry's has great berries, no question.

                  However Harry's DOES NOT grow organic berries, certified or not. Strawberries retain a huge amount of pesticide residue.

                  1. re: JudiAU

                    I think this message implies that Harry's Berries is using synthetic fertilizer and that is not the case. They have not used fertilizers like that in many, many years.

                    For other farms that use these fertilizers, JudiAU is correct that the berries retain the fertilizer compound more than many other fruits.

                    1. re: glutton

                      no, as i read it, she was talking about pesticides. that, of course, is very different from fertilizers. strawberries are one of the hardest fruits or vegetables to grow without pesticides because of the enormous number of pests that are drawn to them. indeed, until the introduction of chemical pesticides, strawberries couldn't be grown successfully in the same field for more than two years in a row. and because they are such a soft fruit, without a peel or even really a skin, they do retain pesticides ... if that sort of thing bothers you. i like my harry's berries and have been eating tons of them for more than 20 years without ill effect.

                    2. re: JudiAU

                      I could be wrong or maybe I misunderstood the folks at Harry's when I spoke to them about this whole issue back in '97 or '98, but they gave me the strong impression that they were in fact practicing organic methods - no pesticides. It was the certification process that Harry's had an issue with. I don't want to proclaim that they always have been or are still at the zenith of organic farming methods (because I'm not positive) but at the same time I wouldn't want to flame their reputation. Quite a few restaurants use Harry's because of their reputation. Axe (in Venice), for one, takes alot of pride in focusing on local growers, particularly ones who practice organic methods... Are you certain that Harry's uses pesticides (probably methyl bromide)?

                      1. re: JudiAU

                        OK, I did a little googling on Harry's and coincidentally the Santa Monica Mirror did a writeup this past week mentioning this very subject concerning strawberries and Harry's. I think Harry's reputation remains intact...

                        http://www.smmirror.com/mainpages/art...

                        1. re: bulavinaka

                          In conversations I've had with Molly and Rick, the farmers behind Harry's Berries, they have said that they have not used methyl bromide for many years. A visit to their farm supports this because they are proponents of using natural methods to fight pests (i.e. other bugs) and you can see evidence of them encouraging that.

                          1. re: glutton

                            What you mention is consistent with what I vaguely recall back in the late 90s... again - I'm referring to a casual conversation I had with the son back in - I think '97 or '98 - when this certification process became an issue... thanks

                      2. re: bulavinaka

                        I hear this -- that the certification process is expensive or too much red tape -- fairly often. Does anybody have a reference to certification costs? The only reference I have been able to find shows that certification costs from 0.3% to 2% (depending on the size of the farm) for the initial certification; less for the annual recertification. This doesn't seem like an insurmountable hurdle to me.

                        1. re: Bjartmarr

                          I think what one wants to keep in mind in this case is that Harry's was among the first of a handful of farmers who decided on their own to change the way that they farmed, both vertically and horizontally. This alone was a huge step into "uncharted waters," as most farmers were (and still are) about cranking out massive volumes of produce that are focused more on transportability and shelf live (rather than flavor and quality), and distributing through wholesalers. From what I recall about what the son said, the whole organic certification process was in response to so many sellers and growers claiming that their products were organic without any way to legitimize it. This hurt the reputation (and pocketbooks) of those -like Harry's - who truly were doing things the right way. The son said something to the affect that they felt no reason to have to prove to anyone via a certification process that their product wasnot only good but organically sound as well. In other words, their reputation speaks volumes over any stamp of approval by a bureaucracy. Maybe they felt it was a slap in their face after being among the first few to encourage a positive change an otherwise chemical-intensive industry.

                          And 0.3 percent is 0.3 percent. This may not seem much, but most farmers do operate very close to the margin; thus, the need for volume. I don't know the cost structure for Harry's, but for a conventional strawberry farm, the annual cost per acre is about $25,000 and a net of around $5,000, which the majority goes into providing for future crops. Furthermore, time spent on dealing with this bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo is time spent away from taking care of the real business at hand...

