We've traveled far from the days of the effortlessly hip spokespenguin who graced the frosty covers of everyone's frozen Kid Cuisine dinners. Farmers markets abound with fresh produce, the locavore movement has the whole neighborhood raising chickens and foraging for herbs, and anyone caught eating a stone fruit out of season gets impaled on a reclaimed wooden stake in front of the West Hollywood Whole Foods.

That's all really great for the food chain and our bodies and the environment. But sometimes, all you want is a cool penguin person to tell you what you should be eating, and why. Bonus points if they'll deliver said foodstuff right to your door, and if it's still got all that healthy-local-small-batch-organic stuff going on, too. That's, more or less, the notion behind The Fare Trade.
One of a growing number of home delivery food services, The Fare Trade caters to high-minded amateur cooks and eaters who crave quality, but also really like not putting on pants. Unlike CSA boxes, which can sometimes leave your crisper drawer stuffed with vegetables you've never seen before, or organic grocery services that merely add convenience without substance, The Fare Trade tells you what you want and why. Instead of unprocessed raw goods, boxes come loaded with high-quality premade ingredients like pickled jars of okra or a honey habanero pepper sauce. The result is a monthly handpicked experience, giving home cooks the chance to utilize artisan ingredients that they otherwise may never have come in contact with.

See also: Good Eggs Brings Farm-to-Fridge Online Shopping to L.A.

Each of a given box's contents are also matched up with a curator, as they're called in Fare Trade circles. One month could see Top Chef Brooke Williamson dishing out advice on how to use a certain kind of chutney, while Minneapolis' Jamie Malone recently tackled an intriguing batch of hibiscus syrup. Like the occasional seasonal CSA pick-up, a box from The Fare Trade may sometimes offer a culinary curveball, but their site doles out recipes and usage suggestions galore to help stem the uncertainty.

The L.A.-based company is the brainchild of Jake Ahles and Max Block, two longtime friends who both attended Pitzer College in Claremont. After throwing joint dinner parties and immersing themselves in the local bounty, both went on to immerse themselves in the L.A. food landscape; Ahles as a line cook at restaurants like Mercantile and District, Block in the PR realm. The result was an unintended two-pronged approach to what The Fare Trade would become. Between the two of them lay a vast amount of knowledge about ingredients, chefs, purveyors, markets, small batch producers and the ability to sell.

For now, The Fare Trade is small, utilizing a core base of subscribers and a deep reach into the culinary world to offer inventive premade ingredients regularly. And so, right between farm-to-fridge grocery outlets like Good Eggs and the usual run of pick-it-yourself farmers market stalls, The Fare Trade seems poised to make themselves comfortable, by giving artisans a chance to shine, and locals the opportunity to expand their home cooking options.

Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. Farley Elliott writes about food, drink and entertainment at OverOverUnder.com.

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