LAST SO. CAL. EPISODE

Hello everyone and happy Thanksgiving.  Turkey day is tomorrow and I, for one, am looking forward to all of the amazing grub that I am going to be stuffing down my gullet.  Well that and getting to hang out with some great friends.  I hope you all have a great holiday weekend.  Now on to the end of my Southern California adventure.

Now the trip couldn’t be all work.  I did have to have some fun as well.  I got to visit with one of my brothers and his family and I timed my visit so that I could be there for his twin boys birthday which was great.  I was also able to meet up with some great old friends.  I went to Universal Studios with my friend Natalie and we goofed off for the day.  It was awesome to hang out with her, and be silly, and to go to the new World of Harry Potter section of the park.  Let me just say that I know it must have been absolutely horrible for me but I did have three butterbeers that day.  It’s a good thing I did so much walking to burn those things off.  If you get to go, you must have butterbeer.  The flavor is a mixture of butterscotch and marshmallow and if you don’t like that, you have no soul and I hate you.  In the afternoon, we met up with another dear friend, Leslie, and then Natalie’s husband, Jason, got there.  We all sat down, in the shade, and had a very nice chat.  All but Leslie went on the big Harry Potter ride which is a really fun roller coaster that has a fantastic mix of digital and practical effects but, I have to admit that as much as I love roller coasters, this one had me a bit woozy at the end.  The four of us wandered a bit and then Jason and I split off from the ladies and went on the Transformers ride and were able to chat a bit.  Finally, in the evening, another old friend was able to meet up with us.  Lorena is one of my best friends and I was very happy that she was able to hang out with me for a while.  Even though I chat with all of these people through texts and Facebook, I realized how much I missed them when we were able to spend time together.  So there you have my goof off day and now on to the last two markets.

MENIFEE

During the second half of my visit, I stayed with my brother in Menifee which is a small town about 90 miles inland from LA.  It is out in the desert and even in early November, it was very hot.  I found the Menifee Market in a parking lot near a shopping center.  It’s a small market run by a very nice lady named Pam.  She was a little leery of me at first and told me that there are people who spy on other markets and try to steal vendors away.  Once I convinced her that I was actually from Reno and that I was just visiting, she opened up and we had a very nice chat.  She was very open to me taking some pictures and talking with her vendors.  I really didn’t talk to too many folks at this market though.  I did manage to get blessed by a group of gentlemen running a Christian booth and they insisted that I take one of their signs with me so that I could “spread the Word” in Reno since we have so much sin here.  I don’t think that I’m the one to do that though and, for those of you who know me, you know how true that is.  After the quick walk around this market, I was ready to hit the road and go to the beach.  Pam also runs other markets in the “Inland Empire” and you can find her at the Sun City, Canyon Lake, and Corona markets.  The Corona Market is apparently the best one to visit according to the vendors but I didn’t make it there.

HUNTINGTON BEACH

Now this market is interesting.  First of all, it is right on the beach.  I cannot imagine a better location as you will see from the pictures.  Half of it us artisans and crafters and the other half is farms and food vendors.  The reason it’s split up this way is because one organization runs the craft side and another organization runs the food side.  The craft side was very full and there were a lot of different kinds of vendors while the food side was a little smaller but the food I tried was fantastic.  I ended up spending more than I intended at Heather’s Confections (heathersconfections.com) and Arizona Jacks (AZjacks.com).  Heather makes amazing brittle and Arizona Jacks is a jerky company with some of the most tender jerky I’ve ever had.  Both will ship by the way. There were a couple of farms there with some very nice produce, a juice booth, and crepes.  I keep forgetting to mention that I saw crepes at almost every market I went to.  Now I’m on the hunt for a crepe vendor because that was awesome.  So then I worked through the craft side and there were some amazing painters, photographers, jewelers, and more.  I ended up talking with Kelly who makes soaps and balms (tropicalbombbathbody.com) and Michael who makes custom nail files and purse hangers (crystalglass-nailfiles.com) for quite a while.  They filled me in on the markets in the area and told me some that I will have to visit the next time I am down there.  I also chatted with a guy (sorry I forgot his name and it’s not on his card) that makes art out of old surfboards.  Part of his profits go towards fighting Carcinoid Cancer.  You can see his stuff at wowsurfshop.com.

So that’s pretty much it for my trip to Southern California.  I only managed to get to a very small percentage of the markets down there.  On my next trip, I want to go back to LA and visit the Hollywood Market, West Hollywood Market, Santa Monica Market, and more.  There are literally hundreds of markets down there.  I used the California Farmers’ Market Finder app to find the markets closest to me and I would say that it is about 90% accurate.  There were some markets in the Inland Empire that were on the app but were not actually open so you may want to check the markets’ website if you can find it.  For my last picture, I just had to share my breakfast from my last day there.  Last minute, I was fortunate enough to arrange a meeting with another good friend in LA.  I had been a little bummed that I hadn’t been able to get in touch with Papa Joe Aviance, Google him if you want to see a great story, but the night before I was going to leave we set up a breakfast meeting.  He suggested that we meet at The Griddle in West Hollywood.  I originally wanted to get the French toast but he told me that I had to have pancakes so I changed my mind and ordered the Kahlua and Bailey’s pancakes.  Little did I know that one order of pancakes could feed a family of five.  So, if you ever have pancakes at The Griddle, make sure you bring at least one person to share them with.  Until next time, have a great Thanksgiving and, if you’re traveling, please be safe.

pancakes

 

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SAN DIEGO (DAY TWO)

As I write this, it is currently 30 degrees outside.  It seems like so long ago that I was enjoying the 80 degree weather in San Diego but it’s only been two weeks.

