The Farmers Market

In Los Angeles, farmers markets operate every day of the week in several different neighborhoods around town. My favorite was always the expansive outdoor Santa Monica farmers market - not only do they have wonderful fruits and vegetables, but an abundance of freshly cut flowers. If you're shopping on a day other than Wednesday, Saturday, or Sunday as I was, however, the original Farmers Market on Fairfax and Third will do quite nicely.

The Gilmores, who started the market in 1934, made their fortune when they struck oil digging for water on the farm on this site. They built up the property, once called "Gilmore Island" because it remained a county oasis in the middle of the city. On Gilmore Island, E.B. Gilmore built a racetrack for midget race car racing and a stadium for LA's first professional football team. In 1940, the stadium hosted a heavyweight wrestling match. At the Gilmore gas station, E.B. once had a "Gas-a-teria," which was an invitation to pump your own gas for 5 cents less per gallon. And of course, there was the Farmers Market. Though midget race car driving seems to have died out in this post-Freaks world, many of the Gilmores' zany ideas have become standard components of Californian and American culture.

On to the present day, and the market. My task was to stock up for a dinner party. First stop, Huntington Meats, where I bought several pounds of skirt steak.

applewood smoked bacon

delicious fresh chorizo

wooden shopping carts made by hand
a store that sells nothing but hot sauce - and lots of it
salted roasted almonds at Magee's Nuts
the displays at Magee's Nuts
Several people, including the butchers at Huntington's, recommended the churascurro stand at the Farmers Market as the place to lunch.
They are just as well known for their fresh salads as for their meat.

The pure whiteness of the hearts of palm tells you how fresh and good this salad is. Fortunately I chose the "mild" green sauce, made of jalapenos, to accompany the excellent sirloin churascurro. I don't think I could have handled the red sauce. For dessert: a plantain.
Guarana, a Brazilian fruit soda. Available in diet!
Entertainment is still part of the equation at the Farmers Market. On this day, an hours-long xylophone jam.
one of several vegetable stands

I bought several bags of Medjool dates at the Ultimate Nut & Candy Co.

Ever had a recipe that called for candied rind of something or other? If you lived here, you could actually make the recipe.
more candied rinds

I went looking for the vintage clothing emporium that used to be at the Farmers Market and found that a mall called The Grove had been built in its place. At least it's a relatively pretty, outdoor mall. And there's a gargantuan Sur La Table right next to the Farmers Market. If this Sur La Table doesn't sell it, you don't need it.

My sister and brother-in-law, who love to grill and roast things, introduced me to this $25 CDN digital probe thermometer. You stick the probe into the meat, snake the wire out the oven door, and leave the digital part on the counter. It can be programmed to beep when the meat reaches a certain internal temperature. Voila: idiot-proof roasting and grilling. It also works for making candy and frying.

I also bought some tongs for the next day's dinner party preparations. Tongs are the essential kitchen tool. Like flameproof opposable thumbs, they're what separates you from the animals.

After an hour or so at the Farmers Market, I'd done most of my shopping. Now all I had to do was cook dinner for 22 people in the Hollywood Hills. Piece of cake?

The Farmer's Market
6333 West Third Street at Fairfax

Sur La Table
6333 West Third Street at Fairfax