Finding fresh, local fare is easy in Southern California, where farmers markets are an integral part of life. Buoyed by year-round warm weather, seasonal ingredients are always close at hand, from crisp baby greens to heirloom tomatoes.
Among the most acclaimed markets in the region is the Santa Monica Farmers Market, where Malibu Beach Inn’s Executive Chef Cody Dickey can often be found selecting fresh produce for Carbon Beach Club. He suggests visiting the oceanfront bazaar on a Wednesday, when you can you can pick up a plethora of produce during the first drop of the week.
Home to more than 75 local farmers, the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers Market has been a staple in the city since 1981 and is recognized as one of the largest, most diverse, grower-only Certified Farmers Markets in the state (held downtown every Wednesday from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm). It’s a chance for food enthusiasts to chat with local farmers, get tips on how best to use the fresh ingredients, and peruse everything from regional honey to homemade olive oils to artisanal cheeses.
Each time he goes, Chef Cody heads to the farmers market with set intentions, ready to discover what’s arrived from the locally grown, seasonal bounty. “I have a couple of things typically for the season that I’m looking for,” he says. “For summer, you have stone fruits. Going into the fall, I’m going to be looking at who is growing the sweetest beets.”
He recommends walking through the market a couple of times before choosing your produce. Because everything is in season at once, many of the farmers will have the same fruits and vegetables. Pick up samples and snack on the produce as you go, or indulge in the delectable, ready-to-eat fare and freshly pressed juices throughout.
Chef Cody also likes to visit the Malibu Farmers Market, “a smaller but very personal market” held on Sundays from 10 am to 3 pm in the Malibu Library parking lot – noting that each market has its own personality that reflects the character of the neighborhood.
In addition to the farmers market crops, much of the ever-changing, seasonal menu at CBC relies heavily on the crops grown at One Gun Ranch, a biodynamic farm that produces only healthy, energy-enhancing produce.
Corn, beans, squash, peppers, herbs, and a variety of greens and micro leaves can all be found on the ranch, along with resident farm animals like Waffle the donkey. Everything is planted in the ranch’s own Super(ior) Soil, which is made using only the purest ingredients and is layered with homeopathic preparations including yarrow, chamomile, stinging nettle, oak bark, dandelions, horsetail, and valerian flowers. This fall, Chef Cody is particularly looking forward to the squashes. “One Gun Ranch has several heirloom varietals that are coming up,” he says, “and I’m excited to get those on the menu.”
When it comes to fresh ingredients, Chef Cody says that the number one benefit for him is the sensory experience. “The basil smells fresher and tastes sweeter. The vegetables are just incredibly healthy. Farmers that are local tend to put more care into the earth and cultivating what they’re growing. And when buying locally, I know that [the produce] was literally picked yesterday and delivered the next day.”
The menu at Carbon Beach Club is left open to the fresh ingredients that are coming in, from this summer’s recent cucamelons to amazing mixed greens.
At the end of the day, “Everything is just fresher and tastes better.”