California Cuisine is all about fresh produce, and at any given farmers market, you'll find area chefs stocking up for their lunch and dinner menus. I had the pleasure of perusing the Santa Monica Farmer's Market with Chef Raphael Lunetta of JiRaffe Restaurant. It was his third excursion that morning walking the three blocks from his restaurant at Santa Monica Blvd and 5th Street to the Wednesday street market at Arizona and 2nd Street.
"The farmers market goes into the majority of our specials and about 30% of the other menu items," says Lunetta.
A vendor approaches the surf-tanned chef with a case of mini tomatoes. "Sweet tomatoes, $17, 2 for 30" he says. Tasting a tomato, Lunetta agrees, "I'll take 1." The vendor brings him two cases. He pays for both. "I always go through tomatoes," he shrugs.
"Harry's is the best, but pricey" Lunetta says, indicating the French beans at the Harry's Berries booth where he's not stopping this time around. "I can't really justify $13 per pound for green beans when there are other great choices." Yet he doesn't hesitate to pay $14 for a half pound of Maitake mushrooms. "When you taste them, you'll know why."
We sample some sugar-sweet organic peaches. A case of them is added to the tab, destined for a daily special cocktail and dessert. Some zucchini, yellow squash, asparagus, avocados, fresh spinach and raspberries are acquired before we head back to JiRaffe.
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