Friday, October 05, 2007

Your Neighborhood Gourmet Fruit Stand

Can we talk markets for a sec? Because there are a few around town that are very important to me, and I want to share. I'm only going to talk about one right now, but I think it's a pretty unique place, and these days I really miss it. I'm talking about Marina Farms, a small westside market that despite its diminutive size, never disappoints in the quest for quality, inexpensive produce, and much more.

Back at my old job, on days when the sun was shining just right for a walk, we'd trek a few blocks to 'the fruit stand' for a bag of cherries, or a tangerine -- in one variety at Marina Farms, piled high just outside the door, the fruit was not completely connected to the skin. Shake it around and you'd feel the fruit inside wobbling about inside the lumpy skin. They were super sweet too. The store is about 80 percent produce -- a wide variety, and cheap: all manner of apples and peaches, tiny bananas, plenty of fresh herbs, and more.
But that other twenty percent is not to be overlooked. You wouldn't guess on first glance, but Marina Farms is an unassuming gourmet shop. The back corner of the store houses a small crunch of products like walnut and hazelnut oils, polenta and other interesting grains, this awesome saffron tea from Spain, and more. I like that I can go to a corner store, not at all fancy, and pick up creme fraiche or imported chocolate bars. You get the special ingredients you need, without having to pay a premium for snobbery. They also have a shelf devoted to more health-food-store-like offerings -- nuts, seeds, and candies that they package themselves. (And they even carry my very favorite addictive substance, Have'a Corn Chips.)

Now that I don't work near the Marina anymore, I've been on a mission to find something like Marina Farms farther east. While I've found plenty of fancy gourmet markets, and plenty of pushy bustling ethnic markets, the middle ground that Marina Farms strikes is unique. Too bad.

Marina Farms is at 5454 S Centinela Ave., north of Jefferson. They close at 7, so get there early!

[Thanks to Dan Phiffer and the Del Rey Neighborhood Council for the photos.]

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