Shopping SLOcal.

a blog about what's happening with farmer's markets in SLO county

Bike Night Video December 6, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — kjbruce @ 10:11 pm
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Bike Night

Every first Thursday of the month, a special event happens after the Farmer’s Market. Once the booths close down, the trucks drive off and the shoppers begin to disappear, a new crowd emerges–riding bicycles.

While many people have heard of bike night, not too many people have actually attended the event. “I hear about people doing bike night, and the crazy themes and all that but I haven’t actually ever been before” says local Ben Arthur.
The main gist of the night seems pretty basic–bring your bike, ride around, and follow a mass of crazy people who are doing the same thing that you are. But navigating the traditions of bike night can be a little tricky, which is why I have created a how-to list about the local tradition.

Abandoned bike left while its owner meandered through the crows in the Bank of America parking lot

9:30 pm is when the crowd gathered at Mission Plaza leaves to ride around downtown San Luis Obispo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. The Regalia

Each bike night has a theme–and people tend to get really into it. People dress up themselves, their pets and their bikes according to what the Bike Happening website says. Themes from the past have included Zombie Night, Fetish Night, Pirates Night and Dr. Seuss: Green Eggs and Ham it Up.
For full details on upcoming theme nights visit here.
2. The Round Up
A little after 9:00 pm, a crowd begins to gather around Mission Plaza. People show up on bicycles, tricycles, unicycles and tandems to putter around downtown. For about a half hour or so, the crowd waits for everyone to join up “We usually wait around till we have a sizable group, then head off towards downtown” says 2nd year Cameron Matthew.
3. The Route
The route usually starts from Mission Plaza around downtown and to the Bank of America parking lot, where everyone rides in circles, pops wheelies or just waits around for those unlucky enough to be caught behind a red light to catch up.
4. The Ride
During the actual ride, the tunnel of riders can tend to take over the road. “Watch out for the people in cars who aren’t fans [of bike night],” warms Zach Antoyan “‘Cause they’ll take you out. I got yelled at earlier tonight.”
While this may seem intimidating, it is not. I would recommend either just riding with the large group of bikers, or if you get separated simply stay in the bike lane (which is not usually necessary when the big group gets going.

Bike Night usually lasts from about 9:00 to 10:30 pm or so, and during this time lots of yelling, screaming and whooping occurs. I would highly recommend grabbing a group of friends and heading down to participate–you will not regret it.

BONUS: A little known fact about bike night? Afterwards, people gather at a secret and then the crowd begins to dissipate. Check out this link to see what happens after the cars take over the road once again.

 

$20 and Hungry Friends: How to Navigate Farmer’s Market November 16, 2010

Last Thursday, I ventured to the downtown San Luis Obispo’s Farmer’s Market with $20 in my pocket. My mission? To buy local ingredients to feature in dinner for some friends. Not only was the food a hit–I had enough to make some decadent dessert too.

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Bucket List for SLO Market November 9, 2010

The farmer’s market held in downtown SLO every Thursday night is the most popular market in the county, and there are tons of different booths and characters wandering around. But there are some things that go slightly less noticed–and things that every person should do to have a different type of fun. Check out the Top 5 list below that I have created of things that every person ought to do one Thursday Night.

1. Listen to the Electric Cellist

Of all the interesting music acts I have seen at Farmer’s Market, the electric cellist is definitely one that you cannot miss. The man, whose name is unknown to me, often sets up on one of the side streets of Higuera and combines spoken, free form poetry with his life story–including his time spent in Italy with his lover–and rips on the electric cello in between. The electric fan he positions in front of his stage adds to his theatrical appearance, which includes full body armor of some sort and shoulder length hair. So next time you are downtown on a Thursday night, listen for a strange tune and follow it to the source–you won’t be disappointed.

Sunflowers purchased at Farmer's Market

 

2. Buy Flowers for Someone Else

Multiple booths offer beautiful and cheap arrangements of flowers for sale, including roses, sunflowers and tulips. And although the practice of buying flowers for someone may be a bit dated, the gesture will never go unnoticed.  Prices start at as little as $3 a bunch for a nice bouquet, and stopping to grab some on your way out for someone else is the perfect way to pay it forward. So grab a bouquet for a friend, a roommate or a loved one.  “Flowers are the best way to get out of the doghouse [with my girlfriend]” says Jamie Mather “trust me.”

