Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series about the Farmer’s Market. The first focuses on saving time and the second on saving money.
The Farmer’s Market is not only about fresh seasonal produce. There are also vendors who sell prepared foods, making it easy for you to walk away with a significant portion of a meal without any work.
Newest on the scene is Blue Moon Mexican food. Chef William Gonzalez has been in the catering business for 10 years and also has prepared food for first-class passengers on many airlines such as United, Delta, American and China Air. At his market booth he cooks everything to order. If you are there early, you might want to pick up a breakfast burrito with rice, beans, salsa and a choice of meat, chicken or veggies. As the sun rises higher, you might choose tortas, a quesadilla filled with chicken or veggies, shrimp rancheros or grilled steak served with rice, beans and tortillas. You can eat it there walking around or have it packed to go. Take it home, heat it up, kick back and enjoy!
If Mexican is on your mind, you can choose between the amazingly tasty traditional tamales or the healthy ones. Mr. Corn’s jumbo tamales make the centerpiece for a delicious meal. The masa is positively sinful but oh so good. The fillings are chicken, beef or pork and a meatless version with Monterey jack and Anaheim chilies. For dessert you can have the sweet corn tamale. They all come with mild green sauce or slightly spicy red sauce. He also sells fresh hot salsa. If you have leftovers, chop them up with eggs to make a great frittata for brunch.
Gourmet Tamales has won both first and second place at the Indio International Tamale Festival. Yes Virginia, there is a tamale festival! They use extra lean pork, quality imported cheeses and freshly picked produce from their family farm in Carlsbad. Focusing on health, these tamales are lard and gluten free and come in a large variety of vegetarian and vegan as well as pork, chicken and beef. They also sell dessert tamales like: pineapple-raisin, orange-mango, pumpkin spice and strawberry-apple. On offer are a variety of salsas made with vine-ripened tomatoes (no gas) and cucumbers with no wax. The popularity of these tamales is attested to by the fact that they sell 6,000 per week in farmer’s markets around Southern California.
No one is more enthusiastic about selling her product than Stella at Mangi Con Amore, who greets each passerby like a long lost friend and attempts to seduce everyone with descriptions of her Italian goodies.
“All our food is prepared for you with love," she says. “We use no additives or preservatives and all the produce is acquired at local farmers markets."
Stella and her husband, Victor, are from Bologna (the gastronomic capital of Italy) and their products are prepared a la Bolognese. They feature a selection of frozen fresh pastas as well as ravioli, lasagna and eggplant Parmesan. You can pick up six different sauces to go with your pasta, and some Tuscan minestrone to start off your meal. Then for dessert, choose cannoli, cookies or, by special order, tiramisu. Stella is set up for online ordering at www.mangiconamore.com or call (949) 338-7487.
Continuing around the world for our international dinner party, step over to Zaiga Kitchens for their Indian fusion cuisine. Starting with breads, which are essential to an Indian meal, there are roti, both whole wheat and methi (fenugreek) and naan, both masala and plain. For starters try the lightly filled boulani stuffed with eggplant or spinach or the samosas with potatoes and peas (both are types of stuffed pastries). Among the entrÃ©es are chicken curry, chicken vindaloo (spicy), eggplant Bhaji (eggplant and potato curry), saag paneer (spinach and fresh cheese), channa masala (chick pea stew) and tofu vegetable curry. There are three chutneys: coconut, tamarind, cilantro/peanut and lethal (i.e. very hot). Round out the meal in true Indian fashion with dal (mild bean or lentil puree) and yogurt mint dip.
Moving along to the Middle East at Mom’s Mediterranean Specialties, Karim is proud of their extensive variety of hummus including: artichoke, avocado, cilantro basil, sun dried tomato and roasted garlic. There are two kinds of olive spread "” red pepper and walnut Parmesan, tabouli (cracked wheat salad with parsley, mint, onion and tomatoes), artichoke salad and grape leaves. Stacks of their very own packaged pita breads and pita chips line the counter. Last but not least, take home some of their filo honey nut pastry-baklava or three types of halvah: honey, pistachio and honey chocolate.
Other sweet things can be bought from the very jovial Randy Young, who sells a goodly assortment of bundt cakes both large and small at Dolce Monachelli.
“We use centrifuges to spin all the fat and calories out the hole in the center and then plug it up with icing to keep the calories from coming back," he said. The small cakes can feed two if neither of you are greedy. A few selections from their list are: chocolate decadence, Italian butter rum, coconut apricot brandy, lemon citrus, berry blast and piÃ±a colada classic. All their cakes come daintily decorated with fresh flowers.
Make breakfast a bit easier and a lot healthier with Grammy’s Granola. Janet Braver loves selling her cereal and cakes at the market. She has four types of granola: cranberry, golden raisin, mixed and plain, all with flax seed and bran. She also bakes loaf cakes in four flavors: simple pound cake, pumpkin, banana chocolate chip and strawberry zucchini. So, if you haven’t the time, the energy or the talent to make a nice dinner this weekend, get yourself down to the Laguna Beach Farmer’s Market Saturday morning and come away with a feast.
ELLE HARROW and TERRY MARKOWITZ were in the gourmet foods and catering business for 20 years. They can be reached for comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org