The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market was the most vibrant of them all. It filled 4 streets that all converged making for a central community meeting place. The produce was seductively stacked high, baskets of brilliant greens were overflowing and bins of olives glistened in the sun.
There was bins of fresh peas and layers of cardoons. Jake of Family Farms suggests to boil them and bake then in a gratin style. One farmer offers a taste of arugula blossoms. The tiny, delicate blossoms are the result of letting the arugula bolt. They’re peppery and bold, the perfect ingredient to spice up a salad. There are knarly bunches of what looks like pea vines, but not sure and this is where the fennel is the smallest, tenderest with the largest bouquet of fragrant fronds. Just walking down the street and you know where the fennel is piled high.
They have an event called the Farmers’ Market Guided Tour and Cocktail Class. Chef Josie Le Balch and a Master Mixologist Colleen Ford-Morales walk you through the market then you keep walking to Next Door by Josie (Restaurant) for a fabulous class on how to make market-fresh cocktails and snacks. It sounds wonderful! Pity I’m here on the wrong day.
There are green artichokes and what looks like black ones, but I’m immediately corrected. “they’re purple”, said one farmer rather annoyed. There are small ones and the largest, purple artichokes had green insides and looked absolutely beautiful.
Just around the corner from the market is a great restaurant called The Misfit Bar. The décor is ultra French posh with overly large dark woodwork, Parisian street light lamps, colourful mosaic floor tiles and an oversized, silver bar, imported from Paris. Its weight is not out of proportion to the towering 24-foot library bar that hosts an antique book library on the top layers and wine and liquors on the bottom. It’s probably the last place you’d expect to find classic California cuisine but chef Jordan Lynn is walking back from the market, arms laden with bags of fresh ingredients.
Seduced by the large, beautiful artichokes I order the Organic Grilled Artichoke with gremolata aioli ($12). It came sliced lengthwise in half and grilled. If you’ve ever eaten artichoke you know how much of a conversation finger food it is. Each leaf must be dunked in the aioli and then run across your bottom teeth to extract the soft flesh. It takes time. The flesh is meaty and smoky, the aioli is refreshing and spicy – oh, yum!