Farmer's markets are not just for farmers anymore. Many of them, such as the weekly La Cañada Flintridge Farmer's Market, play host to purveyors of artisanal and specialty foods. From canapes to coffee, you can fill your basket with every ingredient for dinner, not just for the salad.
Things are buzzing right at opening time of 9 a.m. each Saturday at the LCFFM. The first thing you'll want to do is get a cup of coffee at Forge. They roast the beans in small batches every Friday night close by in the San Fernando Valley so you can be sure you're getting the absolute freshest coffee Saturday morning. Beans are sourced from around the world with a singular dedication to humane and sustainable growing practices. After finally deciding on a cup of Costa Rican el jaguar, a woman next to me ordered a second cup of mocha. She claimed every sip was orgasmic. It was too late to say, “I'll have what she's having,” but my cup was satisfying as well — full-bodied, fragrant and exceptionally smooth. We took a bag of Guatemala San Diego Buena Vista bourbon to go and have been happy all week ($8 for half pound).
My goal this Saturday had been simply to find a good bag of tangelos for the kids' lunches. I found them at Nicholas Family Farms but also found some amazing organic Murcott mandarins, as well as homemade blood orange preserves, raspberry-flavored almonds and a variety of dried fruits ($2-$10). The bread for the preserves might've come from The Rustic Loaf, where they use triple fermentation to get an authentic sourdough flavor, or from Venice's famous Rockenwagner bakery, but we chose the soft white boule from the French baker (as everyone calls him) otherwise known at T.O.P. Bakery of Long Beach.
Making the rounds, we were thrilled to find a table dedicated to salt, a minor passion of mine. There was rock salt, sea salt, smoked salt, flavored salt, Himalayan salt, cooking salt, and finishing salt. The knowledgeable people at Hepp's Salt Barrel will help you find just the right seasoning for your meal. We left with a small packet of alderwood-smoked salt ($5) and it's been finding its way onto sandwiches, veggies and eggs ever since.
There are a number of options for appetizer foods at the LCFFM. The imported cheeses at Laurent Bonjour's Cheese Corner are top notch, as are the local, freshly made ones at Spring Hill Cheese. At Mom's Products, the deals get better the more of Mom's homemade Mediterranean foods you buy. Twenty dollars gets you a bag of pita chips and six containers of accompaniments like couscous salad, tzatziki, hummus, olives, the deadly (to the breath) but delicious tomato garlic dip, and the outstanding stuffed grape leaves.
Perhaps the most beautiful stand at the market belongs to LAFungHi. Baskets with mushrooms of every shape, size and variety are on display. The fragrance of the fresh fungi transports you to the forests of Northern California from which they're foraged. We asked about truffles and our vendor led us to the back of the tent, where he opened a cooler and carefully pulled out two small jars. We half-expected to see the glow of Kryptonite and escaping steam. Instead, perfect specimens of black and white truffles lounged in beds of raw rice. The prices are fair: about $65 for a walnut-sized black truffle and $35 for a smaller white one.
Other fine foods you'll find at the La Cañada Flintridge Farmer's Market include locally collected honey, grass-fed bison meat, fresh-caught seafood, and rotisserie chicken, its French herb-flavored juices dripping tantalizingly on roasted potatoes below.
Naturally, there are plenty of produce sellers for that dinner salad. Which ones you patronize will be a matter of personal preference and focused sample-tasting. The market takes place Saturdays from 9:00 to 1:00 at 1300 Foothill Boulevard, across from Memorial Park in La Cañada.
--LISA DUPUY has written for Westways, Pasadena Star-News, Patch.com and Los Angeles Times Community News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.