                          1. re: bulavinaka

                            i think another very good thing to keep in mind is that in many ways the term "organic" is outmoded. Lots of people use it as shorthand for small, high-quality farmers, which is not necessarily so. Lots of people also buy into the notion that anything that isn't pure organic (no chemical) is somehow unsafe, which is not so. There is a huge gray area between pure organic and chemical-intensive industrial farming.

                            1. re: FED

                              I couldn't agree more... I made a mention about sourcing chile padi at the FMs and how one can just ask the Asian farmers for them. I was handed a ziplock bag of chiles at the Mar Vista Grandview FM and a lady noticed them. She asked, "are those organic?" The farmer responded, "Not totally - I use a nonorganic fertilizer higher in nitrogen on the chile plants..." The lady acted like it was poison, snubbed the farmer and walked away... WTF - give me a break...

                              1. re: FED

                                The folks at Harry's Berries would agree with you -- organic is a virtually meaningless term at this point in time. Like many farmers and consumers, they prefer to use "sustainable." I'm not much for the semantics debate, but I can say that their food is trustworthy and that's worth a lot of money.

                  2. If you come back to the Santa Monica Farmers' Market, you shouldn't have to pay anything to park. the City of Santa Monica has several parking structures on 2nd and on 4th streets, just a quick walk away from the market. The first 2 hours is free. Just go to the City's website for a map of the structures. Cool thing - there is a sign outside each structure telling you how many spaces are available - this is also available on line, but that's usually not very practical when you're already in the car.

                    As to your complaint about organic vs. non-organic - I believe that all the major Farmers' markets are run by the same organization and the standards for organic compliance are the same. So I don't know why you got the impression that the stands in Santa Monica aren't organic.

                    And I encourage you to check out the Wednesday SM market.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: gsw

                      A few stands had signs advertising that they were organic. Most did not. I assumed that if a stand had organic produce, there would be a sign touting this, and so I assumed that the majority of stands were not organic.

                      1. re: omotosando

                        Here's the link to the California Federation of Certified Farmers' Markets

                        http://www.cafarmersmarkets.com/about/

                        Here's another link to the City of Santa Monica's market:

                        http://www.smgov.net/farmers_market/

                        I'm not seeing anything in a quick reading that specifically says they're organic. OTOH, both the Santa Monica market and the Beverly Hills market are part of the CFM organization. I had always heard that they were organic, but it doesn't seem totally apparent at the links.

                        1. re: gsw

                          Farmers markets are not necessarily organic, regardless of the organization overseeing the market. The Wed and Sat FM in Santa Monica on 3rd/Arizona are both organic. The other SM markets are not entirely organic, but are dominated by organic growers. For the organic Wed and Sat markets, it's the same market manager (Laura Avery) that oversees both of them and she's pretty meticulous about confirming that the farms are truly organic, so I think you can really bank on that claim.

                          1. re: glutton

                            hmmm, i don't think this is true. there are many non-organic farmers at both wednesday and saturday sm. originally, the saturday sm was supposed to be organic only, but they couldn't find enough growers to fill the market.

                            as for wednesday v. saturday (and sunday, too), there is no doubt that the wednesday market is the best in southern california as well as being one of the best in the state and even the nation. but the saturday market has a good assortment of growers and lots of folks like sunday because of its small-town family feel.

                            what wednesday offers that nobody else can is an assortment of really terrific farmers. but on the other hand, how many do you really need to cook dinner?

                            1. re: FED

                              You make a good point - for a home cook (especially a single one like me) exactly how much produce can you buy?

