So you've read The Omnivore's Dilemma and watched Food, Inc twice, but you still aren't quite sure how to eat local in Los Angeles. The city is covered in exhaust smoke, and it's harder to imagine growing food here then being one of those people who, um, walk. Still for all its metropolitan appearances, Angelenos are lucky to live in a city so vibrant with local goods and services. Farmers markets, cheese makers, and fishmongers: we've got all the resources to focus our meals on goods grown and made in the area.
From reducing your carbon footprint to the desire for damn good produce, everyone has their own reason for eating locally. Join the Eat Local Challenge with help from our list, and tackle the how-to of eating local in LA.
10. Shop the markets
Duh, right? If you want to eat local, you buy veggies straight from the farmer. It may seem obvious, but with that giant Vons right next door, the vast number of farmers markets in Los Angeles often get overlooked. Find one nearby and check it out; there is a market every day of the week in Los Angeles with locations all over the city and suburbs. The temperate climate of southern California allows farmers to harvest fruits and veggies long past their normal seasons (strawberries in December!) and you can find more than just produce at these markets, including honey, dried fruits and nuts, meats and poultry, freshly made cheese and raw milk.
Los Angeles farmers market, various locations.
9. Buy a basket of local love
Want to get farmer's market produce but can't find the time to make it to the actual market? Let the farmers do all the work and join a CSA (community sponsored agriculture program). The programs will supply you with weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly baskets of produce from local farmers. Try CSA California for weekly produce from the Ramierez Family and Tutti Fruiti, or South Central Farmers CSA for produce from the areas south central farmers. For as little as $15 a week, grab a basket from one of their many pick-up locations, and turn your meals into local creations.
CSA California, (310)709-4092; South Central Farmers, 1702 E. 41st Street, 1-800-249-5240.
8. Drink an LA Brew
Skip the Mexican Corona or Portland Allagsah and sip on one of the many pints made in Southern California. All brewed in the LA area, drink a few ales, stouts and lagers from Angel City Brewery, The Brueury and Craftsman Brewing Company. These beers are available at local Whole Foods and Bristol Farms, or popular watering-holes like Father's Office, BottleRock, and Lucky Baldwins. Or try making your own libation with lessons and equipment from Culver City Brewing Supply Co.
Angel City Brewery, 833 W Torrance Blvd, (310)329-8881; The Bruery, 715 Dunn Way, (714)996-6258; Craftsman Brewery, 1260 Lincoln Avenue, (626) 296-2537, Culver City Home Brewing Co., 4358 1/2 Sepulveda Blvd, (310)397-3453.
7. Grow your own grub
You may not have the know-how or the space to grow all the goods you can find at the farmers markets, but taking a gardening class will get you started. The LA Arboretum offers quarterly classes on organic fruit and vegetable gardening, teaching you the basics of gardening for the season. Silverlake Farms offers monthly classes on urban farming, soil instruction, and vegetable gardening, and does private and group classes as well. And if your thumb is really not so green, pick up an herb garden kit and start off slow.
LA Arbortuem, 301 North Baldwin Ave, (626) 821-3222; Silverlake Farms, 2833 Shadowlawn Ave, (323)644-3700.
6. Shop it up
Los Angeles has a few focused shops that make eating local that much easier. Franklin Village's Locali Conscious Convienve offers a sampling of many LA-created products, including local wines, ice creams, and snacks. From grass feed beef to fair trade coffee, Locali offers sustainable, organic and local choices to slip into your cupboard. At Venice's The Curious Palate, find local goods, including chocolates, ciders, ice cream, and preserves. Does all that shopping make you hungry? Munch on one of The Curious Palate's farmers market salads, topped with locally smoked salmon or for a quick snack, grab a house-made pickle.
Locali, 5825 Franklin Ave, (323)466-1360; The Curious Palate, 12034 Venice Blvd, (310)437-0144.
5. Dine out locally
Hungry for local, but don't feel like cooking at home? Los Angeles restaurants couldn't make it easier to support local producers. Many purchase meats, fruit and vegetables from local farmers, and some even offer house-made cheese, cured meats, or home-made liqueurs. Arrive early enough to the Wednesday Santa Monica farmers market and see any number of the areas chefs buying their restaurant's produce. For a straight-from-LA meal, try house-made mozzarella at Osteria Mozza, farmers market inspired Sunday suppers at Lucques, and the Farmer's Market Wednesday dinners at Josie Restaurant. Read the menu: you'll find local produce showcased on dozens of other LA restaurants, many more than we could name here.
4. LA Sweets
Craving something cold? Look for LA-favorite Carmela Ice Cream at the farmers market or a few local stores (The Curious Palate, Locali, and Joan's on Third) and try a scoop of candied pecan or salted caramel. The seasonal flavors, like cranberry thyme sorbet and butternut squash, are stuffed full of local, organic products, making it easy to satisfy your sweet tooth with something local. Looking for gifts? Pass aside the box of imported chocolates and buy a package of handcrafted goods from one of LA's numerous confectioners. Brentwood's Compartes Chocolatier offers bon bons and stuffed fruits made with seasonal, organic products and Pasedena's Little Flower Candy Co. sells sea salt and vanilla caramels made with local products and no additives.
Carmela Ice Cream, (323)319.6084; Compartes Chocolatier, 912 South Barrington Avenue (310) 826-3380; Little Flower Candy Co., 1422 W. Colorado Blvd, (626)304-4800.
3. Meat It
Is that chicken you're about to buy home-grown, California poultry? One bite of the grass-fed, organic chicken from Kendor Farms and you'll never go back to Purdue. Shopping at the farmers market for a carnivores delight, you can try anything from grass-fed Lindner Bison to freshly shucked, Carlsbad oysters. Shop for eggs, beef, pork, and even seafood at many of the markets, all produced in the LA area. Or contact the farms directly for information about ordering and delivery.
2.Convert your food into gasoline
You've been shopping from farmers markets for years and don't touch food unless it's produced 150 miles within the city limits, right? You're as local as they get, green through and through. All that's left in your plan for conquering the sustainable route is skipping out on gasoline and converting to bio-fuel, of course. With a little help from Los Angeles based Lovecraft Biofuels, you can make your beat up diesel jalopy run on vegetable oil. Have the Lovecraft technicians do the conversion, or buy one of their simple home kits and convert the car yourself. Save a few bucks and pick up some used vegetable oil(which you filter) from you local restaurant, skipping out on those perpetually rising gas prices.
Lovecraft Biofuel, 1400 N Virgil Ave, 323.644.9072.
If you are still stumped on local products, ask your neighborhood purveyor where their goods come from. Most LA vendors carry something from the Southern California region (whether they mean to or not) and all it takes is a little PI work to discover which items are local. Even at your corner store, you are likely to find a bottle of wine, a chocolate bar, or package of chips that are made nearby. While it may be hard to change all your eating to local goods, skipping a few items that travel those far distances is a start.