In spite of the early hour and two hour drive, I was headed to the famous Santa Monica Farmers Market for an insiders shopping lesson. Friend Kristine Kidd, former food editor of Bon Appétit Magazine for twenty years, offered to show me the market from her experienced eyes. Read on to see my tips for farmers market shopping.
Shopping with Friends
A veteran farmers market shopper, Kristine has been shopping Santa Monica for many years.Who better to learn about the best stands from than Kristine. Between writing her sixth cookbook, working with Williams-Sonoma, launching her own food blog plus a busy speaking schedule, I was delighted at the opportunity.
Feast for the Senses
Everywhere you turn the market is a feast for the senses. It’s easy to be mesmerized by the heady smell of fresh flowers, vibrantly colored vegetables, fruit and berries, bakery items and more. The array of what is available is amazing. I was the proverbial kid in the candy store. If you love to cook, it’s grocery shopping heaven. You want to take everything home! And I almost did.
With an ice chest in the car for safely hauling my treasure home, we worked our way up and down the crowded aisles pausing here and there to smell, chat, ask questions of the farmers and pay for our purchases.
With a fresh free-range chicken and a bouquet of fragrant roses from Lily’s, stone fruit from Fair Hills Farms, a bottle of unfiltered California Manzanilla olive oil from Adam’s Ranch, freshly dug multi-colored pee wee potatoes and sweet onions from Weiser Farms, and garlic and shallots from Shaner Farms, my huge straw basket grew heavy quickly. I off loaded to the car and happily shopped on, listening to Kristine’s expert advice.
To my growing stash I added a heavy loaf of hazelnut bread from Röckenwagner Bakery, and a bag of tiny, icy cold sunburst manila clams from Carlsbad Aquafarm.
Next came berries – intensely sweet organic Gaviota strawberries from Harry’s Berries, boxes of red and golden raspberries and blackberries. Then we found huge, smooth skinned Reed avocados, fresh purple curly leaf basil and Berggarten sage plants from Hay Ground, and an artichoke the size of softball on steroids.
Experienced shoppers, including Kristine, maneuver Hook and Go folding carts to hang their bags on making shopping a lot easier. I’ve got to get one of these.
We ended our shopping trip with a late breakfast at Huckleberry Bakery & Cafe and a plate of their green eggs and ham on thick but tender homemade English muffins. What a fantastic morning!
Whether searching for farm fresh, seasonal basics or exotics that you can’t find in a standard grocer, the Santa Monica Farmers Market is truly a treasure trove of agricultural diversity. No matter where you live, shop your farmers market. As for those beautiful clams? Next post – what I did with them for dinner.
Tips for Farmers Market Shopping
- Take plenty of cash, small bills
- Stroll through the market to get an overview, then go back for what you want
- Take a cooler with ice packs for warm weather shopping and safe transportation home
- Consider a Hook and Go cart for easier shopping
- Think outside the store; try new things, be inquisitive
- Talk with the farmers, get to know them and learn about what they offer
- Don’t try and barter or expect discounts. Pay what is asked. Farmers work hard. Respect and thank them.
- Go early before the best products are gone
- If parking is difficult, plan ahead of time for best options and payment methods.
- Take advantage of the market’s information booth
If you go to the Santa Monica Farmers Market, we found a parking garage at 3rd and Arizona with a reasonable rate.