On my second day of touring markets, my first stop was the Hillcrest Market.  This is a really big, weekly market with roughly 175 vendors.  I had to park a couple of blocks away but it was free and I found a spot pretty quickly.  They have a good sized crew running this market and with 175 vendors and thousands of weekly customers, it’s easy to see why they need a good crew.  I was able to find one of the market managers right away and after explaining why I was there, he agreed to let me talk to the vendors and take pictures.  The only thing I couldn’t do was hand out the flyers for my app, Vendor Ferret (a free download for Apple and Androids by the way), but I understood and agreed.

The first thing I did was just walk this market.  Not only was there fantastic produce but there were numerous vendors cooking different types of food.  The smells as you move through this market take you to different regions of the world and most of them had my mouth watering.  I could have spent all day there just eating but I managed to restrain myself.  Ok, I did break down and eat a pumpkin desert from the attractive Transylvanian women and it was awesome.  One of the more interesting guys I talked to was Matt Huneycutt with MicroFarmsInc.com.  Matt is a military vet that has created a company which produces hydroponic farming using old shipping containers.  He is working to get this company off the ground and has great plans for the future.  You should check out his site and, if you’re in the San Diego area, go say HI at one of the markets he goes to.

I think the vendor that surprised me the most at this market was the marijuana delivery company.  Now, I am a pretty liberal guy and I really have no issue with weed being legal but I was just a little shocked to see this kind of vendor at the market.  I mean, a grow house would seem a little more appropriate for a farmers’ market since it’s an actual crop but a delivery company seemed just a little out of place to me.  The lady working the booth was really nice though and we talked for a bit about what they do.  She said that the market was working out as a great place to promote her business.

Just like the Little Italy Market, there is just so much to see that you should just try to visit them at least once.  They have a great website with a lot of information.  http://hillcrestfarmersmarket.com/

 

 

The next stop that day is just over twenty miles away from San Diego.  Solano Beach is a quaint little beach town with a great little downtown area.  Their weekly market is located in a parking lot right in the heart of downtown.  On my way to Solano Beach, the weather turned and it was a little chilly and rainy when I got there but it just added to the ambiance and I didn’t mind it at all.  When I arrived at this market, it took me a little while to find the manager but when I did, he ended up being a really nice guy who told me that the market had been operating there for twenty years.  The first booth I went to was the Farm To Cup booth run by Melinda.  Melinda was awesome and very fun and she gave me some watermelon juice that was freakin fantastic.  If you manage to get to Solano, make sure you say HI to her.  After spending a bit of time there drinking my watermelon juice, I strolled along in the drizzle to see what else was there.  I have to say that this was one of my favorite markets.  I ended up spending quite a bit more than I had planned but I got quite a few gifts for friends and family that I can’t talk about here because I don’t want them to know what they are getting for Christmas.  I also got some amazing tamales that Hans and Geno enjoyed later and tried some awesome cold brewed coffee from Red Hat Coffee.  I didn’t try it because I was already full from lunch but Red Oven Pizza brings out a pizza oven and makes them on site.  I wholeheartedly recommend this market for those of you who are either in the San Diego area or are planning on visiting.  You can find this market online and they have a nice list of links to their vendors here:

http://www.solanabeachfarmersmarket.com/

Next week, I move a bit north and talk about the Inland Empire and Huntington Beach.

SAN DIEGO (DAY ONE)

Hey there everyone.  So I promised to tell you about my recent travels and there is much to tell so I am definitely going to have to break it up into multiple blogs.  The first stop on my trip was San Diego.  I am very lucky to have great friends there so I was able to stay with Hans and Geno.  Hans accompanied me on the first day of visiting markets.

the-boys-at-the-pumpkin-patch
Hans and Geno

Our first stop was Pacific Beach.  This little, and I do mean little, market is in an amazing location right near the beach.  Unfortunately, on the day we went, there was only four vendors there.  We talked to a very nice lady selling almonds and she told us that sometimes they have a few more vendors but since the Little Italy Market is on the same day, it is hard to get vendors to join them.  I understand what she was saying since, sometimes, it can be difficult to get vendors when there are multiple markets on the same day or if there is a bigger one or two day event at the same time.   I ended up purchasing some of her cinnamon sugar coated almonds because they were delicious but we didn’t stay too much longer.  I had been told that the Little Italy market was big but I didn’t realize how big until we got there.

