Sure, there are farmers markets with more high profile chefs trailing carts and, often, camera crews (Santa Monica Wednesdays); there are markets with stalls featuring more Asian or Hispanic produce (Torrance); or markets scheduled early enough and close enough to the beach so that you can hit the waves after shopping (Venice). But there is possibly no area market quite as atmospherically lovely as the one held during the late afternoons and early evenings every Thursday in South Pasadena.
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As the sunlight angles below the canopies, farmers string their stalls with lights as if it were Christmas. In the gathering darkness, you can see the smoke rising from the Santa Maria tri-tip firepit and from the Grill Masters rotisserie chicken stall. It wavers between the trees, above the crowds loading Gravenstein apples and late season Santa Rosa plums, above the families picking up dinner from the food vendors or listening to the ad hoc concerts on the grass, and above the nearby trains from the adjacent Gold Line.
Gradually the lights from Nicole's Gourmet and Bistro de la Gar and Firefly Bistro overwhelm the bare bulbs stung along the stalls, but by then the farmers have begun to disassemble their tables and pack up their produce and, the market ending, you can retire inside for a glass of wine or a coffee, your own bags of produce secure at your feet, the day drawn to a very satisfying close.
South Pasadena Farmers Market: Meridian Avenue and Mission Street, South Pasadena.
Look for more "Best of L.A." pieces in our annual Best of L.A. issue, coming Oct. 7th.