                              I'm afraid I might be a little overwhelmed by the Wednesday market if it is twice as big as the Saturday market. I am wondering, however, if it is less crowded than Saturday -- that would be a big advantage to me. Or maybe it has more purposeful shoppers. There were a lot of people at the Saturday market who seemed like they were making a social occasion of it, which was fine with me, except when they were blocking the stands chatting to each other. And I got run over by a few baby strollers. I guess if I had gone when the market first opened, I could have avoided a lot of that, but I'm not really a morning person.

                              1. re: omotosando

                                Wednesday can be MORE crowded than Saturday depending on the hour you arrive (the number of people seems to peak between 9:00 and 10:00 on Wednesday). There are alot more institutional buyers, and Santa Monica has a large community that can afford to shop the market pretty much any day it's open.

                                Incidentally, with both the Arizona markets, getting there before the 8:30 bell guarentees that you can browse without worrying about being aced out for the rarer, more limited items. Chocolate Persimons, Fraise du Bois, Persian Mullberries, Green Pistachios, sometimes even Gaviota Strawberries, and Last Chance Peaches (depending on weather conditions and time of year)... are often sold out within the first thirty to forty minutes. Of course, everything is seasonal, and there are alot of times of year that it doesn't make sense to race over there early, because there's nothing of great merit that's going to sell out.

                                You can listen to the market report on Even Kleinman's KCRW show, on Saturday morning, if you want to beat yourself up about all of the stuff you missed three days earlier...

                                1. re: omotosando

                                  You might not need to buy produce from every farmer, but it is nice to have lots of selection. A variety of farmers means you get many types of each produce. Not everyone sells the same tomatoes, strawberries, etc. I think the Wed. market proves that vegetables and fruits are not a commodity -- peaches are different, persimmons are different, carrots are different, etc. It all depends on where they are grown, how they are grown, and what varietal was planted. For example, I was obviously familiar with carrots before I ever went to the Wed FM, but I never knew that there were so many flavors, colors, textures, sizes, etc. available. And this all changes by season, which is a great way to eat because it ensures there is variety in the diet.

                                  1. re: omotosando

                                    It has become a social function for alot of folks from various parts of entertainment and media. As one of my friends in this industry described it, "they consider it neutral ground to just gas off, but most don't know how to turn it off..." Aside from this craziness, either day is a great way to go, but if you are to choose one over the other, go Wednesday. This gives you the advantage to plan for the weekend. Aside from certain highly-perishables, alot of what's offered there will keep if stored properly.

                                2. re: glutton

                                  This information is not accurate. First of all, being a Certified Farmers Market has nothing to do with being certified organic. (Check out the Santa Monica Farmers Market website for more information on what it means to be a Certified Farmers Market). Also, it is simply not true that most Farmers' Markets are run by the same organization. For instance, the Santa Monica Farrmer's Markets are run by the City of Santa Monica. None of the four Santa Monica Farmers Markets are considered 'organic' or 'not organic'. (Many years ago the Saturday Downtown Market was called the Organic Market because the majority of the farmers were certified organic. That was just a name, not a certification. It still has a large number of certified organic growers). Each Market has a variety of farmers. Some of these farmers are certfied organic, and those that are have a flag hanging from their booth that says certified organic at each Santa Monica Market. Also, many farmers farm competely without pesticides but choose not to become certified organic because of the cost and paperwork involved. While most of the growers at the Santa Monica Farmers' Markets fall into these two categories, a farmer does not have to be organic to participate in the Santa Monica Markets. You can ask individual farmers about their particular growing practices. Also, Laura Avery is the supervisor of the Santa Monica Farmers Markets and the Wednesday Market Manager but she is not the Manager of the Downtown Saturday Market.

                          2. The Wednesday market wins hands down. It is the largest and best market in Southern California. The Sunday Hollywood FM is the largest and best weekend market. Go early for best selection. It is much larger with a larger organic selection than BH.

                            1. The gal from "Mom's" is at the El Segundo Thursday's FM as well ( quite a small market with very small produce selection ) Howeer her Feta is great. Last week I bought a tub laced with Zatar spice and it was very tasty..

