Farmers Market Reviews

La Jolla Open Aire Market

There is something wondrous about feeling like a child. Everything — the warm kiss of the sun, the sweet scent of a flower, the bubbling vat of joy that is another human’s laughter — is reduced to its beautiful basics. So it is only fitting that the La Jolla Open Aire Farmers’ Market, which brought out the boundlessly eager child in me, is located on the blacktop of an elementary school.

It is at the La Jolla Elementary School, in fact, open every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

In the sweeping eyes of an adult with no childlike values, the market would not spell out anything special. But here is the trick: let the child within you take over. 

Stop for a few seconds, and let your senses deliver to your soul the simple and beautiful aspects of what is around you. Listen to the music floating out of an old man’s fruit truck, as he nods to the beat. Watch as children and parents alike clamber around a red playground in the corner of the market, the same radiant smiles mirrored in all their faces.

The child in you will jostle out of your heart, take the reins of your mind and the market’s charming simplicity will become beautifully apparent.

The soft smile of the vendor standing behind rows of beautifully arranged flowers, vibrant table cloths or bottles of olive oil will set off fireworks of delight in your soul. The sweet and flowery taste of a fresh guava or strawberry from a fruit stand will make you close your eyes and grin in incandescent bliss. 

The sheer variety of cuisines available — Jordanian sweet date cookies ($4.50) from Petra Kitchen, flaky empanadas ($4.50) from Milonga Empanadas and spicy Peruvian ceviche ($14) from Reel Street Eats — will awe you with a childlike fervor. The freshly squeezed orange juice from Papa’s Garden ($5) will taste like the warm rays of the sun, and you will let it dribble down your chin unabashedly, like a child, beaming all the while. You will sit down at strangers’ tables under a large canopy at the heart of the market, sharing stories, laughing and relishing the overflowing joy that comes with connecting with other humans.  

This is what the market is all about. It strips away all the superficialities in life until what is left at its core is revealed: love, gratitude and kindness. 

These are the simple things that matter in our world. These are the things a child appreciates. I am grateful to the Open Aire Market for reminding me of them.

Leucadia Farmer’s Market

Indecision can ruin any gathering. With a jumble of different tastes, planning a Sunday brunch or weekend outing can be impossible for a group of varied preferences. But not at the Leucadia Farmers’ Market, a local hotspot nestled at the heart of the coastal community.

The bustling market, housed on the campus of Paul Ecke Central Elementary School, offers visitors a rich array of fresh produce, gourmet products and homemade crafts. With ample seating and lots to explore, this market is ideal for a group excursion, as the variety of stalls ensures all guests will find something they like.

The trek to the market, winding through the eclectic neighborhood, offers visitors a hint of what is to greet them. The smells of more than 20 different cuisines waft through the air, from the warm spices of curries and samosas to the bittersweet aroma of freshly ground coffee. 

Upon entering the market, the brightly colored produce catches the eye first. Baskets of crisp radishes, piles of rainbow-colored carrots and bushels of leafy greens fill the tables, displayed in front of the warm smiles of the stand owners who jump to greet those who meander past.

Golden Family Farms is a must-visit for produce or merely to take a photo of their bright orange beets and purple carrots, a collage of hues that transform the table into a kaleidoscope of nature’s beauty.

Once a visitor adjusts to the myriad of colors, the rows of stands winding along the grassy quad invite further exploration. From homemade tempeh to fresh pasta, the variety of products will inspire anyone to plan a three-course feast. 

After perusing the stands, guests will inevitably develop an appetite. A favorite of visitors is Masala Cottage, self-titled the “Samosas King,” The vegetable samosas ($6) are a perfect start to the meal: don’t forget to ask that they ladle on their delicious curry to smother the pastry.

Another must-get is the lemonades ($7) at a gourmet tamale stand towards the center of the market — a perfect match to any meal. 

While they are undeniably the highlight of the market, the food products are not the only attraction. From handmade jewelry to whittled kitchen wares to potted houseplants, the market is the perfect place to find a gift for a loved one.

Open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays, the Leucadia Farmers Market is the perfect addition to a weekend on the coast or the sole destination of a Sunday stroll; just remember to bring a friend.

