Smug Farmers’ Market Find: 1/13

Lion's Mane mushroom signSmug Scout is back from her winter vacation. Smug Scout slightly regrets that she has been so busy scouting in recent weeks that she has taken no time to write, but now that she is back at work, she can return to her writing duties. On Sunday she was feeling glum about being stuck in bright, sunny Los Angeles when she would rather be in grim, gray, dismal, rainy France, Germany, or Belgium, but a trip to the Mar Vista FM was helpful in distracting her from this preposterous longing. The market was offering greens at virtually every stand, so she of course bought assorted varieties of kale and chard as well as some fascinating skinny-leafed speckled lettuce that was almost the subject of this post.

However, when she saw the sign for lion’s mane mushrooms (along with its name in Latin, surely a necessary reference for all the customers who may otherwise only know it as Japanese yamabushitake or pom pom blanc), she knew she had found her winner. Smug Scout was attracted by the sign’s promise: “rare – delicious – nutricious [sic].” Now we already know that all mushrooms are delicious and nutritious, and it seems like this one delivers on both counts: it can taste like lobster, it is 20% protein, and it has been proven to reduce anxiety, improve memory, and even regenerate dead or dying nerves (or something like that, but you are not reading Smug Scout for scientific accuracy).

Lion's maneSo that is all fascinating, but what makes this mushroom so Smug is the fact that it is rare and thus unknown to most people, even other mushroom cognoscenti. It also seems like it will stay that way because not many people are even able to buy these mushrooms from Tanya the backyard farmer from Thailand (previously introduced in “Smug Farmers’ Market Find: 10/7”). In fact, when Smug Scout says “not many people,” she means “one.” Yes, Tanya showed up to the FM with a table full of oyster mushrooms and one single lion’s mane. She offered to sell this solitary specimen to Smug Scout. As Smug Scout was photographing her prized bounty, she found herself mixed up in an unfriendly exchange with a disgruntled rare mushroom seeker.

  • Disgruntled Rare Mushroom Seeker [to Tanya]: Wow! You have lion’s mane mushrooms!
  • Tanya: Not anymore.
  • Smug Scout: I got it.
  • Disgruntled Rare Mushroom Seeker [to Tanya]: But the market just opened five minutes ago! And what does she mean by “it”?
  • Tanya: There was only one lion’s mane mushroom…
  • Smug Scout: …and I just bought it.
  • Disgruntled Rare Mushroom Seeker [still to Tanya]: That’s outrageous you came to the market with only one single mushroom to sell!
  • Smug Scout: I guess you need to get here earlier next week.

At this point Smug Scout received a look of death from Disgruntled Rare Mushroom Seeker, who then stormed off fiercely. Tanya was unfazed by the outright hostility (Smug Scout believes some of that was lost in translation, the rest in indifference) and actually went on to tell Smug Scout that she took Smug Scout’s recommendation to roast oyster mushrooms with olive oil and grilling spices and was so delighted by their uncanny bacon flavor that she stopped buying bacon altogether and has even asked for permission from the FM manager to bring samples for customers so she and her non-Thai husband can market the oyster mushrooms as a bacon substitute. All because of Smug Scout! Yes, Smug Scout is shamelessly proud of her influence here, especially because she advocates for pigs, who would certainly also support this new marketing of oyster mushrooms.

The lion’s mane, on the other hand, tasted like a crab cake (a good one with no filler). Smug Scout is happy to advocate for crabs, too. But she will have to get to the market next week even before it opens to avoid a mushroom fueled version of “High Noon.”

Smug SmackDown: Christmas Trees in Los Angeles

Smug Scout is not a big fan of major holidays except insofar as they free her from work, which, grimly enough, is almost always at the same time as large numbers of riffraff and ruffians who moronically clog stores and roadways. She has a particularly strong distaste for what these same riffraff and ruffians treat as “drinking holidays,” mainly New Year’s Eve, St. Patrick’s Day, and July 4th. Smug Scout does not need an officially sanctioned holiday to drink more than joyless Puritans believe she should.  Miraculously, perhaps, she manages to create special occasions for drinking that do not require fireworks, dwarfs in green, or throngs of obscenely stupid revelers. She designates these (actually quite frequent) special occasions “going out to dinner.”