3. Get a Funky Apple @ Rocky Mountain Candy Co.

Rocky Mountain Candy Company whips up delicious treats on the daily including chocolate covered strawberries, fudge, and tons of truffles. But one of the things they make that every person ought to try? Their caramel apples. Not just any caramel apples though–flavors range from Apple Pie (dipped in white chocolate and rolled in graham cracker crumbs) to Snickers (dipped in caramel, rolled in crushed Snickers and drizzled with chocolate). When attempting to pick just one flavor, 2nd Year Cal Poly student Tori DiCiccio says“You HAVE to try the Apple Pie apple–its to die for!”  And no worries–Rocky Mountain will cut each apple into pieces that allow you to swap and eat it without losing half of the toppings to the ground.

The Rocky Road and Avalanche apples (courtesy photo)

The Peanut Butter Bomb (courtesy photo)

An assortment of apples from Rocky Mountain (courtesy photo)

 

4. Do Bike Night

Participants peddle around during bike night in SLO (courtesy photo)

 

On the first Thursday of every month, bikers from all over SLO country gather to ride around the downtown area after the market shuts down at 9:00 pm. Each month bikers dress up to a theme–such as Zombies, Cops and Robbers or Glow in the Dark–and people get really involved. The bike racks are filled almost completely up from 6:00 pm till 9:00 pm while Farmer’s Market is happening, but as soon as the last of the booths clears out the streets are taken over by a group of cyclists riding everything from unicycles to tandem bikes. The group rides in circles around downtown for an hour or so screaming and “getting all crazy” as one participant said. Every Cal Poly student or SLO resident needs to participate at some point!

5. Have A Competition w/ Your Friends to See How Many Fliers You Can Get

On any given Thursday Night, a multitude of people are out and about promoting everything from fraternities at Cal Poly to a Halloween Costume Sale downtown. Make the night a little more entertaining by challenging your friends to see who can collect the most fliers by the end of the night. Make it interesting by not limiting each person to one flier of each–multiple awkward encounters with the people passing them out will make it even funnier. The person who collects the least amount has to buy the person who collects the most frozen yogurt at Bali’s or Yogurt Creations!

Getting one

Got one!

 

 

Market Maps November 4, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — kjbruce @ 7:37 am

So for anyone who wants to know the what/where/wh0 about local markets, check out this map! Each icon give directions a quick highlight of each market. Some might not have complete descriptions or pictures, but I hope to make it to those markets soon and fill in the gaps! Happy shopping…

 

Tom Swift on His Funky Fruit November 2, 2010

 

Funky Fruit October 29, 2010

Inspired by sub-tropical fruit farmer Tom Swift’s (who you can hear from directly in my next post!) passion for his products, I decided to try to tackle a couple of his fruits after my trip to the Los Osos Farmer’s Market. First up: the horned melon.

The horned melon is revered for its aloe like qualities, although its appearance takes getting used to

The horned melon is a strange fruit, revered for its health benefits. The center tastes sour–almost like a kiwi–but the inner of the fruit is divided into individual cells like a pomegranate would be. With its aloe vera like qualities, Swift claims that it “will be the new health craze of 2011”, although research on what about it makes it so beneficial to the human body is still in the process of being discovered.

No matter the benefits, the horned melon is a fruit worth checking out, as long as you watch out for the spikes on the outside–I carelessly picked one up and have the slice on my right thumb to prove it.

So after de-spining the melon, I sliced it open, revealing the inner, bright green pulp. My roommates were looking at it skeptically, and tentatively took a piece when I offered it to them.

“It tastes kind of like a cross between a kiwi and a watermelon” Tori DiCiccio finally decided after chewing for a minute, “but its really good!” she said while reaching for another piece. “I would buy it.”

 

 

 

 

 

The other piece of strange fruit I purchased at the Los Osos Farmer’s Market was called the Pepino Dulce Melon, or as Swift calls it, the “Heart of Gold” melon. An oval shaped yellow fruit with almost tiger-like purple stripes, the melon resembles more of an apple.

