I don’t know Alex Weiser, but the farmers-market legend has spent more time in my kitchen than the teakettle these past few years. Summer sees Weiser Family Farms tomatoes, superpungent Charentais melons and obscure Persian melons; in fall, the Suessian trombone squashes come into play. I look forward to the ultracrinkly Bloomsdale spinach every year, a spinach whose bright flavor laughs at garlic, not to mention the orange and purple cauliflowers, and the amazing, tiny apples that seem to be on sale for only a week.
(Photo by Kevin Scanlon)For Easter, there are lilacs. In winter, there is always a week or two when tiny, hairy carrots, smaller than delicate haricots verts, are on sale at Weiser’s ubiquitous farmers-market stands, needing no more than a few drops of olive oil and a blast of oven heat to become more irresistible than French fries.
The fractal wonders of Weiser’s broccoli-esque romanesco dominate my table both as main course and centerpiece for a few months each winter — fry hard with anchovies, chile and garlic — and the baby broccoli greens pack an almost illegal amount of flavor. If you have seen Peruvian purple potatoes, or thin rounds of Russian banana potatoes, or red thumb potatoes on your plate at a local market-oriented restaurant — and you have — it is almost certainly because Weiser’s network of family farms put them there. (The latest stab at world domination, in the form of the corkscrew-shaped tubers from the mint family called crosnes, seems to be selling, even at a hefty $16 a pound.)
The farmers markets at Santa Monica, Hollywood, Pasadena and beyond have done a lot to change the way we eat in Los Angeles, and the rock stars of produce are many, but even among the constellation of organic lettuce czars, boutique peach merchants and cranky mulberry pushers, Weiser’s unerring sense of the way Los Angeles would like to eat is unique.