Unlike trumped up American booze holidays, Christmas does not inspire quite as much hostility, though she also does not especially like it. Drippy and overplayed Christmas songs make her scowl, excessive cheap and flashy decorations make her shudder, and grinning imbeciles in Santa caps and reindeer antlers make her want to throw up. She is somewhat amused watching television footage of brutal stampedes at low class chain stores. And although she generally insists on doing all of her shopping at FMs and local independent stores, she will admit she took advantage of Neiman Marcus’s free seasonal rush shipping to reward herself with a pair of handmade Pedro Garcia shoes that she will not be able to wear until she is in L.A. again in two weeks anyway.

Yes, Smug Scout is celebrating Christmas on the East Coast, where the air is cold and living trees outside match the decorated corpses inside. She does not feel any Christmas atmosphere in L.A., though the city’s flagrant phoniness seems well suited to that of the holiday. On the plus side, what L.A. may be lacking in old fashioned or noncommercial authenticity, it scores generously in Smugness, especially Smug Christmas trees. Smug Scout will present to you now three Smug Christmas trees, one from Hollywood and two from Silver Lake, and would like to see if you can determine the winner of the Smug Christmas Tree SmackDown.

Los Angeles-20121209-00105#1: This Smug Christmas tree is from the Hungry Cat, a restaurant in Hollywood that specializes in seafood and seasonal cocktails. The tree is green. Many of the ornaments are made from repurposed oyster and clam shells with cheery handwritten seasonal messages inside them. There are no gifts, only gift ideas under this tree: Hungry Cat spices and gift certificates. A cute pumpkin sits next to those.

Barkeeper Christmas Tree#2: This Smug Christmas tree is from Bar Keeper, a store in Silver Lake that sells retro barware and glassware, exorbitantly expensive artisanal small batch spirits, and local drinking related crafts, such as handmade coasters. The tree is silver. The ornaments are their own coasters, ribbons, and beads. The gifts under the tree are actual full bottles of champagne. These are great gifts, Smug Scout hints to her readers.

Intelligentsia Christmas tree

#3: This Smug Christmas tree is from Intelligentsia, the breathtakingly Smug “coffeebar” in Silver Lake that sells single source direct trade coffee at the highest price and for the longest wait you could find anywhere. The tree is flaming hot pink. The ornaments are glittery snowflakes and the company’s own branded cups. There is not a single gift to be seen anywhere near this tree, though if you want to give your Smug loved ones 3/4 pound bags of whole coffee beans for up to the not quite bargain price of $80, you will find a large array on the shelves to the right.

Winner: #3. Come now, any competition that involves Intelligentsia is practically over before it starts. But for the record Smug Scout would like to announce that she would not want anyone to spend $80 on a 3/4 pound bag of coffee for her, no matter what kind of fucking Columbian geisha santuario it comes from. Merry Smug Christmas! Or Merry Smug Xmas for you pagans out there.

Smug Cocktail Gold Medalist

Smug Scout’s favorite Smug mixologist Lisa was highly displeased to think that another restaurant, that Smug magnet Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica, might offer a cocktail more Smug than any of hers. Lisa really does not need to worry about this. Yes, it is true that one drink, Lift Off, has Old Tom heirloom small batch artisanal gin, arugula, fresh cranberry, lime, agave, and small batch ginger beer in it. Such a drink sets the bar very high for any Smug mixologist. Still, Smug Scout would like to point out to Lisa that she has created many, many very Smug cocktails, so her Smug cocktail output is much higher than that at Rustic Canyon, which has a paltry list. Nonetheless, Lisa was feeling competitive, so she decided to outdo Lift Off, if not send it crashing to the ground, by creating a cocktail whose name is still under wraps but contains Tru organic gin, fresh pressed kale, apple juice, lemon, ginger, and agave. Now it is very clear: in the Smug Cocktail Olympics, Lisa is the gold medal winner.