 Little Italy Mercato Farmers’ Market

Thousands of San Diegans wander through the streets of Downtown daily, without ever discovering the sacred treasure wedged between office buildings — the Little Italy Mercato Farmers’ Market. One’s first time at the market feels like being let in on a dashing secret, like entering a dreamy fairytale world filled with exquisitely crispy croissants and beautiful bushels of mimosa flowers. 

However, this fairytale is quickly shattered for the faint of heart. There is pushing and shoving (especially if you are fighting for a spot in the line for Artisan Crepes) and so many sounds, tastes and smells that you are constantly on the verge of a sensory overload. However, the trick to the market is to not fight against it. Let it take you in its current and it will spit you out exactly where you are meant to go. “The market knows best” is a rule best abided for maximum enjoyment.

The bazaar is a slice of foodie paradise — mouthwatering shrimp drunken noodles from Saranya Thai ($15), savory samosas from Masala Cottage ($5), powdery dulce de leche cookies from Alfajores Bakery ($5) and every other cuisine imaginable. Grocery store produce is left utterly in the dust by the vendors’ fresh fruits and vegetables; nothing compares to the godly experience of eating a market strawberry, its sticky juice running down your arms. 

More than food, the market also has trinkets galore; it is a perfect place to buy yourself or a loved one a thoughtful, personal gift like handmade macrame, Italian linens, a used book or an antique lamp. 

Above all, the market is much more than only a place to buy and sell goods, though it executes that job brilliantly. For me, this streetful of temporary stands somehow holds the very essence of humanity. Everywhere you look, you can find little pockets of goodness. A couple swinging their giggling child in between them. A man buying a lovely bouquet of flowers for his grandmother. Dog owners chatting while their puppies excitedly sniff each other. A violinist playing “Viva la Vida” by Coldplay while a block away another street performer raps his own verses atop a beatbox. The Little Italy Mercato is a place for real human connection, a place rich with vibrant characters and stories better than in any novel or poem (ask the market’s very own Typewriter Troubadour to write you one). This is a place where you feel like you are a part of something bigger than yourself.

I know that no matter what may be going on in my life, I will always leave the market with my heart full and an appreciation for life.

Rancho Santa Fe Farmers Market

Opening at 9 a.m. on Sunday in the Del Rayo Village Shopping Center, the Rancho Santa Fe Farmers Market attracts people like moths to a flame. 

The city awakens to navigate the stands and shops, but instead of older shoppers, I also saw many young people enjoying the market. 

It was refreshing to see people from a generation of “screenagers” being present for an hour or two to share memories — a perfect snapshot in time walking past the tents or chatting on benches in the inner area. 

Not only were the market’s frequenters lively, but the vendors were too! They were all so friendly and seemed truly grateful to be present, selling their passions. No matter how many crying babies or hungry customers they had, every worker smiled up through my last walkthrough.

 

If the atmosphere of the marketplace was not already enough to keep me returning, the food and attractions sealed the deal. 

Upon entering, glorious smells infiltrated my nose so all I could think about was the bakery in front of me and the salsa stand next to me. 

As I floated through the walkways blissfully, my parents set out on their own quest to try all the samples in sight, giving me an opportunity to browse the remaining non-food stands.

While perusing a house renovation stand, I came across a rather unique stand of ceramics named “Tea Cup Candles & Vintage Treasures.” 

The perfect teacup candles they were selling was something I knew I needed to bring home as either a gift or accessory, costing me $25. The stand had fantastic customer service and an environment that made my day sunnier. 

Teacup in hand, I looked for my parents, finding them by an avocado toast truck with a built-in matcha bar that had my stomach rumbling. I ordered the Breakfast Toast ($10), topped with salmon and egg, along with an Iced Oat Milk Matcha Latte ($6), which were the perfectly complementary pair. 

While we sat and ate, I was reminded of how appreciative I was to be there with all of the other customers. I even to heard one teen say to another, “Come this way, let’s go support some other [stands].” The care and neighborliness with which the San Diego people addressed the businesses was enlightening and a moment I will not forget anytime soon. 

By the end of my visit, I was so entranced and enthralled with the amazing community I was met with and was saddened to leave. At least I know I can go back next Sunday!

Read on Issuu.

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