Five Great Finds at Irvine Farmers Market

Yes, I know about the fresh corn and the hummus, not to mention the sausages, but these five things were new to me when I visited on Saturday. The results were mixed, but it's always useful to expand the horizons.

Pluots. There's a stand featuring nothing but this fruit (give or take some renegade nectarines). But I bought mine from another vendor, as I was attracted by the name of the particular type they were selling: dinosaur pluot, or, Dapple Dandy. According to Wikipedia, a pluot "is a complex cross hybrid of plum and apricot, exhibiting more plum-like traits." Whatever that means. Mine did indeed taste like plums, but sweeter. But nowhere near as nice as nectarines, so next time I'll stick with those.

Blackmarket Bakery's Almond and Lavender Scones. While my husband declared that these tasted "like pot pourri", after a couple more bites he was less scathing. Indeed, these do take a little getting used to, but the lavender gets less intense the more you eat. Verdict? Delicious--and crumbly, but not dry. And they can always double up on your bathroom shelf.

Jujube, or Chinese dates (dried). These can be eaten as snacks or made into tea. I munched on mine straight out of the bag, and, sure enough, as with everything else that's healthy (according to the sign, they "calm the belly" and "are good for the stomach"), they tasted vile. It may be a cliché to compare bland food to cardboard, but in this case the texture and consistency also called it to mind. I can't think of a better comparison. In fact, the only way I could tell it wasn't cardboard was that I got a faint hint of date as an aftertaste.

Dolce Monachelli's bundt cakes. Yes, okay, it was nearly 100 degrees, but I was still drawn to these baby bundles (bundtles?) of joy. They're made by a Santa Ana-based family company, and there are almost too many flavors to choose from, but I narrowed it down to the lemon citrus, thinking it might be more summery. It was--and gorgeously moist with it. Heatwave or no heatwave, these are seriously good.

Winchester Cheese Co's Gouda. Made locally (in Winchester) by the Wesselink family (farm owner Jules Wesselink was born and raised in Holland), the cheese comes in a half-dozen varieties, but stick to the mild or smoked ones and you can't go wrong (the smoked jalapeño was an "acquired taste" for me). It shares a stall with the "worm wrangler" (the mind boggles).

Tip: Get to the market before noon, and be prepared for a packed parking lot. It's at the corner of Bridge Rd. and Campus Dr., across from UCI.


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