                              1. The Wednesday market is by far the better of the two, but I have to say (puts on his fire-retardant suit) that while I can get astoundingly shockingly great produce at Santa Monica Wednesday, I also have to pay for it -- and some of the vendors are the same as at my local Irvine Saturday market where the prices are much, much lower.

                                I understand why -- it's as much tourist attraction as working market, much like San Francisco's Ferry Building market or Berkeley's markets, but... yeesh.

                                One thing I wish more markets had was meat. I can buy fish at the Irvine FM and at the Studio City and Santa Monica ones, and some markets have cheese selections (Irvine is pretty piddly in that regard), but nobody sells meat. Perhaps they don't need to (meaning that they do well enough selling great meat to restaurants) but it would sure be nice.

                                Omotosando -- you might check out the Studio City FM on Sunday mornings if you want a break from BH. The prices are reasonable and it's a much friendlier market than either SM or Hollywood.

                                10 Replies
                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                  Encino on Sunday is also pretty good.

                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                    it would be great to have more meat at the markets. that is a big failing. but there is a beef and pork guy who goes to lots of them, including the wednesday SM. i've also seen a buffalo guy around, too. for fish, anjin does a pretty good job (though i've noticed lately that it seems that fewer and fewer of their fish are actually caught by them). i also really like west coast fish, which makes no claims about catching fish, but usually has a pretty good stock of west coast stuff available, including stuff you don't see many other places, like white sea bass.

                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                      also don't overlook the pasadena victory market saturday morning. that' s a very good one, small but with a well-edited line-up of top-notch farmers.

                                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                        The Santa Monica Wednesday market has a guy who sells beef and pork, as somebody mentioned. Also, Lindner Bison has a stand where they sell frozen bison. Finally, Organic Pastures (the organic raw milk company) has been selling their culls recently. I also saw some cage-free organic chickens and ducks there a couple months ago, but not since then.

                                        1. re: Bjartmarr

                                          I have purchased whole chickens from Tomas, the guy who sells Lilly's Eggs. It's clearly organic because this chicken looks a lot different than those huge-breasted chickens that Ralph's sells. I like my chickens to look normal, not a playboy model, so I have purchased quite a few of these chickens from Tomas.

                                          1. re: glutton

                                            not to pick on the glutton (i are one too), but the size of the bird has nothing to do with whether it is organic. standard breeder hens can be raised organically just as well as any other breed of chicken. it's the variety and how it was raised that makes the difference, not the simplistic question of whether it was fed on organic feed (the definition of organic poultry).

                                            "organic" has become shorthand for "good farming" and that's a shame ... and probably a topic for another discussion. but there are lots of good, small farmers who are not organic. and there are lots of big mediocre farmers who are.

                                          2. re: Bjartmarr

                                            Lindner Bison is also at the Saturday Santa Monica market. I just picked up some bison burgers this Saturday. Thumbs up.

                                          3. re: Das Ubergeek

                                            [QUOTE]The Wednesday market is by far the better of the two, but I have to say (puts on his fire-retardant suit) that while I can get astoundingly shockingly great produce at Santa Monica Wednesday, I also have to pay for it -- and some of the vendors are the same as at my local Irvine Saturday market where the prices are much, much lower.[/QUOTE]

                                            Just to clarify this point, but are you saying that the vendors who sell at Irvine and SM who sell the same produce will charge higher prices for the exact produce at SM than they would at SM?

                                            1. re: hobbess

                                              The exact same? That I don't know. But I don't have quality issues at Irvine and the prices are much lower than Santa Monica. I didn't go to Santa Monica this week, but a friend did, and said that strawberries were going for $8/3-pack. At Irvine strawberries were going for $6/3-pack.

                                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                I primarily shop at Irvine FM, and I've probably bumped into you at some point. I wouldn't call it quality issues, but different vendors sell different levels of quality where sometimes, I've bought something at Irvine only to be disappointed and feel like I could have bought a better product at the local grocery store.