Smug Scout tried it when she went to Akasha on Friday. She was delighted that Lisa had someone in the kitchen cold press what must have been bushels of kale because there was a huge vat of kale juice. This drink was extraordinary. It was not only the most Smug cocktail Smug Scout has ever had, but it was also one of the very most delicious. It is the perfect embodiment of virtue and vice, the apotheosis of the Apollonian/Dionysian split. In fact, since Smug Scout is also the apotheosis of the Apollonian/Dionysian split, you could say that this kale cocktail is Smug Scout in drink form.

But in case you believe Nietzsche would have scoffed at such twaddle or simply do not give a fuck, Smug Scout will move on to her next topic: yet another highly annoying conversation she overheard between a polite bartender and, this time, a customer you would have no choice but to describe as a dour Nordic troll. Since Smug Scout likes Nordic people, she would like to clarify here that blonde hair and blue eyes do not automatically signify beauty. Even this gene pool is occasionally befouled by unfortunate features, pasty sickly skin, and freakish balding patterns.

This dour Nordic troll first irked Smug Scout by officiously setting up his iPad on the bar. Smug Scout would not want an iPad in front of her when she is sitting at a bar or, if she really thinks about it, sitting or standing or lying down anywhere at all in the world. Furthermore, she would not have had space for an iPad because she had a Smug seasonal cocktail array in front of her, and this is much more entertaining, not even to mention more ethical, than a gadget made by faceless serfs in China.

Smug Scout should have known that the iPad on the bar was a harbinger of greater repulsiveness. It came when this cretinous specimen spoke. Below is the conversation as Smug Scout would have handled it.

  • Smug Bartender: May I get you something to drink?
  • Dour Nordic Troll: You do offer seasonal cocktails here, right?
  • Smug Bartender: Yes, here is our list.
  • Dour Nordic Troll: You call this seasonal? I’ve had some of these so-called seasonal cocktails before. In other seasons.
  • Smug Bartender: Do you live in L.A.?
  • Dour Nordic Troll: Yes, in Silver Lake.
  • Smug Bartender: I knew it. Well, then you must know that L.A. has only three seasons: fire, awards, and summer. Fire season can be a problem unless you like Cajun blackened produce.
  • Dour Nordic Troll: So then what are all those cocktails she’s drinking?
  • Smug Bartender: Those are seasonal cocktails from the private list.
  • Dour Nordic Troll: Can I see it?
  • Smug Bartender: No.
  • Dour Nordic Troll: Fine, just bring me a beer and some chicken wings.
  • Smug Bartender: Great seasonal choices. Would that be Super Bowl season?

Lisa has already informed Smug Scout, in terms you could call absolutely non-negotiable, that she will never be a guest bartender. Smug Scout accepts this interdiction, but she would like to keep Lisa heading towards new frontiers of Smug cocktails. What is the next one? Smug Scout thinks it is organic purple mizuna.

Smug Restroom in Silver Lake

Smug Scout recently had dinner at a French restaurant in Silver Lake called Café Stella. When she arrived, she had no idea she would find an especially high level of Smugness because restaurants aiming to be authentically French do not feel they need to bother with any trifling preferences of American diners, Smug or otherwise. In fact, it is much more likely that French restaurants in this country will imperiously denounce and even operate against such preferences, because they know that Smug people love all things French–the more authentique the better, even when that looks like utter contempt and hostility towards their American countryfolk. Of course, since Smug people also scorn their own countryfolk, especially oversized flyover state philistines who gorge savagely in troughs at chain and buffet “restaurants,” they do not take any hostilité personally.

