Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Anglophile in Downtown L.A.

Downtown Dining Part 2: Farmers’ Markets

Tables laden with plump tomatoes and lush greens, bright orange carrots poking through mounds of cilantro, and… Peruvian samosas? Farmers’ Markets in Downtown are as diverse and surprising as L.A. itself, but one thing you can count on is that farmers’ market vendors place a premium on the health, taste and quality of their products in a way that no supermarket produce section can.

On Wednesdays, I take a nice walk down 7th St., make a left on Flower St., and stop when I hit the smell of Hawaiian BBQ chicken and crepes wafting along the sidewalk of 5th St. This is the L.A. Library Farmer’s Market. One of the busiest and most varied of downtown Markets, they have handmade tabouli, hummus, and greek pita bread (no additives or preservatives) by Baba Food, purple potatoes, perfectly ripe artichokes, and of course, giant tomatoes. Lunch costs around $5-$8 from one of the many vendors who serve food from around the world—France, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, and Asia are all represented.

On Thursdays, I have my choice of two markets. One is a very short walk down to 7th and Fig Plaza, but the offerings are limited. There they have basic Farmers’ Market staples, like kettle corn, nuts, candies, and fresh flowers, but a unique find is the Corn Maiden Euro-Mex Tamale stand with unusual creations like the BBQ chicken and smoked gouda tamale, or one with wild mushrooms, cabernet sauvignon, garlic and thyme. “Yummy You Love” crepes have vegetarian options, seafood crepes bragging omega-3 oils and high fiber, a “fitness style” crepe with lean ground beef, a “healthy choice” crepe that’s low in carbs and calories, and less healthy dessert crepes, all from $4-$8 dollars. George’s Greek CafĂ©, one of the plaza’s restaurants, also has a stand out in the courtyard with free samples of Greek meatballs (keftethes), hummus, and kalamata olive spread.

Also on Thursdays is the City Hall Farmer’s Market—just a quick A-Dash ride away-- which focuses more on organic produce, and has organic free range eggs and goat cheese (try the lemon and lavender cheese). Last week I sipped iced green tea while dipping bread cubes into $15 olive oils (the sun dried tomato and basil oil might actually be worth the price) and flirted with the two young Italian men behind the counter trying to talk me into buying the balsamic vinegar as well. One stall I never miss is The Sweet Spot, where you can try the pecan and chocolate tarts of Pasadena baker Rickey Smith. He prepares his treats with “conscious, organic, fresh and natural ingredients,” but more importantly, he was featured on Martha Stewart.

To find more Farmers Markets in California, go to: