Feasting at farmers

In case you missed it, here’s my review of popular vendors at local farmers markets that appeared in Thursday’s Go! section of the Monterey Herald. I’ll be reposting my reviews and stories from my weekly column for the Herald here on my blog along with extra photos that didn’t appear in print.

Summer’s here and that means longer days and warmer nights, perfect for spending the early evening at the farmers markets.

There’s pretty much a different one every day from Monterey to Salinas, providing a veritable feast of eclectic cuisines — you’ll find Cuban food alongside Greek fare, sushi next to Hawaiian barbecue or falafel next to tamales.

The Peninsula's farmers markets serve up a delicious feast that's easy on the wallet.

I often stop by both the Pacific Grove (Mondays, 4 to 7 p.m., Central Avenue) and Monterey (Tuesdays, 3:30 to 8 p.m., Alvarado Street) farmers markets to meet up with friends after work for a strolling dinner of sorts.

Babaloo's signature truck, the Duchess, visits the PG farmers market on Mondays.

On Mondays, a visit to the Babaloo truck is a must. Babaloo’s menu of Cuban fare includes fish sliders, combo meat (or veggie) plates and the occasional soup, but the pressed Cuban sandwiches have made the Babaloo truck famous in these parts.

The infamous Ricky Ricardo.

Pressed on a grill, these sandwiches are packed with flavor. The Ricky Ricardo (with sliced ham, pulled pork, cheese, mustard and pickles for $7) is probably the most popular.

It’s nice and tangy, though a tad salty for my taste. The Lucy, Lucy (with grilled chicken, Jack cheese and an avocado/mango salsa for $7) is my favorite — I love the addition of sweet mangoes and avocado.

A double order of plantains. These delicious bites are a hot commodity among local foodies!

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the grilled plantains ($3). These sweet, tender plantains are a hot commodity at the truck — usually only available in a limited quantity, they sell out pretty quickly.

Become a Babaloco — follow the Babaloo truck yourself at www.babalootruck.com or @babalootruck on Twitter.

Lately I’ve been picking up dinner at India Gourmet’s booth at the Monterey farmers market on Tuesdays.

My usual order? A chicken tikka masala naan burrito ($7). The buttery chicken is served atop rice, then wrapped in a thick piece of naan bread.

The slight char on the outside of the naan brings out the complex flavors and spices of the chicken inside. (Though a few times my naan’s been a little over-charred.) You can choose a variety of both meat (lamb) and vegetarian (spinach or garbanzo beans) fillings.

Maybe a burrito isn’t your style? The burrito “innards” can be ordered on their own. Pick up one of the rice bowls ($7) and three pieces of naan bread ($5), and you can make your own delicious Indian dinner. I think the burritos are convenient for eating on the go, but they sometimes get a little dried out; the rice bowls make sure the rice absorbs the sauce.

India Gourmet visits the Pacific Grove (Monday) and Monterey (Tuesday) farmers markets. Email them at IndiaGourmetca@gmail.com.

If you’re looking for something sweet to cleanse the palate, look no further than Carolyn’s Cookie Company.

The cookies from Carolyn's Cookie Company, like these peanut butter chip cookies, have a simple, homemade taste.

From the gooey oatmeal raisin to the classic chocolate chip cookie, these cookies (one for $1 or six for $5) have a simple, home-baked taste. They’re not the most refined, but that homemade quality is refreshing.

Carolyn also offers up some cookies that are a little off the beaten path, like chocolate chip and craisin. The sweet chocolate and the tart craisins make for a great combination.

But the most unusual cookie I’ve tasted in recent memory was Carolyn’s bacon-chocolate chip cookie. The bacon adds a nice salty and smoky kick to the sweet chocolate. It’s a rare visitor to Carolyn’s booth at farmers market, but it’s available for special order.

Visit Carolyn’s Cookie Company at the Pacific Grove (Monday), Monterey (Tuesday) and Oldtown Salinas (Saturday) farmers markets, or order directly by calling 455-8845 or email carolynscookieco@aol.com.

When it comes time for an afternoon pick-me-up after a long day at work, I head straight to the Bubble Tea Truck. A few local noodle shops serve up bubble tea, but the Bubble Tea Truck serves the best boba in these parts.

The Bubble Tea truck has the best boba around!

The Bubble Tea Truck’s tapioca pearls are so tender and they’re so flavorful too, with floral and fruit accents that blend nicely with the milk tea.

Extra boba for me, please!

I usually pick up a milk tea ($3, with boba $3.50). You can get the milk tea plain or pair it with any of their half dozen flavors, which you can order on their own or mix up to three together. I’m partial to mixing the strawberry and honey, but this might be a little sweet for some.

If milk tea isn’t your thing, there’s also iced tea ($2.50, $3 with boba). If you’re looking for something that’s not too sweet, try the jasmine mint tea, unsweetened, with boba — the boba gives it just a touch of fruit flavor to complement the tea.

Sadly, rumor has it unless they find a local buyer, the truck will close after the summer when the owners head to grad school.

Follow the Bubble Tea Truck online www.thebubbleteatruck.com or on Twitter @bubbleteatruck.

And let’s not forget, the farmers markets around town of course offer up a bevy of fresh produce. With summertime come delicious strawberries — organic for me, of course!

Sweet, juicy strawberries make for a tasty dessert. Here’s a tip from a friend of mine — try them dipped in sour cream, then brown sugar!

And let's not forget about all the fresh fruits and veggies at market--perfect for baking!

Interested in learning how to reap the benefits of farmers market finds in your kitchen? Baker Stephanie Stein at Happy Girl Kitchen is focusing her next workshop — Farm Fresh Baking, on Sunday, July 31 — on baked goods, like pies, tarts and strawberry shortcake, crafted from fruits and veggies in season this summer at local farmers markets.

Contact Stephanie (209-481-9727 or gushigan@gmail.com) to sign up for Farm Fresh Baking. Cost is $110 per person. Hurry — space is limited and the class is filling up fast!

This entry was posted in Food Trucks, Herald, Off The Menu, Steal of a Meal. Bookmark the permalink.

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