Still, Café Stella is in Silver Lake and thus faces aggressive competition for Smug business, so for purely commercial reasons it makes sense that the menu will include items such as beetroot, Jerusalem artichokes, and wild arugula. Naturally, Smug Scout ordered and loved these locally grown vegetables, which she washed down with more than one verre (more like a bouteillenon, more like a bouteille +) of eco-insensitive French wine. (Smug Scout does not even want to think about the long journey of those bottles from Marseille to the Port of Los Angeles, though she imagines it to have been a scenic one, perhaps accessorized by chic French sailors in blue and white striped shirts and berets with red pom-poms on them.)

Anyway, whatever opinion you have of Smug Scout’s French wine consumption, most likely not much of one, you will not be surprised to hear that she needed to visit the restroom. And this is where she discovered Café Stella’s hidden monument to Smugness: a roughhewn reclaimed wood sink. Smug Scout’s mouth dropped open when she saw this sink! But this crudely formed deep woods sink is not the only Smug part of the story. No, Café Stella was not content just to have a Smug sink. Café Stella also wants its guests to have a restroom experience Smug Scout can describe only as rustique. First of all, the cold and hot water controls are merely decorative: this sink only dispenses cold water. Furthermore, there is no soap. And finally if you want to dry the cold soapless water off your hands, there are no towels.

Smug Scout was absolutely jubilant as she dried her hands on her jeans. She was jubilant because it is a powerful commitment to Smugness to violate what Smug Scout believes to be a city health code just to give Smug patrons a nonsensically phony yet primitive camp-out hand-washing adventure. She later found out there is a second restroom that has a wood-free sink, hot water, soap, and paper towels. How fascinating that Café Stella has a Smug refuge within what is otherwise a slickly beautiful restaurant. Une autre bouteille de vin de Gascogne s’il vous plaît! Smug Scout will deal with her carbon footprint crisis another time; she wants to go back to that Smug restroom in Silver Lake.

Smug Cocktail in Santa Monica

Here is a revelation for approximately none of you: Smug Scout consumes many Smug cocktails. She has mixed feelings about these, if mainly glowingly positive, so you may in fact be wondering what exactly makes a cocktail Smug. Here are the crucial criteria:

  • It will take a ridiculously long time to make, perhaps ten or fifteen minutes, because every single element will be painstakingly layered and mixed (seldom shaken), of course very, very slowly, which is to create excitement as well as to justify a breathtakingly high price that Smug customers will call “the cost of artisanal molecular labor.”
  • It will be made by a bartender, called a mixologist, most likely a man in a three piece suit and laughable Civil War era facial hair. He may have a watch chain, but this is purely decorative, as he only knows how to use his iPhone to tell time.
  • It will feature local artisanal small batch spirits with brand names unknown to almost all customers, including some of the Smug ones. You will not find anything as gauche as Grey Goose, Bombay Sapphire, etc. You will find handmade looking labels that are covered in text in old fashioned looking fonts. The most Smug spirits today, especially rye and bourbon, will not come from a flyover red and redneck state but rather New England or the West Coast.
  • It will include any of the following ingredients: local organic fruit, possibly marinated or infused in the booze; local organic vegetables, possibly pickled in house and displayed in mason jars; spices, always in their whole, unground form; and heirloom eggs, usually minus the anorexia-unfriendly yolks.
  • It may require devices not commonly associated with drinks, perhaps a mini blowtorch to char a citrus peel, or a compressor to pressurize nitrogen for a dramatic, even potentially deadly, chemical coldness without the boring pedestrian quality of ice cubes. Still, Dr. Smug Scout would like to point out that no one has needed to have her stomach violently removed after eating plain old dull ice cubes; on a Smug scale, having your stomach chopped out is ultimately less Smug than drinking a cocktail with ice.
  • If it is a drink on the rocks, it will feature one single rock. Smug cocktails do not need more than one specially shaped gigantic ice cube that in Smug Scout’s opinion drastically reduces the amount of alcohol she is paying an extortionate sum to drink.
  • It may feature foams, bubbles, airs, mists, vapors, smoke, and flames. Smug Scout finds this presentation no more than vaguely interesting. After impatiently waiting an eternity for her drink, she does not care that it arrives in a cloud of smoke or mist or fog or smog or whatever the fuck it is. All of that drama disappears after one sip and leaves no trace beyond a massive bill.
  • It may feature garnishes you will not want to eat, such as a raw bean or unripe berry or blackened lemon rind (see above), or absolutely should not eat, such as a piece of leather or tobacco for “Wild West” style cocktails, or removable parts of trees, such as twigs, bark, acorns, and leaves. Smug Scout imagines those latter items in Smug New England cocktails.