                                                I wouldn't be surprised if the avg price at SM is higher if only for the fact that you've got more boutiques there who are specializing in unique items and that's driving up the avg price. Too many items, I'll read in Russ Parson's article in the LATimes about what's in season at the farmers market but I won't see those items in the Irvine FM.

                                          4. Well, I finally made it today to the Wednesday market.

                                            First, to those that say free parking is a snap in the City lots, that is not true. I arrived around 11:00 a.m. and both the lots on 4th St. (one to the south of Arizona and one to the North) were showing that they were completely full. I drove around for a while looking for a spot and when I made another pass on 4th, the lot to the north of Arizona was now showing 7 open spaces, so I entered and eventually, after a lot of waiting, found a space.

                                            On to the market. Yes, it's bigger than the Saturday market. But the two vendors that I was the most excited about -- Flora Bella Farms and Maggie's -- are both at the Saturday market, so no need to skip work on a Wednesday morning for those two.

                                            Flora Bella had lamb's lettuce, but arriving after 11:00 a.m., I missed it. (The only way I knew I missed it was because there was a sign advertising it, but none left. I suppose in many cases if you come late, you don't know what you have missed since most vendors don't have backdrop signs). Flora Bella also had nettles, but since I had picked some up the prior Saturday, I skipped the nettles in favor of some beautiful Russian kale. I see from Flora Bella's website http://www.florabellafarm.net/Certifi... that they are also at the Sunday Hollywood market.

                                            I saw two mushroom vendors at the Wednesday market - I don't recall seeing any at the Saturday market, although I could have missed them.

                                            At the Saturday market, there was a vendor selling pastured eggs (which were sold out by the time I got there), but I saw no pastured eggs at the Wednesday market, which was disappointing (plenty of "free-range" eggs, which you can also buy at the supermarket and Whole Foods, but "free-range" is not pastured).

                                            I doubt I would take off from work again to go the Wednesday market, versus the Saturday market.

                                            Anyone know if Maggie's is at any of the other local farmers' markets? Their "Stellar" salad mix is truly stellar.

                                            16 Replies
                                            1. re: omotosando

                                              maggie's does lots of markets. i don't have a list, but they're at my long beach sunday market, too. and their greens are super.

                                              11 a.m. is really hitting the market late and a lot of things will be sold out. to get the full shot, you need to get there between 9 and 9:30 (or even earlier).

                                              as for parking, try the lot on fourth street that's down by border grill. it's a little longer walk, but there are always lots of spots.

                                              1. re: FED

                                                Hmmn, I keep wondering what I am missing by getting there late. As I posted, unless there is a backdrop sign, you have no idea what you have missed since it simply isn't there.

                                                1. re: FED

                                                  I always park in the lot on Third Street north of Wilshire.

                                                  1. re: FED

                                                    I get there by 8:30 or 9:00 (10 at the latest )and drive right into the lot on Arizona and Fourth. No problem. Down the stairs, along the alley right into the market. Both wwednesdays and Saturdays have been fine.

                                                  2. re: omotosando

                                                    Glad that you've been enjoying the SM Farmers' Market.

                                                    A note on the parking: I am a regular at the market and have never once had an issue parking. I'm not saying you didn't have a hard time but I do think that those are anomalies. I don't ever bother with 4th street parking though, even if I'm just trying to catch a movie. Try 2nd. On Wednesdays you'll have to approach the market from the south side to access parking. Perhaps you've just been unlucky or perhaps I've had patience beaten into me but it shouldn't be much of a problem as you learn the lay of the land.

                                                    With regards to the Wednesday versus Satuday Markets: While many of the good vendors are at both market days, the truth is that the Saturday market is just not as good as the Wednesday one. This is true despite the trend that some of my favorite vendors that used to be there only on Wednesdays now show up on both days. This is especially evident during late spring and all through summer. If you are looking for a near unlimited bounty to be inspired by, Wednesday is the day. If you need to replenish your supplies of greens and grab a couple of fruits and vegetables, Saturday is usually more than adequate. I hope you try the Wednesday market again in the summer, if for no other reason than to justify skipping out on work.

