Smug Farmers’ Market Find: 10/14

This week’s Smug Farmers’ Market find, Hawaiian eggplant, comes not from the usual Sunday Mar Vista market but rather the Saturday Silver Lake market. Smug Scout was excited to visit a market in L.A.’s Smug epicenter but then was a bit dismayed to find that it was not all that Smug and has no chance of knocking the Portsmouth FM from its throne.  Smug Scout is sure that Smug Portsmouth residents will feel righteous pleasure at the thought that the state of New Hampshire, despite its short fertile season (July), hardscrabble land (thin and rocky soil, scoured by glaciers), limited produce options (mostly flowers and greens), and homogenous farmers (a diverse mix of tenth generation Northern Europeans), offers a market much more Smug than anything in California, the country’s agricultural center and home to more FMs than anywhere in the world. You lose, Cali!

So how exactly did this Silver Lake market lose? Well, aside from Smug Scout’s Smug Eastside friend (pictured), many of the other shoppers did not look either affluent or its local variant, affluent in poor backwoods communist clothing. In fact, if Smug Scout were asked to free-associate, she would use words such as “slovenly,” “cretinous,” and “ghoulish” to describe many of the characters she observed. Seeing them walking on pavement painted like an all green Twister board did not help.

Furthermore, unlike in Portsmouth, this market really is just a place to buy produce, not one to “see and be seen” (at least Smug Scout fervently hopes that is the case). There was no entertainment for the Smug under five set unless you count a JonBenét Ramsey wanna-be (probably aside from the getting murdered part) who was singing and dancing in a way most of us would call obscenely mature. Her only audience was her agent (who may have also been her mother), an oily photographer (who did not appear to work for any legal publication), and a dog (who according to market rules should not have been there in the first place). Smug Scout does not believe this “entertainment” would be wholesome enough, let alone sufficiently law-abiding, to take place in Portsmouth.

But finally one of the crucial reasons this market is not that Smug is its prices. They are simply too low. The produce quality and variety would qualify for Smug status everywhere else in the world, but here the gorgeous vegetables and fruit are tastelessly displayed on synthetic golf putting mats. The prices match these cheap and unsightly tableaux. And this brings Smug Scout back to the beginning, back to the Hawaiian eggplant. She got a gigantic bag of those sexy bi-color phallic nightshades for one dollar.

Ultimately Smug Scout is sold on the Silver Lake FM and her delightful Hawaiian eggplant. She got that eggplant, multicultural organic heirloom tomatoes, puffy sugar snap peas, and beautifully deformed bell peppers with parasitic attachments–all for the price of one shrunken head of conventionally grown lettuce in Portsmouth.

Still, whatever money Smug Scout may have saved on vegetables she then immediately spent in triplicate at an outrageously Smug lunch spot called Forage. “Forage” is about as Smug a restaurant name as anyone could craft. Can you beat that, Portsmouth?

Smug Yogurt Fail

Smug Scout was recently shopping at her favorite Smug amusement park, one of her six local Whole Foods stores, when she saw a Smug product she first discovered in San Francisco: Straus Family Creamery European Style Organic Plain Lowfat Yogurt. Products with such wordy gobbledygook names are automatically Smug, but the fact that this is the “creamery” (Sonoma County does not have plebeian dairies) used by Bi-Rite for its ice cream is all Smug Scout needs to know (see Smug Scout’s post on Bi-Rite Market and Creamery, an epicenter within an epicenter within THE epicenter) . The container provides further information about this yogurt’s sterling Smug credentials:

  • “European Style” tells us that Straus (please pronounce with a German accent) rejects “American Style,” which means sour and flavorless.
  • The container sports hand-drawn looking pictures of cows and grass and spoons along with faux handwritten text.
  • The back of the container boasts “organic, local, & sustainable from field to spoon” which suggests pampered vegan cows, Marxist farmers and no evil corporate middlemen.
  • The yogurt is made in what Smug Scout believes to be a dazzlingly artisanal way: “incubated” in stainless steel vats, of course in small batches that take “over ten hours to make.” Wow. It is not made; it is born.