“It tastes like if you crossed a papaya, a mango and a honeydew,” Ben Arthur said, chewing slowly.

The Heart of Gold melon was a bit strange to get used too, most likely because it tasted so similar to a few signature fruits without allowing the taster to get the satisfaction that comes with eating something you are completely used to the taste of.

“I don’t think I would buy this” Arthur said, “it was good, but I didn’t love it enough to buy it myself.”

Now with a lot of the fruit left I decided to attempt to make something with them, and my brainstorming session turned into a thumbprint butter cookie with a horned melon jelly in the middle. Sounds strange? I decided to make it a little stranger by adding some cumin and cinnamon to the batter. Surprisingly it turned out delicious–although I refused to tell my friends what was in it until after they had taken a bite (they saw the cumin on the counter).

First I boiled down the pulp with a little water and a few tablespoons of sugar until it began to take on a jelly-like texture (about 10 mins)

Next, I strained the seeds out from the jelly, using a spoon and a cheese grater (although next time I would just leave the seeds--they ended up tasting delicious!)

Next, I filled the middle of thumbprint butter cookies with a dollop of the jelly.

And after about 25 minutes in the oven, the finished product was ready.

While the combination might sound strange, give this strange fruit a chance with this different and interesting recipe!

 

The Market Less Traveled October 26, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — kjbruce @ 1:13 am
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Farmer's Market in Los Osos happens every Monday from 2:00 till 4:40

 

-Profile of Los Osos Farmer’s Market
-Reasons to shop at lower key markets
-Local ingredient challenge

Today I decided to take a trip to a market other than the one held in downtown SLO every Thursday night–they do exist. In fact, a new market just began to happen in San Miguel, and different markets happen almost every day of the week in SLO county. I figured the result from venturing outside the popularity of SLO’s market would be the same vendors, the same products in a different place. Wrong I was.

Los Osos puts on a market every Monday from 2:00 to 4:40 at the intersection of Santa Maria and 2nd Street, just a block away from the Bay and at the perfect time of day where the sun is still out, but beginning to have the golden glow that happens before sundown. Maybe it was the glow, but the market turned out to have much better fare than I thought.

While considerably less people were present than at SLO’s–about 20 booths were selling–the variety produce offered was just as great, and in fact a lot less overwhelming.

We always shop here [at the Los Osos market]” says local Ryan Cronin. “It’s like 5 blocks from our house and always has great stuff to offer.”

While less known than other markets, some people actually think the benefits of smaller markets outweigh those of bigger ones.

[Ryan and I] never go to the market in SLO,’ says Lety Flores, “it’s too crowded. Plus,” she says with a grin, pointing at a booth to our right, “they know me now and always ask how the stuff I bought last time was to eat.”

A block away from the market, the sun begins to set on Baywood Park

The purpose of a farmer’s market is to be able to buy local products and even have a conversation with the person who is selling it to you. When buying avocados to make guacamole, the vendor selling them took the time to talk to me, find out what I was making and even suggest the type of avocado I needed

These right here are ripe, and because they’re guacamole ready–a little overripe–they’re only $2 dollars a pound.” she said while selecting 4 good ones for me, totaling about $2

From personal experience buying avocados from the market in downtown SLO just last Thursday, the Los Osos market just seemed less hurried and cluttered. Which is a great thing for those who want to peruse and take their time, and even make friends with some vendors along the way.

While shopping around at the market I took it as a challenge to try to make something completely out of things purchased there–and for the total price of about $5 was able to make a big batch of guacamole. So check out the how-to video posted below, and take the challenge to make something out of local products. Let me know if anything works!

 

Quality Over Quantity: Part 2 October 25, 2010

Quality:
–noun; an essential or distinctive characteristic, property, or attribute.

In my last post, I covered the idea of price as indicating where to go to get the best deal for produce. In this post, I am adding the second aspect of the decision: quality.
To determine not only whether local produce is more or less expensive than traditional supermarket fare, I bought the same type of produce from each venue and enlisted 10 people to perform a blind taste test to try to determine whether the price difference actually accounts for a taste variable. The produce tested by the volunteers were:

-Tomatoes
-Peaches
-Avocados
-Basil
-Broccoli

The tasters were not allowed to see the whole produce until after tasting, and the order that they were given in was random every time (Farmer’s first vs. Albertson’s first). After the tasting was completed participants were told where their preferences came from and asked to comment on anything that surprised them or did not surprise them, and why they chose the produce that they did.

