How to Navigate the Farmer’s MarketRestaurants | Christine Dionese L.Ac | April 21, 2010 at 8:25 am
I recently caught up with one of my favorite Los Angeles chefs, Andrew Kirschner, of the hip and always delicious Wilshire Restaurant. Andrew shared his love of slow food, what he’s tossing around in his kitchen and how to make the most of the farmer’s market.
WW: Food critics complement your palate and your eye. How can newbie farmer’s market shoppers begin to train their eyes for the right goods?
Andrew Kirschner: You are obviously at the market to get the best, freshest, highest quality ingredients available. But this is not automatically the case just because you are at the market. Look for ingredients that are vibrant in color, have terrific aromas and are free of blemishes. Also, don’t be afraid to talk to the farmers! Ask when the fruit or vegetable was picked. Often it was yesterday, which is great, but it also could have been last week, in which case ask another farmers about the same product. You want something picked as close to today as possible.
WW: When shopping, how do you decide on organic over locally raised (or vice versa)?
AK: Most of the product at the farmers market is grown locally and 90 percent of the time, it is also grown organically. It is also worth noting that many farmers have been practicing organics for a long time but their farms are not necessarily “certified” organic. This could be for financial reasons (it’s quite expensive to go through the certification process), or because they have not been practicing organics long enough. If I had to choose between organic and locally raised the answer is simple, organic every time! Hopefully, as a society we’re coming to a point where we realize we should not be putting fertilizers and nonorganic compounds into our bodies (often these chemicals don’t show any negative physiological effects for years to come). Not only does organic produce taste way better, we can also rest easy knowing that our children and the world they live in will be safe! Sustainability is the last word–and key!
WW: When making their shopping lists I always suggest patients add two or three new veggies and fruits to try each season. What are your favorite Spring time produce?
AK: Spring is the culinary new year! All my favorite ingredients start showing up at the markets during springtime. Right now at the restaurant I am playing around with ramps, fava beans, morel mushrooms, asparagus, and the list goes on!
WW: I love that you embrace the “farm to table” concept. Can you explain how this brings out the natural energy in food?
AK: The farm to table concept is an integral part of what I do here at the restaurant and encapsulates my philosophy on food. Only by shopping at the farmer’s market and selecting fresh, seasonal organic produce is the end result of my vision accomplished. By sourcing ingredients in this manner the freshness and quality of the ingredients are allowed to shine. This results in outstanding flavor and of course, healthy benefits!
WW: It’s amazing that a high volume restaurant like yours can still prepare exceptionally healthy entrees. Would you credit this ability to the creation of seasonal menus and local ingredients?
AK: Absolutely yes! By serving seasonally we are letting the quality of the ingredients speak for themselves without over- manipulating them. This in turn means less prep time therefore allowing us to serve the quantity of food that we do and at the same time keeping things fresh and delicious!
WW: What advice do you have for cooks that are serious about aligning their style and methods as environmental influences on food continue to shift?
AK: Eat local. Eat fresh. Eat sustainable. Eat organic! When you do this you can let the ingredients speak for themselves and have a wonderfully delicious and healthy meal.