Smug Scout may not be Smug enough for all of those elements, but she is Smug enough for some of them. She recently had an incredibly Smug and lovely cocktail at a Smug restaurant in Santa Monica called Rustic Canyon. It is called Lift Off and features Old Tom heirloom small batch artisanal gin, arugula, fresh cranberry, lime, agave, and artisanal ginger beer. It may not have arrived enshrouded by mist, but its Smug pedigree is strong:

  • It took ten minutes to make by a somber bartender in a brown three piece suit and 19th Century facial hair.
  • It contains local arugula. Arugula. No additional commentary necessary.
  • It contains a raw cranberry that Smug Scout was strongly advised not to put in her mouth and chew.
  • It contains a gin Smug Scout did not know: Old Tom. At first she thought it was an obscure brand, but then later she learned that it is a rare recipe from the mid-1800s. This is more Smug even than Prohibition-era cocktails because when it comes to drinks, the older the recipe, the more Smug the concoction. Still, Smug Scout wonders cynically what is next. American Revolution-era pirate-imported rum cocktails made by bartenders in waistcoats and tricornes?
For anyone seeking further information on Old Tom gin, here is a description from the incredibly Smug Ransom Spirits web site. Smug Scout is not sure if this exact gin was part of her Smug Cocktail–not one of the cagey Rustic Canyon employees she asked revealed the brand–but it was either that or one of three like it available in this country.
N.B. Someone at Ransom needs to learn correct apostrophe placement.

“This Old Tom Gin is a historically accurate revival of the predominant Gin in fashion during the mid 1800’s and the golden age of American cocktails. The recipe was developed in collaboration with historian, author, and mixologist extraordinaire David Wondrich. Old Tom is the Gin for mixing classic cocktails dating from the days before prohibition. Its subtle maltiness is the result of using a base wort of malted barley, combined with an infusion of botanicals in high proof corn spirits. The final distillation is run through an alambic pot still in order to preserve the maximum amount of aromatics, flavor and body. Only the ‘heart of the hearts’ (the very best portion of distillate) is retained for this special bottling.”

http://www.ransomspirits.com/spirits.php

 

Smug Scout’s newly Smug car

Smug Scout has something shameful to confess: she does not own a Smug car. She does not have a Prius. She does not have a Subaru Outback or Forester. She does not have any car that would be welcome in Portsmouth or San Francisco or Brooklyn. She drives a Honda Accord coupe, which might be somewhat acceptable were it not for its gas-guzzling V6 engine. Smug Scout wonders if you will understand that she did not have a clue what V6 meant when she bought this car. All she really knew was that it had nothing to do with that processed vegetable juice. She now understands that this car is at its very thirstiest when she is aggressively fighting for parking at the Mar Vista FM or trying to prevent her death on L.A. freeways. As sacrilegious as this will sound, she would rather buy more gas than be splattered all over the road because some useless mongoloid was texting a stream of useless gibberish into an iPhone.

To make matters worse, she does not have an endangered or protected animal on her license plate. She does have an arts plate, which means she pays $50 a year for one art deco palm tree, but she knows that is not as Smug as a moose.

