farmers market
Dining Reviews

Market Madness as Local Farmers Hit Peak Season

Plus ahi crostini at Oswald, and nectarine buttermilk cake at Iveta

Happy Boy Farms’ booth at the Sunday Farmers Market in Live Oak. PHOTO: KEANA PARKER

It’s here. The absolute peak of summer harvest, and that means that our farmers markets are loaded with the right stuff. Figs—pale Kadota and dark Mission figs—offer their suggestive shapes and interiors as breakfast foods and as partners for evening cheese platters.

This is also the moment when blueberries are abundant, offering pungent tart and sweet inflections to our table at every meal. Blackberries, raspberries, even the persistent strawberry are at their peak right now. I’ve never seen a season as good as this for nectarines and peaches. Almost every one of them that I’ve brought home from the Santa Cruz Farmers Market has been a winner. I let them ripen for a day on my windowsill—same with dry-farmed tomatoes which will be with us for another month.

It was a great summer for asparagus and little butter lettuces. But now’s the time for slender green beans and the beginning of the color circus of bell peppers in late summer hues of red, orange, yellow, and of course, green. All sorts of incredible peppers are hitting the markets right about now, including sweet banana peppers and the addictive little padrons. You need no reminder: this is one of the top spots on the globe for dry-farmed tomatoes. We have the very best at our markets, e.g. Molino Creek, Dirty Girl.

So whether your neighborhood market is in Felton, Live Oak, Aptos, downtown Santa Cruz, or the Westside, get out and treat yourself to the best of late harvests during the next few weeks. And while you’re there, check out the artisanal pastries, pastured meats, and fresh-caught seafoods. Fresh local salmon if you hurry!

Appetizer of the Week

The pretty and utterly delicious seared ahi and avocado crostini appetizer at Oswald ($7). Two of these crunchy, sensuous crostini arrive in a single order. The crimson ahi looks stunning on the chartreuse avocado. Supple, sensuous, and topped with a garlic vinaigrette. I like mine with a bone-dry Venus No. 1 martini, not necessarily dirty. But it also makes sense with a Campari and soda. While you’re at Oswald, don’t miss the exciting show of abstract paintings by Rob Blitzer, on exhibit through August.

Wine of the Week

The 2014 Gravitas from Bonny Doon Vineyard ($16). Think of it as the companion to its red sibling, A Proper Claret. This is a lovely Bordeaux-style white blend of two of my favorite grapes—Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. A splash of Orange Muscat adds a floral perfume. Citrus, melon and some light minerals make this an exceptionally drinkable wine, as in drink it right this very minute! The light 13.5 percent alcohol is refreshing for a wine with so much gravitas. We like to sip it all by itself, very chilled, and ideally while enjoying the late summer sunset. But it goes smartly with chicken, fish and pasta. And tacos. And hummus wraps. Available at all of your favorite places, but we find it at New Leaf and Shopper’s.

Pastry of the Week

The fresh and warm-fromtheoven nectarine buttermilk cake at Iveta. We walked in last week just as the thick, creamy tea cake was being sliced. Light and tender, yet substantial, this lovely creation was barely sweet, tangy from buttermilk, and studded with cubes of ripe nectarine. Stunning for around $3 per huge slice. Maybe its not there everyday. But check in often just to see if you get lucky.

Tasting Room Update

Windy Oaks Estate’s new downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea tasting room at its Lincoln and 7th location has new hours; Friday and Saturday, noon to 7 p.m.; Sunday through Thursday, noon to 6 p.m.

 

Christina Waters was born in Santa Cruz and raised all over the world (thanks to an Air Force dad), with real-world training in painting, music, winetasting, trail running, organic gardening, and teaching. She has a PhD in Philosophy, teaches in the Arts at UCSC and sings with the UCSC Concert Choir. Look for her recent memoir “Inside the Flame” at bookstores everywhere.

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