So clearly this yogurt passes Smug muster, and Smug Scout could end her post here were it not for the fact that this yogurt is driving her insane. As you should already know, Smug Scout eats yogurt every day with granola and local, organic fruit. When she first opened her Straus Family Creamery European Style Organic Plain Lowfat Yogurt, she was shocked by how runny it was. She did not need a spoon. She just poured it into her reusable plastic Bircher Müsli container. Then she tasted it. It did not taste either European or European style. It tasted like sour mass market American yogurt. Smug Scout has eaten a lot of yogurt, if not yoghurt, in Europe, and she has never felt that “American Style” sour shock in her mouth.

To make matters more irritating, Smug Scout cannot seem to use up this runny, sour non-European style yogurt. After over a week of non-European tasting Bircher Müsli, she was shocked to see how much was left in this gargantuan 32 ounce container. It seems like a bottomless container. It seems like every time Smug Scout eats some, the remaining quantity doubles. It is a yogurt version of that ancient Greek monster called the Hydra. Smug Scout will not throw it out either, because she refuses to waste things. She does not even dispose of moldy cheese. She grates off the outer layer and rather than throwing out those unappetizing blue shavings, she simply adds them to some Smug version of macaroni and cheese (she prefers the German version, Käsespätzle) and calls it “sharp.”

Last night, in an attempt to get closer to the bottom of this bottomless yogurt container, Smug Scout prepared an extremely spicy Indian dish (Tofu Vindaloo with local, seasonal, organic vegetables, if you must know) just so that she would need a large portion of raita. She even threw in multiple jalapeños with all of their seeds to make her mouth so inflamed that she would not care about sour, runny, or fraudulent “European Style” yogurt.

But this morning Smug Scout became quite cross when she saw how much yogurt is still left. She supposes she will dump it in the blender with some local, organic fruit. She supposes that will make approximately ten smoothies.

Next time she will get Fage again. She will gladly pay the extra three dollars. Anyway, she probably gets “billions of beneficial bacteria” in all the moldy cheese she eats.

Smug Apples

Smug Scout just received an amazing gift from a friend who went home to the East Coast for the weekend: a half peck of Macoun apples. This gift made Smug Scout reflect on what used to be her favorite season before she moved to Los Angeles fourteen years ago: fall. Where fall used to mean crisp, chilly, smoky air and leaves turning beautiful colors, here it means wildfire season with foul, toxic, smoky air and leaves (not even to mention the entire landscape) turning black and ashy. Wildfire season also means NO Macouns. As far as Smug Scout is concerned, Macouns are the only apples worthy of passionate praise, and they only grow in a limited area of the East Coast, specifically in what is known as the tri-state area, or, for those from other regions, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. It is a bounteous region whose specialties cannot be grown or replicated anywhere else. (Yes, Smug Scout is exactly that kind of impossible ex-New Yorker. Please do not even get her started on bagels, pizza, and corn on the cob. She is absolute in her condemnation of any impostors that come from the west–and be warned, that means west of New Jersey.)

Well, it seems Smug Scout has digressed from her topic of the only truly Smug apple, the Macoun. She is not sorry. There are simply times that she needs to express her contempt for L.A., though she does not forget that she can eat local, organic strawberries while her tri-state area family and friends are shoveling snow off their turnips.

So, if you are from their privileged region, you know what Smug Scout is talking about. Otherwise, here are the reasons that Macouns are as Smug as Smug Scout herself.  You could even say they are the Smug Scouts of the apple world. Why is that, you ask?

  • They only grow in three states. You can see they have chosen well. They have not chosen new states. They have not chosen poor states. And they most certainly have not chosen red states. How arrogant and aristocratic of them!
  • They only grow from the end of September till the beginning of November. They give you a time limit because they refuse to spoil you with excess or overindulgence. They know all about the contempt of overstaying one’s welcome. You can see they know all about Granny Smith.
  • They do not keep well. They despise cold storage. You will not abandon them for months in some dark, overcrowded hole. They prefer light, space, and plenty of reclaimed wood for display and sale. If you do not give them what they want, they will punish you by turning to flavorless mush.
  • They do not like to travel. They refuse to travel in steerage class, which is gloomy, cold, and inhospitable. If they must fly, they prefer to be in their own comfortable half-peck bags, ideally hand-carried onto the plane by a tri-state native to her longing friend on the West Coast.
  • They simply will not be degraded into cheap products or mass distribution. You will not see Macouns in commercial apple sauce, conventional baby food, public school free lunches, or absolutely any fast food or chain restaurant. They leave those proletarian duties to their sadly inferior working class relative, the Red Delicious.