That is why she was delighted when she met a Smug Santa Monica resident at the Mar Vista FM this morning. This woman chatted with Smug Scout on Smug topics such as Proposition 37, which would require labeling of genetically engineered food. Then this woman introduced Smug Scout to some other Smug people who gave her a big sign and a bumper sticker with a cute ear of corn on it. Smug Scout put these on her car immediately.  Now her car advertises her Smug value system despite the eco-hostile engine. If anyone asks, her car is bi-polar.

Smug Farmers’ Market Find: 10/28

Smug Scout figures some of you are growing weary of her relentless references to Portsmouth, NH and especially its legendary farmers’ market. Smug Scout understands. After all, she finds it quite frustrating to live in a city that has almost 100 markets every week all year long and yet not one of them compares to Portsmouth’s single weekly market that barely runs five months (with only about two of those months featuring actual produce). Smug Scout is rooting for her Mar Vista market to move up to a close, rather than a hopelessly distant, second place, and she has found the farm that she believes will spearhead this effort: Jimenez Family Farm. What is the secret to Jimenez Family Farm’s Smugness? It is the use of diverse, handmade baskets to display produce, which is also this week’s Smug Farmers’ Market find.

If the Portsmouth farmers were to write a manual about Smug basket use, these would be their rules:

  • Do not use two of the same basket or any basket that appears to be machine made. It does not matter if they were made by non-unionized peons in a toxic third world factory as long as they appear to have been handcrafted by birchbark and swamp ash artisans in a local basketry co-op. (Note: if you run out of baskets, you may also use an antique metal baby’s wash basin. Please clean that thing first. You do not want remnants of baby “accidents” re-flavoring your produce.)
  • Do not use large baskets. A small, rustic basket that is not overflowing suggests exclusivity and refined taste. It suggests a limited quantity that intensifies the demand of Smug suckers. Even if you have ten stuffed cardboard boxes hidden in the back, always act like you are about to run out. (Note: this is not a ploy in Portsmouth, where due to miserly crops the farmers really do only have one undersized basket of everything.)
  • Only display officially Smug vegetables in them. This part is surprisingly easy: they are all Smug as long as you know their full name in a foreign language. Never say kale without an Italian component. You may call it “Lacinato kale,” “Tuscan kale,” “cavolo nero,” or, if you want to silence your chatty know-it-all Smug clientele, call it “black Tuscan palm.” Flat beans are “Italian flat beans” or “Romano beans.”
  • Use miniature chalkboards attached to reclaimed wood sticks to list item names and prices. Just watch your spelling; the last thing you want is a stream of Smug customers condescendingly pointing out mistakes. They will not be trying to help you. They will doubt the quality of your produce and expect the prices to go down immediately.
  • Place a folksy tablecloth underneath the baskets. You want those Smug customers to feel as if they are at a rural roadside stand (and that means rural as in Los Olivos, Sonoma, or coastal Connecticut, not some flyover state wasteland where you can find a multi-national array of guns but only one variety of kale).

Why would you put so much effort into this faux backyard display? This should be intuitive: so that you can charge at least one dollar more per pound for whatever Smug vegetable you are selling. Take, for example, the display in the photo at left. Those Romano beans were for sale directly across from Jimenez at the stand belonging to Gloria’s Family Farm. These Romano beans are sustainably farmed, identical in appearance, and just as delicious (according to Smug Scout’s Romano bean taste test). But look at the cheap display! No label and no price, just a disposable cardboard box stuck atop a rat-eaten, half-destroyed golf putting mat. When you ask, which you must do, you will find they are $3 per pound rather than $4.

So Smug Scout buys from both farms. Gloria’s lack of labels is kind of Smug, too. Smug Scout enjoys being able to pick out the wild arugula and heirloom spinach from tables crammed with greens. It is like a test that she gets an A+ on, while others around her cluelessly fail. Smug Scout does not need to buy vegetables from a basket to feel Smug.