Most people's first glimpse of Anaïs Tangie is a blur; she's running around the SoCo Farmers' Market at the OC Mart Mix on Saturday mornings, repositioning food trucks, setting up a children's area, arbitrating minor disputes between vendors, and somehow finding the time to take newcomers on a tour of the market.
So, too, is she a blur in the kitchen at her culinary collective, Picnics Kitchen in Costa Mesa, darting from a grill pan just about to burst into flames to a simmering pot of beans threatening to propel its lid into the air, then running to the back to get service plates. She even multitasks during preparation for her Sunday-evening Farmers' Market Feasts, drawing patrons into the large teaching kitchen and inviting them to peel back the lids (carefully, please!).
To see Tangie work, you'd think she had been working for a decade in food service, and in a way she has, but not in the normal manner. Given the dreaded business-plan assignment in an entrepreneurship class at Orange Coast College, the émigrée from Montreal refused to phone in the essay; she wrote up a proposal for a catering company called Special Eats OC, which focused on meal delivery for people such as cancer patients who have special dietary needs, and then launched the company in partnership with a friend.
It hasn't always gone smoothly or lucratively—to pay the bills, Tangie is also an accomplished nanny, who bonds more or less instantly with children—but that entrepreneurial spark refuses to be extinguished.
She got involved with the SoCo Farmers' Market after reading about it on Facebook, going up to the information booth and offering to help with social media and marketing. She became so engrossed in the market that in practically no time at all, she was promoted to manager. Today, the SoCo Farmers' Market is the county's most serious challenger to the huge Irvine market, thanks mostly to its location and Tangie's curation of the vendors.
She still wanted to cook, though, so she found partners and took over the space that was Picnics Kitchen on 17th Street in Costa Mesa. The former gourmet shop now sells farmers' market produce, contains a juice and elixir bar, and features Tangie's cooking of the market's offerings three times a week—Sunday (the “Farmers' Market Feast”), Monday and Wednesday evenings.
“My mission is to nourish people with food; they get so overwhelmed,” says Tangie. What's next? She is focused on expanding the collective to include classes and demonstrations. “I'm dreaming of a night market, though,” she says wistfully, pointing out that Orange County only has two evening markets, both on Thursdays.
* * *
• Tangie is no vegan. “MEAT!” she squeals. And she can be found indulging at The Pine for Korean barbecue. “I love the different textures, the flavors, the varieties you wouldn't be able to find elsewhere.” Pig ears? Intestines? Trotters? Bring it on, and cook it right in front of her. 8902 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 638-5757.
• Tangie calls OC Mart Mix “the perfect complement to the SoCo Farmers' Market.” It has a cheese shop, a high-end coffee shop, a spice store, restaurants and independent small shops, creating a space that was sorely lacking in Orange County. 3313 Hyland Ave., Costa Mesa; ocmartmix.com.
• Slapfish may be a new player on the mobile food scene, but Tangie has been a fan for a long time. “That was one of the trucks that came to the SoCo Farmers' Market,” she recalls, “and it's just brilliant. I love that [Andrew Gruel and Jethro Naude] were able to open a restaurant.” twitter.com/SLAPFISHseafood.
• “TJ Maxx and Marshalls are totally underrated for kitchenware,” says Tangie. “I bought my favorite knife, a $15.99 Calphalon, and a set of Le Creuset pots [at TJ Maxx].” The knife did heavy-duty cooking until it snapped when faced with a coconut, and Tangie has been haunting the stores ever since looking for a replacement. 3900 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 641-1362; tjmaxx.com.
• She may be a Costa Mesa girl, but Tangie ends up in Santa Ana's Artists Village for Lola Gaspar's ravioli with quail egg and the tequila- and mezcal-laced craft cocktails. “Everyone needs a place to drink,” she says. 211 W. Second St., Sana Ana, (714) 972-1172; lolagaspar.com.
• “I went to Detroit Bar for the first time to see Delta Spirit play,” says Tangie, a fan of the indie rock band's unusual instrumentation, “and I go back whenever someone I think is interesting is playing.” 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-0600; detroitbar.com.