There you have it. While you may have thought apples were too pedestrian and American to be Smug, you can see how Macouns even outdo the likes of wild arugula and organic persimmons. Now, if you will excuse Smug Scout, she needs to go eat one immediately.

Smug Visitors’ Guide to the Portsmouth Farmers’ Market: Before you go

If you are a fan of both farmers’ markets and Smug sightings, you can do no better than the legendary Smug epicenter known as the Portsmouth Farmers’ Market.  Smug Scout can think of no better way to spend five hours early on a summer Saturday.  And she really means five hours.  She arrives at 8 am (or as close to 8 as a reluctant chauffeur will bring her since her own car is in L.A.) and stays till 1 pm. When the market ends, she sadly makes a final run-through to make sure there is no delicacy she has missed and of course to rescue any abandoned produce off the ground. So now you want to have this transporting experience, right? Here is how you need to prepare for your visit.

What to wear

Women: If you are from a big city, you may not be used to wearing all of these items when you will be out in public and seeing hundreds of people, but do not worry. If you try to wear your black sweaters, Prada shoes, or anything at all deemed fashionable, you will look like a foolish city slicker. You will receive contemptuous looks, and no one will talk to you, though the laconic New Hampshire farmers will reluctantly accept your money.  Go with any or all of the below list for maximum camouflaging.

  • Shorts, skirts, or lightweight cotton pants with cargo pockets
  • Functional flip-flops or sandals (NO Italian thongs! NO delicate straps!)
  • L.L. Bean type t-shirts, polos, or tank tops (NO pricey brands! NO European designers!)
  • Floppy hat, ideally made of fair-trade cotton or local barnyard straw
  • Sunblock (NO other makeup!)
Please do not blame Smug Scout if you find the list uninspiring. Please do not bill Smug Scout for all the clothes you need to buy. Even she tries to blend into the native habitat by wearing polo shirts, semi-cargo shorts, and flip-flops (if hand-made by craftswomen in Connecticut–she can only go so far).

 

Men: So, men, you will be surprised to hear that your list is almost identical to the women’s list.  Skirts with cargo pockets are fine for you, too, but you have to call them “utili-kilts” so you will seem sufficiently–or at least ironically–masculine. You can also wear hip t-shirts with messages or t-shirts with hip messages (Smug Scout does not care to parse that inconsequential difference).  You can trade the floppy straw hat for a baseball cap or some Brooklyn  hipster headgear if you do not want to look like Huckleberry Finn.

Children under five: Okay, you little gargoyles, Aunt Smug Scout was not about to forget you. Now since you are probably not buying your own clothes yet, you will need to use your best executive negotiating skills to ensure you wear what you want.  Do not let Mommy and Daddy put you in that mini Harley t-shirt your crazy ZZ Top uncle got you in Laconia. You prefer American Apparel t-shirts with eco-friendly messages.  Tell them you insist on those cute little khakis with cargo pockets.  Tell them you have to wear Crocs in two different colors, specifically not coordinated with your outfit, even though you agree with Smug Scout that those are hideously unstylish service wear for gardeners and cooks that have no business in public settings. Finally, throw a tantrum if they do not give you a floppy hat and sunglasses. Remind them you prefer to put on your own Neutrogena SPF 100+ Helioplex360 sunblock. You have both young skin and image to protect.

What to bring

Women and Men: If you are in the upper echelons of Smugness, you will bring a reusable bag made in New England, such as a Sea Bag from Portland, Maine, or anything you purchased at the League of NH Craftsmen. If you are striving for those upper echelons but know you are not there yet, you will bring a Whole Foods tote or some third world woven basket.  If you are barely aware of the local expectations, you will bring a flammable “cotton” Hannaford supermarket tote.  If you are anti-Smug, you will take a plastic bag everywhere you buy something and wave them around belligerently every time you use your hands to do something.

