Spider-Manlooms incongruously on a billboard above the new Sunset Strip farmers market, which opened last week in a parking lot next to the ghosts of Tower Records and Spago Hollywood. No superheroes participated in the event's gestation, just Diana Rodgers, manager of the Mar Vista market, and the sponsor, the Sunset Strip Business Assn., which has assembled an all-star roster of 26 certified farmers and 16 prepared foods stalls.
The farmers, identified by green tents, are veterans of high-quality produce and unquestioned integrity, such as Bob Polito for citrus, John Tenerelli and John Hurley for stone fruit, and Sage Mountain, Givens and Shear Rock for vegetables. New to local farmers markets are Oasis Date Farm, Dairy Goddess farmstead cheese and Garden Thyme Nursery.
An hour is reserved before the official opening for local chefs, and each week one showcases a signature dish, often using market produce. Eveleigh offered suckling pig the first night, and BLT Steak will take the spotlight next Thursday.
The layout and production values are prime time, but traffic getting there can be hellish at rush hour; six local lots offer a discounted $5 rate with validation. Enthusiastic crowds thronged the opening, but many were just looking, and it remains to be seen whether the community will buy enough produce to keep top-notch farmers coming.
At the next market, John Hurley of Summer Harvest Farm will have the most delicious fruit in the world (no exaggeration): Snow Queen white nectarines from Dinuba, with dense, buttery flesh, an ideal balance of sweetness and acidity, and a rich, lingering, complex flavor. At its best, Snow Queen reigns supreme, but it is frustrating for farmers to grow and consumers to select: The pits split, the skin cracks and the flesh develops brown rot, while only some fruits display the palate-boggling intensity of which the variety is capable.
Look for a creamy yellow ground color, leathery, speckled (not smooth red) skin and a rounded form, particularly a plump stem end, where a dusky rose color indicates perfection. Fully ripe specimens rapidly ferment, so the peak of quality is fleeing — but madly worth pursuing! Hurley will also be in Venice on Friday, Santa Monica (Pico and downtown) on Saturdays, and Beverly Hills, Mar Vista and Santa Monica on Sundays.
Sunset Strip farmers market, 5-9 p.m. Thursdays, 8755 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood; sunsetstripmarket.com.