Malibu’s Farmers’ Market offers a cornucopia of local fresh and organic foods.
By Melonie Magruder / Special to The Malibu Times
Beyond the fresh and wholesome quality of the victuals that come with a small carbon footprint from field to canvas tote bag, it is the care and pride of the vendors at The Cornucopia Foundation’s weekly Farmers’ Market each Sunday that are as pleasing as the fare.
Debra Bianco, president of The Cornucopia Foundation, takes pride in the food court at the market, replete with linen tablecloths, and the variety of produce and goods available. “I like to think of us as a tiny Bristol Farms in the heart of Malibu,” she said. “With better views, of course.”
A great deal of the offerings comes from vendors of a variety of international backgrounds.
At this past Sunday’s market, Aliki Theodoropoulos, who is Greek by way of Germany, served tender morsels of spanakopita and moussaka, which are made from scratch. Aliki serves family-style meals at a restaurant near the Los Angeles Airport called Aliki’s Greek Taverna.
“All of our salads and lentil dishes are vegan and not greasy,” Theodoropoulos said, serving up chunks of flatbread spread with her Tamara masala. “We’re sold out of our roasted leg of lamb and moussaka. It’s been a good day.”
Jessika Cardinahl was holding down a wind-blown awning with one hand and serving fresh loaves of multigrain bread with the other at the Rö?eckenwagner booth.
“We’re very much about the pretzel bread,” she said, but, Cardinahl said, their Bienenstich, or “Bee Sting Cake,” a German-inspired cake that has a sweet honey topping, is a popular item.
Rö?eckenwagner, based in Santa Monica, was founded by Hans R?eckenwagner, whose background spans 30 years of cooking in kitchens in Germany, Switzerland, Chicago and Los Angeles.
The goods sold at the farmers’ market are meant to be consumed within a couple of days. They are long on flavor and short on preservatives, and their heightened quality is testament to the principles The Cornucopia Foundation is trying to promote with its organic teaching farm located just above Malibu High School. There, youth from local kindergarten, middle and high schools, as well as students from Pepperdine University, work with the Learning Center.
“Along with teaching organic gardening, we have cutting-edge technology instruction like biomimicry [the study of nature’s models in order to solve human-created problems] and green technology,” Bianco said. “The future really is in our hands.”
Billal Sidiq runs the East and West Gourmet Afghan Food booth with his brother Navid. Their recipes for vegan pestos and spreads came from their grandmother in Afghanistan.
“My dad was a chemical engineer and my mom was a weight loss control manager,” Billal Sidiq said in slightly accented English. “My mom started this company with me about five years ago. Nowadays, people always see Afghans as people constantly suffering and I wanted to show that there’s a whole other side to us. A delicious side.”
The proof of Sidiq’s statement came with his spinach bolani (a form of flatbread) that was slathered with eggplant, sweet jalapeno spread and fresh yogurt.
“It’s low carb, low cal Afghan bread,” Sidiq said. “Our cilantro pesto has no cheese and no oil. It’s the snack that loves you back!”
Other offerings at the Malibu Farmers’ Market range from Malibu Olive Company’s organic, unfiltered olive oils that taste like a Tuscan peasant woman just pressed them to Les Delices du Four’s (“Delights From the Oven”) sturdy baguettes and pain aux raisins and the green cactus tortilla chips and salsa from an old family recipe by Nopal.
Sharon Palmer, proprietor of Healthy Family Farms in Santa Paula, displays freshly harvested eggs, milk-fed pork and chickens “who eat bugs all day,” she said.
“Our animals all live and eat the way nature intended, free to roam on our farm,” Palmer said. “We contract with a humane slaughter house that doesn’t use bleach or chemicals and is usually sold the next day. You can eat sustainably harvested food and there doesn’t have to be extra expense. In fact, it should be cheaper-it has less distance to travel from field to you.”
Michael Kresky touts the benefits of his organic rainbow chard, a stack of leafy vegetables the color of Easter eggs, or his Beta vulgaris.
“That’s Linnaeus’ binomial nomenclature for beets,” Kresky said. “It’s important we start to farm in certain ways that, farther on down the road, will be better for you. Organic just tastes better. It’s been proven in double-blind tests.”
Dry Dock Fish isn’t taking any catch from the Gulf coast these days, post oil spill. “But we mostly sell stuff we catch around here,” owner Clyde Harrison said. “We’ve got black cod caught out around Catalina [Island] or mussels from Santa Barbara.”
For those with a sweet tooth, ChocoVivo offers 100 percent organic chocolate from crushed beans, called “nibs,” that they grind themselves.
“For me, keeping it as pure as you can get is important,” proprietor Patricia Tsai said. “That’s the integrity.”
The Cornucopia Malibu Farmers’ Market takes place every Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the parking lot of the Civic Center. Entrance and parking are free.