Other items to bring:

  • $100 in small bills per person
  • At least two blonde children under five, dressed and accessorized with none of your input or intervention (see above and below)

Children under five: Please make sure Mommy and Daddy know that you need your own reusable bag. You should not have to put your cinnamon cider donuts, artisanal Indian food, and organic curly kale in their bag.  Though they refuse to buy you that $180 black Kevlar Sea Bag you have your eye on, tell them you will accept a natural cloth Bull Moose tote.  Do not let them try to dump that ratty old Trader Joe’s bag on you.  You do not want anyone to think you support that chain’s unseemly use of non-recyclable plastic. You have standards. You are from Portsmouth.

How to get there

Women and Men: Sorry, not many options here.  If you must drive, you need to come in a Prius or Subaru Outback.  If you prefer a more showy entrance and exit, you need to come on an intentionally rattletrap old bike that has at least two baskets attached. That way, you can make a point of riding down the hill with your flowers and herbs flying in the breeze. (Some of these flowers and herbs will probably escape. Smug Scout does not blame them. She would not want to be transported so carelessly if she were a flower or herb. She knows that if she were a flower or herb, she would not look so fresh after a punishingly windy and public ride through downtown Portsmouth.)

Children under five: If you really have Mommy and Daddy in your thrall, then there is exactly one way you want to show up to the FM, and that is seated regally in your very own Radio Flyer All-Terrain Steel and Wood Wagon. This is your Prius, and you can boast it has better gas mileage than a Prius, because it runs on Daddy’s sweat (and from what you can tell, with no small amount of distaste, there is a surplus of that). Furthermore, if Mommy and Daddy are properly Smug, they have installed a reclaimed wood produce holding box under the seat. But do not stop there. Tell those Smug parents of yours you want a built-in reclaimed glass vase for your flowers.

Stay tuned for the next installment: what to do, buy, and eat when you go to the divinely Smug Portsmouth Farmers’ Market!

 

Smug baked goods in Portland, Maine

Portland, Maine is one of this country’s most cherished Smug epicenters and as such one of Smug Scout’s favorite places for a vacation.  As you would expect, Portland has plenty of Smug businesses where it is possible to spend large amounts of money on the correct things to eat, drink, wear, and showcase in your house.  The Standard Baking Co. even sets the gold standard, so to speak, for Smug products in Portland.  Let us consider the most obvious Smug factors:

  • Exclusive bread purveyor for Fore Street, Portland’s epicenter of Smug dining (and Smug Scout’s favorite restaurant in New England!)
  • Predictably “rehabilitated” factory with showy bricks, concrete, and steel
  • Nondescript, non-whimsical name meant to evoke old Americana
  • Native plants in non-native pots flanking entrance

Of course a city like Portland surely has hundreds of businesses with these Smug New England attributes, so you must be wondering what makes Standard Baking Co. so uniquely Smug. In fact, it is because you need to be fluent in multiple European languages to understand the offerings. If you want bread, you do not order a loaf, you order a boule. If you want that small oblong chocolate cake, you call it a bouchon. If you want that pretty nectarine tart, you call it a frangipane. If you do not know ficelle, epi, galette, or financier, just pronounce the name with a native accent and learn what it is by eating it. If Normandy means nothing to you as a type of pain, do not ask and do not be intimidated. Just trust Smug Scout and casually ask if the apples are local. Extra points if you pompously announce you will be serving it with single source artisanal Calvados from a private château distillery. You will silence the Smug Cashier, a rare accomplishment. Smug Scout does get chills, though, when she imagines what would happen if she did not know the proper way to order. Picture this nightmarish scenario:

  • Smug Cashier: Next?
  • Smug Scout: Hi, I’d like to start with two of those breadsticks with cheese.
  • Smug Cashier: We do not carry breadsticks with cheese.
  • Smug Scout [pointing at breadstick with cheese looking thing]: Well, what’s that?
  • Smug Cashier: That is a Fougasse with Asiago.
  • Smug Scout: Fine, give me deux.
  • Smug Cashier: Anything else?
  • Smug Scout: Yes, a piece of gingerbread.
  • Smug Cashier: We do not carry gingerbread. We only carry Lebkuchen.
  • Smug Scout: But Lebkuchen is the German word for gingerbread!
  • Smug Cashier: Whatever you may say, I can only sell you Lebkuchen.
  • Smug Scout: So ein Scheiß!