                                                    Maggie's Farm is obscene. You can't go wrong with any of their lettuces or herbs. The chocolate mint is very special when available. I'd also recommend a fairly new stand (the name escapes me) that has been selling a french heirloom spinach. It's a savoy spinach (crinkly leaves) that seems nearly identical to the Bloomsdale varietal. You need to stem it and wash it very well but it's worth a try. They have just about the best looking red chard I've ever seen, too.

                                                    Lastly, I just don't get the parochialism that's creeps it's way into so many posts on this board. I'm not really sure how one Farmer's Market is 'friendlier' than another. I've only been treated well by vendors at ANY Farmers' Market I've been to. It's about the selection and one would be hard pressed to do poorly at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market on Wednesdays.

                                                    1. re: Frommtron

                                                      I'm intrigued by the thought of chocolate mint. What do you do with it?

                                                      1. re: omotosando

                                                        Make it into Thin Mints, of course. (Sorry, I couldn't resist!)

                                                      2. re: Frommtron

                                                        I'm the source of that so-called "parochialism", and what I mean by friendliness is not just the vendors but the patrons. The Hollywood and both large Santa Monica farmer's markets are usually filled with people who are rushing about and often push. I've been shoved more times at the Wednesday market (which was a weekly thing for me when I lived near 14th and Arizona) than at any of the other markets combined. People dug me in the ribs when I was examining produce, and I got a lot of exasperated sighs.

                                                        That doesn't happen at Studio City. Or at Irvine. Or at Encino. Or at Westwood. Or at Burbank.

                                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                          I suppose I did call you out and I certainly didn't mean to do so, only the sentiment, which seems endemic to Chowhound.com as a whole. That particular comment fits into "The Westside of Los Angeles is a food and cultural black hole and *insert my part of town* is better because of that." It's the same argument people use to place NYC or SF higher in the pantheon of food cities. If that's not a parochial consideration, I don't know what is.

                                                          Sorry. I just never got it and I find that people bring their own prejudices into the analysis far too often. I've not found a correlation between friendliness and a particular section of town in Los Angeles. I have seen people tense up and act strangely when they enter a part of town that they are uncomfortable with. The behavior you describe certainly does happen at all of the locations that you list. It's going to happen more at busier locations which is part of your comment above. To call it friendlier is a bit perjorative when what is really meant is that it's less crowded and more leisurely.

                                                          Again, this isn't necessarily addressed to you. I was just surprised that an institution that I find nearly unassailable is getting the typical "westside" treatment.

                                                          1. re: Frommtron

                                                            I have to say, that as a native Westsider, I have seen this area in general become a lot more uptight and a lot less considerate over the past 20 years. The level of rudeness, ill manners, and lack of consideration seems to play out at places where crowds form - Costco (MdR location), Home Depot (Mar Vista/Playa Vista location), Trader Joe's (Santa Monica location), and yes, the FM on Arizona, particularly on Saturdays. The disregard for manners - thinking about the other person - is truly lacking in a lot of Santa Monica's public areas. I don't know if it's from the gentrification of this town, some of the truly strange folks who show up, or just times a changin'. Whatever the case, I've lived here all of my life - save a couple years here and there - and I will probably never leave it.

                                                            1. re: bulavinaka

                                                              My comment was meant as an aside and I don't want to hijack the thread like a big jerk. I'll just try to clarify what I meant and leave it alone.

                                                              I haven't seen the personality change that you're referring to when I'm on the westside so I can't comment as to whether any of the 3 factors you mention are playing a role in people's perception of the area. I do know that I've been treated poorly in Silverlake as well as Brentwood. I've been ignored by the hostess at the westside sushi hotspot as often as I've been ignored by the bartender at the eastside club. I've also been treated well in all areas of the city for the most part.

