Shop with the Chef

It’s May and the markets are back! As of May 1, the downtown Cesar Chavez farmer’s market opened again at 10th and J Streets. Conveniently located across the street from Grange restaurant, it’s a great lunch destination each Wednesday. That’s because of their Follow the Chef tour of the market.

I got to join Chef Michael Tuohy as he led his first tour of the season last Wednesday, starting at 11 a.m. at Grange. That was followed by a four-course lunch at the restaurant, featuring the produce he bought as we met the vendors and tasted their latest. We ogled early cherries and fondled favas as Chef Tuohy introduced us to the farmers and asked insightful questions about growing conditions and what was new this year. “It’s the next best thing to being able to grow your own,” he said about visiting the market.

Tuohy also pointed out the great deals you can get at these markets, usually much less expensive than buying produce at grocery stores–and it’s local and seasonal. “For $20, you could feed yourself for a week!” he points out.

After the hour-long tour, we repaired to the restaurant for the lunch. The first course featured a sip of mellow green garlic soup, followed by a beautiful tangle of shaved asparagus tossed with local Bariani olive oil and Sonoma’s Vella Jack cheese, with pickled beets on the side. The third course was a creamy spring risotto with baby fava beans, peas, asparagus, and morel mushrooms. The crowning glory of this seasonal bonanza, though, was the exquisite strawberry crostata. Pastry chef Elaine Baker wrapped homemade strawberry jam and sliced berries in a flaky, buttery crust. It was one of the best crostatas–even one of the best pastry crusts–I’ve had in ages. Bravo!

So make reservations now by calling Grange at 492-4400. Chef Tuohy only takes 12 to 15 people each week, so it’s a great seminar on shopping and eating locally.

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