With raw energy bars on display at her Healthy Cowboy Kitchen booth, Katie Burtino said she’s often first mistaken as a vegan or raw foodie at the Laguna Beach farmers market. “No way!” she insists. Dispel that notion with a glance at the chalkboard listings of perishable items kept in coolers, which can include her much-sought-after beef chili. “I’m all for balance, pasture-raised animals, 100 percent organic real-food ingredients, traditionally prepared, nutrient-dense, and I do everything gluten-free,” said Burtino.
The Saturday morning market in the lot next to City Hall keeps getting healthier and more interesting, with new produce and new purveyors such as the Asian vegetable seller and the mushroom guy, a raw juice stand and a new bread maker. Even regulars often make assumptions about some newcomers, missing the mark on what they actually sell and missing out. Do yourself a favor and take a closer look.
Laguna’s educated patrons want healthy and organic food. So when a rare booth space opens up in the fully-booked market, those considerations top the criteria for selecting a desirable vendor, said Jennifer Griffiths, 62, who manages four weekly farmers markets, including Laguna’s 35-vendor market.
“Every community is very different,” said Griffiths, a 30-year Laguna resident who said she selects vendors based on her knowledge of customers’ desires.
Maybe that’s why Christine Froemke of Moreno Valley-based Gonestraw Farms often sells out of the eggs laid by her free-range, pastured chickens and ducks well before the market closes at noon. Luckily, Froemke also sells Drake Family Farms artisanal goat cheese for her friend Dan Drake. If you miss out on the eggs, mollify yourself with a taste of goat cheese mozarella or the apricot and honey chevre. Add your name to the list if you want eggs next week.
One of the newest vendors, Living Juice partners Jamie Jensen and Martin Alper, discovered the value of a health-minded clientele when their selection of raw, organic cold pressed, unpasteurized juices grew slowly at first and now is thriving. Wowed by the results from a recommended 10-day juice cleanse while living in New York, when Jensen moved to Southern California and could find none of the juice she craved, she bought a juicer to fill her own needs and then decided to share the health with others. She and Alper opened their booth in January and also deliver directly to customers throughout Orange County and Los Angeles.
Organic-only shoppers who regularly flock to J.R. Organics’ booth filled with an array of greens, herbs, and other vegetables, seem thrilled with the fairly recent addition of Orange County Produce. True to the name, these fruits and veggies hale from local farmland. Most, though not all, of their fruits and vegetables are organic, and all are clearly marked. Here you’ll also discover unusual items such as fresh cranberry beans, Romano beans or fresh garbanzo beans.
Shoppers stocking up on summer’s bounty of luscious stone fruits and fresh-picked corn for their culinary adventures know that even die-hard cooks deserve a break and that old vendors may have new tricks.
Not only will Stella at Mangi Con Amore supply you with a warm welcome and her signature pastas, she can set you up with gourmet dried salami, grilled marinated artichokes, milky burrata, and a tricolor spread of jalapeno feta, sundried tomatoes and pesto, all just begging to be taken to the next concert in the park with a good loaf of bread.
And note that Mom’s Specialty Mediterranean, renowned for their flavored hummus and pita, now offers a new cheese and jalapeno spread of their own that paired amazingly well at a recent al fresco meal with the jalapeno jack sourdough from new bread vendor The Rustic Loaf. Customers rave about their naturally leavened, handmade sourdough bread, made in the French process of triple fermentation. It’s seasoned with additional flavors such as lemon rosemary, among others.
Photos by Danielle Robbins
Photos by Jennifer Erickson