                                                              My point is that I think some people tend to attribute a neighborhood with unfavorable attributes unfairly. The SF valley isn't a vapid wasteland anymore than the westside is filled with mannerless schmucks.

                                                              I have never understood the need to denigrate a particular part of this city or a particular demographic element. It's a bete noir of mine, and I'm sure it's an over-reaction in this particular thread, but those comments creep their way into even some of my favorite and most valued posters' writings.

                                                              1. re: Frommtron

                                                                Well said!

                                                                1. re: Frommtron

                                                                  Sorry these comments peeve you... that was not my or I think anyone else's intentions. Rather these observations reflect the different personalities that various markets have. As much as one would hope that these issues didn't affect one's overall experience - moreover, wish they were an anamoly - I guess maybe some folks (like me) are more sensitive to such considerations than others. And many of my long-time friends who've also live here most if not all of their lives in Venice, Mar Vista, and Culver City have made the same observation, to the point of avoiding said-locations above and choosing to go to alternative places or events. But I still choose to go to this FM because the selection and quality are worth dealing with whatever (I perceive as) static comes my way. My suggestion would be to just let these comments slide off your psyche like water off a duck's back. They're just personal observations, just like yours... Shake?

                                                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                    Sure thing.

                                                        2. re: omotosando

                                                          I went to the market this morning as well just before 11am. I parked in one 2nd Street structures at Wilshire. I believe it said there were 36 spaces available.

                                                          1. re: omotosando

                                                            Don't just try the 2 4th street structures near Arizona - there are several parking structures on 2nd and even at Santa Monica Place.

                                                          2. I also noticed that there were no hot chili peppers at either the Saturday or Wednesday market. Are they not in season? Anyone know if I will see them in the summer? Or do the local growers not bother with them. I'm particularly addicted to the Thai peppers. I was growing them myself last summer, but I seem to have killed my plant.

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: omotosando

                                                              Peppers are out of season, unfortunately. There is a great stand that pops up in the summer that has a wonderful variety.

                                                              The greens stand located at the western most edge of the market often carries fresh wild limes and their leaves as well as Thai chillies (and if you're particularly lucky, fresh curry leaves).

                                                              Of course, if you really need them, 99 Ranch has got them. The closest to the westside is in Van Nuys.

                                                              1. re: Frommtron

                                                                Some vendors keep the chile padi off the tables - just ask next time and you might get lucky... We get more hits than misses, particularly if you ask the Asian growers...

                                                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                  Why are they hiding the chili peppers?

                                                                  1. re: omotosando

                                                                    To be honest, I don't know. But I suspect that the growers probably feel the little suckers might either be dwarfed on a table filled with greens, eggplants, squashes, etc., or maybe unsuspecting shoppers might touch the near-fissle nuggets of fire and then contaminate their faces (or their kids') and pay dearly...

                                                            2. One thing that I bought today at the SM Farmers' Market that was a real disappointment was a $5 loaf of green olive bread from Bezian's. I took a slice and thought it was so horrible (soggy, underbaked, no crust, bad flavor) that I threw it in the trash. The organic strawberries that I bought today at the Wednesday market (not from Harry's) are also bad and are about to join the bread in the trash. And the blood oranges that I got at Saturday's Santa Monica market are pretty bad too - really disappointing after the great blood oranges that I had gotten the week before at the Beverly Hills farmer's market. Lesson learned -- just because it's at the Wednesday (or Saturday) Santa Monica Market doesn't mean that it's any better than the stuff at Ralph's (and it may be worse). Ask to sample everything. Buyer beware.

                                                              Oh well, at least the produce from Maggie's and Flora Bella are impeccable.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: omotosando

                                                                Absolutely. Unless you know the farmer, taste everything. If they won't let you taste it, then don't buy it.