A Girl's Gotta Eat
Farmers Market Freakonomics
By Carolyn Jung
FARMERS MARKETS can make you ditzy. Maybe it's the overwhelming sight of such extraordinary abundance that induces us take leave of our senses. There's the time I toted home 10 pounds of peaches for no apparent reason, other than that they looked too damn good. There's the time I bought past-its-prime sugar snap peas from one vendor, only because I felt felonious for having purchased nothing from her for weeks. Then, there's my friend Joanne, who was guilt-ridden for days after she tasted a perfect strawberry at one customerless fruit stand, only to high-tail it over to another stand that seemed somehow "better,'' because it was buzzing with buyers. Plain cuckoo. Have no worries, though, when it comes to these delicious finds at local markets. All are worthy of going a little nutty over. Find farmers markets at www.cafarmersmarkets.com.
WingWalker's Baking Company When paralegal Todd Smitherum was laid off recently (gee, that sounds familiar), he decided to pursue his true passion. The result is a sweet baking company, run by him and his wife, and named after his grandfather, who was an actual wing walker in the 1920s. Smitherum says his baked goods are imbued with that same spirit of adventure. I say they're just darn good. His luscious, chewy cookies ($2 each) are organic. My favorite, the "coffee and cream'' one, won a blue ribbon at the 2007 California State Fair. He also makes sugar-free cookies with agave nectar and low-fat ones with canola oil. Find him at the Friday Cupertino market (9am–1pm); www.wingwalkersbakingcompany.com.
Toofu Two Korean-Americans have created a small Santa Clara business that just might make a tofu believer out of you. Their creamy, custardy tofu is freshly made minutes ago. Even tofu-haters will scarf up honey almond tofu granola ($3.50) made with okara, the leftover solids from pressing soy milk. It's crunchy, not too sweet, and just the ticket sprinkled over yogurt. Look for Toofu at the Friday Cupertino market; Saturday markets in Sunnyvale (9am–1pm) and Saratoga (9am–1pm; and Sunday markets in Mountain View (9am–1 pm) and Campbell (9am–1pm). Find more at www.toofu.com.
Spice Hound Ever spotted an unfamiliar spice in the supermarket, and wondered what the heck it's for? Now, all you have to do is ask Tammy Tan. She's the Spice Hound, who sells spices and blends she grinds herself, as well as a dozen different salts (including pink, gray and alder-smoked). The spices are $4–$10 for a 1.8-ounce canister. Tan also will do custom blends that can be picked up at the farmers market to avoid shipping charges. She's at the Friday San Jose San Pedro Square market (10am–2pm), the Saturday Sunnyvale market and the Thursday Los Altos market (4–8pm). Go to www.spicehound.com.
East & West Gourmet Afghan Food Established by a family of Afghan émigrés, this company's products are seriously addicting. Bolanis are thin, filled flat breads that are baked in a clay oven. Choose spinach, potato, lentil or the irresistible pumpkin one. Do pick up a jar of "Sweet & Sour Carrot." This sauce would make my gym towel taste good. Slather it on bolani, or use it to sauté shrimp and veggies for a can't-miss dinner. Prices are about $6, though they're fluid, as the gregarious guys behind the stands will cut deals to entice you to buy more. Find them at the Sunday Santana Row market (10am–3pm), the Thursday Los Altos market, and many others. For a list, go to www.bolaniandsauce.com.
Dolce Bella Chocolates Audrey Vaggione, a California Culinary Academy graduate, sells exquisite handmade chocolates at the Friday San Jose San Pedro Square market and the Sunday Los Gatos market (8am–1:30pm). She's so fanatical that she grows many of the herbs and the citrus herself. I'm partial to the "Just Picked Raspberry,'' a white-chocolate, ganache-filled bonbon made with raspberries from her yard. She will open her own shop later this month at 18828 Cox Ave. in Saratoga; www.dolcebellachocolates.com.
Juror 2 Jenifer Kirsch is rather goth and her silk-screened T-shirts and aprons a little whacked. She even keeps some designs in a closed photo album, away from the prying eyes of impressionable young children. Oh my. But don't make the mistake of just walking by. The 27-year-old culinary graduate creates dark, yet whimsical designs of "stick figures in odd situations.'' Get a load of the titles, such as "Little Axe Girl'' or "Bunny Slippers of Doom,'' and you get the picture. My pick was the $16.99 shirt that sports "Not Eggactly,'' an oopsy-daisy chef who misfires when flipping a sunny-side up egg. Kirsch's appearances are sporadic, so check www.juror2.net for up to date information on where to find her.
Carolyn Jung is a Santa Clara–based food and wine writer who blogs at www.foodgal.com
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