I wrote about the Santa Monica Farmers Market last month, but The Original Farmers Market is something else entirely. I was planning on perhaps buying some cherimoya before heading over to The Grove to buy our hostess’ son a present (Thanks Audrey for letting us crash!), but when I stepped into the market, what met my eyes was not tables of fruits and vegetables but an outdoor food court! Considering it was lunchtime, nothing could have made me happier.
There were many choices; Singaporean, Korean, French, but I headed straight to Loteria Grill for more Mexican.
I initially ordered two tacos at Loteria. The first was a Mole Poblano con Pollo Taco ($2.95), chicken in mole poblano with sesame seeds, chopped onions, and queso fresco on a housemade corn tortilla. The tortilla could have been more grilled, but the chicken was moist, and the mole was rich and creamy.
Next up was a Chicharron en Salsa Verde Sope ($4.75), deep-fried pork rinds in a “spicy” tomatillo sauce with chopped onions, cilantro, shredded lettuce, queso fresco, and crema. As I mentioned in a previous post, chicharron acts a sponge, and in this case, it was soaked in the bright tomatillo sauce which was very tasty even though it was barely spicy. As for the sope base, it was too hard and dry. Tacos seemed to be a better bet, also cheaper.
To drink, I grabbed an Jamaica (hibiscus) Agua Fresca ($2.25) which was refreshing and not too sweet. If you’ve never had a Jamaica agua fresca before, think of it like a watered down cranberry juice that’s less sweet and less tart.
After the tacos, I decided to see what else was at the Market and I ended up at Marconda’s Meats, a family-owned butcher shop. I had no intention of buying any raw meat, although the ground sausage pigs (breakfast, mild Italian or hot Italian!) were hard to resist….
what really caught my eye was the jerky.
There’s two kinds of jerky at Marconda’s, regular jerky by the slab and old-fashioned jerky.
According to one of the butchers, the old-fashioned jerky is the plain kind they made decades ago. According to the sign on the jar, it’s made with “no fillers, no wheat, and no teriyaki sticky stuff.” (No offense to teriyaki, I’m sure.) I never had it before, so when I asked which one he recommended, he actually gave me a whole piece of the old-fashioned to try, which I was surprised he did since it’s pricey stuff ($24.98 lb). It was good, but as he said, it was very plain, and also very hard. This is what I imagine the early frontiersmen ate on the trail before they ran out of food and had to eat their belts and boots à la Grapes of Wrath. If you want history, the old-fashioned is for you. For me, the regular sheets of jerky ($2.50 each) — which were reminiscent of Malaysia Beef Jerky, but not as soft — were more my style. The jerky comes in four flavors: hot, sweet & spicy, original, and yes, teriyaki. My favorite was the original which had a peppery bite, but the hot with lots of red pepper flakes was nice too. As for the other flavors, I liked them also, but they were more on the sweet side, and it’s easy to get sick of the “sticky stuff.” Marconda’s, I feel you.
After the jerky, I worked up my appetite shopping, and soon I found myself at Loteria again. This time I had the Albondigas en Chipotle Taco ($2.95), beef meatballs in a tomato and chipotle sauce with chopped onions and cilantro. This might have been my favorite of the day. The meatballs were well-seasoned and tender. The only thing I wished was that it was spicy. The Mexican flavors are there at Loteria, but in general, the heat seems to be toned down for the masses. Not a big deal, there’s nothing a little salsa roja can’t fix.
The next day, I dragged David to the Market to show him “my find” and of course he went for something sweet, a huge cream horn ($3.99) from T & Y Bakery. It was filled with creamy custard cream, which I liked, but David had hoped for sweet whipped cream. He complained a little bit, but at the end there was nothing left except a styrofoam container so I’m sure it wasn’t too much of an annoyance. In fact, he mentioned coming back to the Farmers Market for lunch the next time we were in LA. I’d say, it wasn’t bad at all.
As for the cherimoya, I didn’t find any, but didn’t really care. Tacos and jerky trump cherimoya any day.