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Tour duh markets - Santa Cruz

Stanley Stephan | May 22, 200304:14 AM

Ok, some people visit foreign countries on vacation, this year I toured the local farmers markets.

Basically the overall impression I have is that we are so fortunate to be living in an area with such easy access to local fresh produce. Wherever you live, there are excellent markets.

They all have their charms and are pretty similar ... a handful of outstanding produce people with the remainder of the produce very good and fresher than any market. Baked goods, nuts, cheese, fish, jellies, prepared foods, flowers, candy and plants.

At Santa Cruz, which was larger than I expected, many of the Santana Row and Los Gatos vendors were there.

My find at this market was a bright purple cauliflower. I've never seen this before. It is just beautiful. I'm going to try some of it raw in a salad and see what happens when I cook it. Wonder if the color will fade. Would really be stunning in a veggie platter.

I had a new cherry (for me) called Garnet. Not quite as crisp as a Brook cherry, but very flavorful. There were a few boxes with cherries with leaves attached that looked very pretty.

I finally tried Donnely Chocolates which had a stand at the market. The vendor was very in tune with his regulars, and there were a few special items for some of these customers from what I noticed. I bought some Chipotle chocolate bark which had a long lasting after heat. Really liked it, but don't know quite where I would serve this and with what.

I bought this outstanding savory quiche like tart ... that doesn't do it justice. It was an pastry shell filled with grilled vegetables and goat cheese. More statisfying than most pizza I've had ... and that includes the East Coast variety. This was made by Sweet Elana's Bakery which has a bakery at 465D Olympia Blvd in Sand City. I'd recommend them if you are in the area. Lovely tarts, quiches, breads and cookies. I'd say they are every bit as good as, if not better than, Downtown Healdsburg Bakery.

There was a charming organic egg vendor selling out of the back of his pickup. He had a little table with a binder where he proudly displayed pictures of each of the chikens and ducks on his farm.

There was a fresh oyster vendor where people were slurping down oysters on the half shell. There was also a fresh fish vendor.

A taco vendor was there, but I didn't have a chance to try them. There were also about three or four other bakers of breads and pastries (nice samples. One was a tasty whole grain. Another I liked was a cheese garlic bread).

Oakdale Cheeses had some good cheese including a cumin and a smoked cheddar that I liked.

A pasta vendor similar to the one at Ferry Plaza was there as well.

Morganice Top Crop Honey was there, the South Bay's Marshall Honey (at significantly lower prices).

Happy Boy Farms, Swanton Berries, and Lathe House Nursery with it's pots of culinary and medicinal herbs were there. Many new to me and seasonal produce vendors.

Quik N Eze Indian Food who is at almost every market was there as well. Someone was selling some sort of tofu coldcuts...meats... something along that line. A few nice flower vendors.

A little live music and a lot of politcal talk amoung the market goers.

After a morning at the beach you could put together a very satisfying picnic dinner, go back to the boardwalk, spread out your goodies and watch the sun set.


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