Farmers markets are a polarizing thing in my family. I hate falling into some sort of classic gender stereotype, but I’m content to slowly wander through farm stands and food vendors, sampling tapenades, organic honeys, heirloom squashes and vegan pastries. My partner in crime, life, and dining, feels otherwise.
Taking Mr. City Eat, who, I might add, is a born-and-raised country boy, is like dragging the man down The Green Mile. While I delight in the hum and energy of farmers and independent businesses connecting directly with consumers, the aimless weekend crowds make him twitchy and, seriously, why can’t we just buy the damn tomato and go home?
Fortunately, farmers markets have moved beyond just produce and flowers and offer plenty of dishes and delights for the more task-oriented among us. Pop-up restaurants are now a huge part of many of the larger markets around San Diego County. One of the stars feeding the masses is Annel & Drew’s Kitchen, a vibrant, locally focused eatery run by partners Drew Matthews and Annel Trejo de Hiersekorn.
Their menu focuses on produce and products that you can find seasonally and locally, with most of their produce coming from Imperial Beach powerhouse Suzie’s Farm.
Their showstopper menu item is grilled artichokes. Marinated in balsamic vinegar, then chopped in halves or quarters according to your specifications, the spiky blooms are then thrown onto a grill and charred to a soft and smoky perfection. Served with two kinds of mayonnaise dipping sauces, one classic and tangy, the other with some peppery heat, this is the kind of SoCal treat worthy of sharing with out-of-town guests to show off our community’s bounty.
Considering the focus on seasonal and local produce, I was curious about how they consistently serve artichokes beyond the normal spring season. I asked Drew how that worked, and he kindly explained that they do get most of their ’chokes from not-quite-local Castroville (“Artichoke Center of the World”), but if they don’t taste right, they pull them off the menu. He also told me that Suzie’s Farm will begin offering artichokes this fall, so they can feel even better about serving the soon-to-be-local treats.
The next time I find myself at the farmers market with a cranky companion, I’m going to find him a shady picnic table and sit him down with a plate full of A&D’s lamb sliders. These are messy handfuls that aren’t conducive to walking around. The burgers are plump and gorgeous, served in the cutest little brioche-like bun you’ve ever seen. The tiny, teetering creation is topped with a vivid slice of tomato and gobs of a chunky, zesty tzatziki sauce. Good luck not getting it all over your face, hands and seating area, but it’s absolutely worth every bite.
One should never turn down the chance to eat a Cuban sandwich; it’s unique and fun and not easy to find. A&D’s serves its version with toasty grilled bread, thin slices of succulent roast pork, gooey cheese, mustard and lime aioli and zesty bites of pickle.
The menu is as full and fertile as any sit-down bistro, with lush salads and sandwiches filled with vegetables. I counted three kinds of radishes alone in the side salad that came with my slider.
You can find Annel & Drew’s Kitchen (anneldrewskitchen.com) at the Oceanside, Leucadia and Ocean Beach farmers markets, and on Saturdays, visit their adorable pop-up stand (complete with shaded seating) on Highway 101 in Encinitas, perched in the front yard of the bizarre sea-captain hangout Cap’n Keno’s.
Don’t forget your reusable, organic totebags—or your farmers-market skeptics.
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