Our next stop was the Little Italy section of San Diego.  It took us a while to find a parking lot and, when I did, it took me some maneuvering to get my van in the tiny little parking space that we happened upon.  Now I know that I’m spoiled living in Reno but paying $12 to park seemed a bit high.  At least it was only a couple of blocks away from the market.

I was blown away when we finally walked up to, what I realized later was, the middle of the market.  It stretched for four blocks and was packed full of vendors and tons of shoppers.  I quickly found the market manager and explained that I was there to take pictures and notes for my blog.  She even agreed to let me hand out flyers for my app just as long as I didn’t impede business in the booths.  So off we went to explore this huge market.

When there are around 200 vendors, you get to see just about everything you can imagine.  My original plan was to just browse, sample, and talk to vendors.  Little did I know that I would leave with a couple of bags full of stuff.  We also sampled a whole lot of tasty treats and I would highly recommend the croutons, ice cream, and the tea.  There was also a huge variety of produce, meats, seafood, cheeses, crafts, and flowers.  You can check out the market on their Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/LittleItalyMercato/ and on their website here: http://www.littleitalysd.com/events/mercato.

We spent well over two hours browsing, tasting, and talking to the nice people working the booths.  I noticed that they have one of the same problems we do but with the huge amount of people that come through there every week, there is no way they can prevent it.  They post “No Dog” signs all over the place but people just walk their dogs past them with no regard at all.  You will notice this theme over the next few weeks since it really is a pet peeve of mine.  Most County and City codes restrict animals at things like farmers’ markets and even if you post the code like I do and like most of these managers do as well, people just ignore it.  I still just do not understand the need people have to bring their animals to events like this where there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people all together.  Believe me when I tell you, your pet is not enjoying it.  Most likely, they are just trying to figure out how to get the hell out of there.

Anyway, enough of my ranting.  Talking to the vendors, they are all very happy to be at this market and I can’t blame them since there are a whole lot of people there shopping.  The market runs year round, which they all pretty much do in So. Cal.  I can see the appeal of having year round markets but I have to admit that having a shorter market season is pretty nice as well.  The girl sampling ice cream, told us that she had moved to San Diego from Truckee, CA and that she was happy not to deal with the snow every winter.  Of course, one of the best things about year round markets is that you can get farm fresh produce in the winter.  While I love living in a place where we get real Winter, I do miss the incredible eats from the Summer markets.

So to wrap up this weeks’ blog, if you are in San Diego on a Saturday, I would highly recommend that you go the Little Italy Farmers’ Market but be prepared to spend a bit of cash.  I defy you to get out of there without buying anything.  You will spend at least an hour if you just browse but you can spend well over two hours there if you really shop and talk to the vendors.  All of the vendors were really nice and were more than happy to talk to us and tell us about their products and most of the crafters and packaged food folks will ship as well so you can purchase from them and have everything sent right to your door.  As I mentioned before, be prepared to pay to park and you will be walking a few blocks to get there. One last thing about this market.  I talked before about how big this market is but you will also need to be careful when walking around.  The cross streets that run through the market are open to traffic so you will need to be careful when crossing the streets since there are cars trying to get through as well and, sometimes, the drivers aren’t very patient with people crossing against the light.

Next week I will tell you about the Hillcrest Market which is also in San Diego but, in the meantime, enjoy the pics I took from Little Italy.

 

I’m Back From “Vacation”

Hello Everyone,

So, again, I apologize that I haven’t lived up to my end of the deal.  It feels like it’s been months since I’ve posted.  Ok, it has been a couple of months.  Damn, I’ve been lazy.  Well, not really lazy just busy as we all get from time to time and I have let my writing slip.

It was another great market season here but part of me is happy that it has come to an end.  There were a lot of great things this season but it was also hard both physically and emotionally for me.  We had some pretty windy days at the beginning of the season and I stressed my back pretty bad.  It never really got better during the summer but I’m now in physical therapy and I am finally getting better.

So after the season ended, I took a much needed vacation.  Of course I made it a working vacation and visited quite a few markets while I was travelling around.  I started my trip in San Diego and moved my way north up to L.A.  I also got to stay with my brother and his family a couple hours inland from L.A. and went to a couple of markets there as well.  There were tiny markets with only a few vendors and HUGE markets with well over a hundred vendors.  They all had good things and bad things that I noticed.  Of course every market has its issues.   I took lots and lots of pictures and had great conversations with market managers and vendors at all of these markets.  Everyone I spoke with was really friendly and they all were happy to share their stories with me.

I did have a secondary motive on this trip.  As some of you may know, I have created an app for market vendors called VendorFerret.  It’s a free download by the way.  Anyway, I did it so that you, the customer, can find out where a vendor is going to be, for how long, what they are selling, and even a couple of pictures.  The app went live this summer and I was hoping to drum up some customers.  Almost all of the market managers were happy to let me pass along my information which I was thankful for.

Over the next few weeks I will be sharing my experiences and pictures with you.  I will also be sharing the contact info and links that I got while there so that you can purchase items from these folks as well if you want to.  Or, if you are in those areas, you can visit them and talk with them yourselves.

So with that, I bid you adieu for now.  I will be posting again very soon to begin telling you about my travels.