Dining Reviews

A Visit to the Farmers’ Market Lifts the Spirits on Winter Days

Great coffee and fresh pastries exert their siren song at local farmers’ markets

The Westside Farmers’ Market provides an abundance of fresh, local ingredients. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

On a crisp February day, our farmers’ markets still bustle and crackle with good vibes and an abundance of seasonal harvests.

Granted it’s not May, but it will be soon. Meanwhile, I can see my neighbors over the long tables of citrus and pomegranates. Lots of green things, kale, brussels sprouts, spinach, and root crops flourish right now. Think beets and carrots and potatoes. 

Chicories from Blue Heron and fennel from Live Earth. Mandarins from Dirty Girl. Blackberries, gorgeous crimson radishes. Colorful bags of shell beans from Pescadero’s Blue House Farm. Huge jars of organic olives from Good Faith Farm. And all manner of tangy prepared foods from preserves to chutneys. Come hungry, and you’ll find amazing items like chile rellenos and fresh-grilled naan, ready for you to grab and eat whilst strolling through the market.

The live music here goes a long way to lifting spirits tired of hunkering down. Great coffee and fresh pastries exert their siren song. We respond. I spotted a table of fresh-made charcuterie and soups from Home, and was tempted by a huge jar of bolognese sauce from the hand of Brad Briske’s Home team. Companion Bakeshop loaves perfume the air, along with the endless quiches of Adorable French Bakery

The farmers’ market feels safe and secure these days, with clearly marked lines, entrances and exits, and masks and social distancing requirements. There are so many fresh surprises, especially at the largest Downtown Farmers’ Market on Wednesdays. By now you have your own favorite reasons to go and find ingredients for your home cooking. Flowers will be there soon! 

For a complete schedule of all our local markets, go to santacruzfarmersmarket.org

More Pandemic Dining Pro-Tips

What we do to keep things both fresh and manageable at home is to hit the aforementioned farmers’ market for seasonal veggies, with an eye to creating a big pot of stew or soup. Stew is the perfect cold weather food—my go-to trio of recipes are sausage and bean stew, chile verde, and chicken and cannellini bean with kale. Fresh carrots and canned whole tomatoes go in everything! 

We dine on stew along with salad of fresh greens from the market one night, then freeze enough for two more nights (in four containers). I mix it up by getting takeout entrees from our favorite restaurants a few nights a week, often adding one of our own salads. Once a week we’ll get a piece of fresh fish (wild when available) and build around that, usually with brown rice and broccolini. And we can always make a second meal out of our restaurant entrees, usually a composed salad that refreshes the entree in a way that goes beyond the concept of leftovers.

Looking Doon

Bonny Doon Vineyard founder and perpetual Rhône Ranger Randall Grahm emails to say that he’s getting doon and dirty over at his expansive San Juan Bautista vineyard with the semi-pronounceable name, Popelouchum. With 10 acres under cultivation, including Pinot Noir and three Grenache varietals, Grahm anticipates selling his estate wines next year! This is exciting news for all of us who have trekked through Grahm’s dreams and output for lo these past three decades.

Grahm, who says that he remains involved in the Bonny Doon Vineyard wines after last year’s sale to WarRoom Ventures LLC, is also ready to invite visitors to tour and visit Popelouchum, maybe this summer if the situation allows. I’ve walked this estate with Grahm and can tell you it is gorgeous as well as viticulturally exciting. Grahm has always been an experimental sorcerer of unusual grape varietals, and there is much to check out on this estate. Stay tuned!

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