It appears Smug Scout will need to go to Paris to look for les Cupcakes and les Cookies. She can live with that.

Smug Granola Fail

If you must know, Smug Scout loves granola.  She eats it every morning she is forced to go to work.  She likes it because she can put ingredients (granola, yogurt, and of course local, seasonal, organic fruit) in her German reusable plastic container (yes, made in Germany!) and when she arrives at her desk mix it into a Smug L.A. version of Swiss Bircher Müsli. So she is always looking for appropriately artisanal granola, and when she saw Nana Joes Handmade Granola at the legendary Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco, she had to have it, even though she does not understand the absence of an apostrophe in “Joes.” Let us consider why this granola seemed Smug:

  • Recycled looking brown paper bag
  • Unprofessional looking photo of joyous yet not attractive people
  • Label proclaims “handmade,” “vegan,” and “market fruit”
  • Contains white peaches, which are more elite than yellow ones
  • Has that boastful “SF Made” stamp on the back
Unfortunately, however, these attributes were not enough to give the product Smug stature, and it is all because of the white peaches, labeled ominously on the back of the package as NOT organic. Now Smug Scout has been known to buy non-organic white peaches if she interrogates the growers and finds out that they use organic methods but are just not certified. Okay, so these peaches are of questionable provenance, but the real problem is that these shady peaches were not baked with the granola but instead come in a separate little plastic bag. What is a plastic bag doing hidden in such outwardly Smug packaging? It is clearly there to trick and torment Smug Scout, who had a terrible time getting this plastic bag open.  She is sure it is a very noxious grade of heavy plastic, like the kind used to transport human corpses, because she could not open it with just her hands, and when she went to maul it open with a sharp knife, chunks of sulfite-dried white peaches went flying around her kitchen.  She became especially irate because it was 6 am and very far from an ideal time to be crawling around the kitchen looking for shockingly uniform clearly machine-diced non-organic white peaches.
On top of that, Smug Scout would like to point out crossly, she does not understand the point of crowing about Maldon Sea Salt.  First of all, there is no exotic faraway Maldon Sea. This is just salt from Essex (England, not New Jersey).  She would be much more impressed if the perky (but plain) pair on the bag would harvest their own salt from the Pacific, which would make this granola an honestly, rather than totally bogus, local product.
Does it even matter at this point that the granola was delicious?

Smug Farmers’ Market Find: 9/23

As her name dictates, Smug Scout loves to spend her time on the lookout for new Smug treasures at farmers’ markets.  Her local Sunday market in Mar Vista, which began as a small, not very Smug market, has grown into a Smug monster with a ferocious parking scene. Although it is not as Smug as the Portsmouth, New Hampshire market–no others are–Smug Scout was delighted to find a stand that brought her straight back to Portsmouth.  What could have possibly reminded her of Portsmouth?

  • Limited selection of produce
  • Much higher prices than other stands
  • Flowers available, some edible
  • Undecipherable green chalk board signs
  • Run by blonde, blue eyed men with hair in various stages of unwashed (from grimy to dreadlocked) and wearing tattered hemp t-shirts in a color you could only describe as “marijuana”

So imagine Smug Scout’s delight when she was about to pay for her dirty and deformed organic heirloom tomatoes and happened to spot baby patty pan squash with the blossoms still attached!  And she loved the careful recycled cardboard box display: single layer with blooms sticking up like cockscombs!

Then, as Smug Scout was carefully placing these gems in the reusable bag she brought, some weather-beaten rube approached her to ask a question:

  • Weather-beaten rube: Is that squash?
  • Smug Scout: In fact, it is baby patty pan squash, and as you can see, the blossoms are still attached, which you do not see too often with this variety.
  • Weather-beaten rube: [turns and departs]

Alas, not everyone values or even pretends to tolerate Smug Scout’s expertise. At least she got a toothy smile from the young dreadlocked farmer.