Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Return of the Farmers Markets

Around our apartment complex, baby ducks paddle and chirp on the surface of the lake and turtles come out to sunbathe with all four stumpy legs outstretched, balancing on their padded tummies. Spring has finally arrived, and among its bounty, has brought back the Farmers Markets.

I have been reveling in the early tomatoes, piles of multi-hued lettuces and greens, and unusual finds like stinging nettles and purple potatoes, but most of all I have been celebrating the solstice with--cookies. And tarts, and brioche, and cake. I’m a health nut for the most part, so to be tempted by sweets, they have to be really worth it – and I’m talking about thoughtful bakers who use quality ingredients and share my disdain for long labels chalk full of added crap. And if they’re capable of witty banter, so much the better. Fortunately, I have found two bakeries that meet my criteria: Blackmarket Bakery, and this year’s discovery, Ghalia Organic Desserts.

Blackmarket Bakery renewed my faith in bread, since Rachel Klemek, owner and baker, shares the No Crap Added ethos. It has been a long winter without BMB, and since their store in Irvine is only open Tuesday through Friday from 10 to 2pm, I have had to make do with only sporadic pastry fixes. But I was able to make it down a couple times in February, once for their Grand Re-Opening to celebrate their new storefront, and once for a Valentine’s baking class.

First, let me say that it is just really cool to be invited to a Grand Re-Opening, especially one that has fancy schmancy caterers serving up bite sized shredded duck, mini gourmet cream of mushroom soups, and funny “avant-garde” foamy things. That Friday was pouring rain. Not the kind of weather your average Californian would brave for anything, not even a party. I spent my usual 2 hours straightening my obstinate hair and prayed to the weather gods to let it last, frizz-free, until I made it to the car. Come Hell, or high water (both of which accurately describe the 405 that evening), I was going—because I am a rabid fan of Blackmarket, and I don’t get to go to parties very often. I wasn’t sure how many people would make the trek in the torrential downpour, but the place was hopping with friends and loyal customers. And the new store front looked fantastic.

Rachel’s baking classes are informal and relaxed, with a lot of laughter, and a lot of chocolate. And on this occasion, a little champagne. Even in such a friendly atmosphere, I was a little nervous. Baking is a little too close to chemistry for my comfort, and I almost failed chemistry in high school. To make matters worse, I was there alone, and the other attendees had brought friends. There was only one man in the group, a towering blond marine who looked like he’d rather brave enemy fire than make a passion fruit soufflĂ©—but his very cute, petite Indian fiancĂ© had planned the evening, and he was a very good sport about it. I joined their group, and together we managed to put together chocolate and caramel hazelnut tarts and Sabayon, a layered fruit and custard dessert. Both were absolutely delicious. Even though I briefly freaked out over room temperature eggs disintegrating in my hands, I enjoyed the experience. I think I’ll leave the baking to Rachel though.

I'm planning a future post on why I love Ghalia Organic Desserts (these bakeries are too good to try and smoosh them into a single post).

1 comment:

Pocketmouse said...

love those shortbread cookies you handed out at the BBQ!!! great find if one is into sweet stuff! ;)