TOMATOES: 

One booth at Farmer's offers every type of tomato from Beefsteak to Cherry

 

Unanimous in favor of Farmer’s

To test tomatoes, I purchased the familiar red heirloom from a booth downtown and from Albertson’s. Tasters were all unanimous in that they thought that in overall taste and texture, tomatoes purchased at Farmer’s Market in downtown SLO won.
Will Starr said his favorite was obviously from Farmer’s because “it was really sweet. The one from the grocery store was tasteless.”
The variety of tomatoes (everything from cherry to beefsteak) for sale downtown rivals those available at the store, and according to our taste panel beat out the competition in taste and texture.

PEACHES -Unanimous in favor of Farmer’s 

 

This was the only other category that test tasters were unanimous in: just like in the tomato category, popular vote sided with peaches from Farmer’s Market.“The second one [from the grocery store] just didn’t have much flavor” Jamie Mather said after sampling both. Multiple participants remarked on the strange color of both of the peaches, although when it came down to  choosing which they would buy again if given the chance, every person went with the yellow peach from Farmer’s Market. “The second peach was older and had a grainy taste to it” Elliot Wenzel said, “The first one was much riper.”

AVOCADOS: 

The favored Albertson's Avocados


-5 people in favor of Albertson’s
-4 people in favor of Farmer’s
-1 person undecided

I have to say that this category surprised me the most out of all the classes of participation. While the area around SLO is famous for growing and distributing an excellent crop of avocados every year, five out of the ten people who tested a slice of each thought that the avocado from Albertson’s was better.

 

“It had a better texture and stronger flavor” said Lance Valenzuela.
Jamie Mather, whose parents own and operate a small avocado farm was partial the the avocado from Farmer’s Market, and was also shocked when I told him that general consensus was that Albertson’s avocados were better–he begged to differ. “People just don’t have refined avocado palettes!” he exclaimed with a laugh, “I thought the quality between the two was like was night and day.
This was the only category where a tester actually could not tell the difference between the two either. After tasting both, Elliot Wenzel looked up with a worried face “Uhhh…what do I say if I can’t tell a difference?” So the jury may still be out on the quality of avocados, but this was definitely the fruit that people got most excited to try.

 

Albertson's Basil, which multiple people actually commented did not smell like basil to them.

 

BASIL:

-7 people in favor of Farmer’s
-3 people in favor of Albertson’s


From a simple test of smell (and some who volunteered to chew it before I could tell them otherwise) participants were asked to gauge which batch of basil they would most like to eat. The result? Seven out of ten chose basil from Farmer’s over that from Albertson’s. However multiple people actually commented that both smelled a little strange . “You know, neither smelled like really basil-y to me” said Will Starr “it was just a little off or something.”


BROCCOLI:

Broccoli from Farmer's Market on the left, Albertson's offering on the right

 

-8 people in favor of Farmer’s
-2 people in favor of Albertson’s


When given a little floret of raw broccoli, a few participants raised an eyebrow at me as if to say, “You expect me to eat this…raw?” But after eventually convincing them that it is fine to eat raw foods (shocking!) the results were in: seven out of ten chose Farmer’s Market broccoli. “The broccoli from Albertson’s tasted gummy” said Jennifer Berg “the other piece [from Farmer’s] was crisp.” And after seeing the actual two whole vegetables next to each other, Berg was shocked.
“That one [from Farmer’s] is huge!” she exclaimed. “The other one [from Albertson’s] looks like its kinda sick…” she trailed off.

In every test batch except the avocado, the results favored produce from Farmer’s Market vs. the same fare from Albertson’s. So use this information paired with the price chart a few posts below to plan your next shopping trip–let me know what you think according to your own experiences!

 

Photo Essay October 21, 2010

Filed under: farmer's market; san luis obispo' higuera street — kjbruce @ 9:05 am

Photos by Katie Bruce, Oct 19, 2010

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