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The Santa Monica Farmers Market with FIG's Ray Garcia

In this series, we take a trip to the farmers market with chefs across the Eater universe to find out what's in season, why they choose what they do, and how they plan to transform the goods into their best dishes. The series is sponsored by Naked® Juice, makers of delicious, all-natural juices.

Elizabeth Daniels 2/13

The Santa Monica Wednesday Farmers Market, the largest grower-only Certified Farmers Market in Southern California, attracts the who's who of Los Angeles culinary talent. Stop by at 9 a.m. any given Wednesday, and one will note chefs left, right, and center, some scurrying between farm stands, while others loiter at Arizona and 3rd to shoot the breeze over a Rockenwagner coffee and a pretzel roll, or two.

Chef Ray Garcia of nearby FIG restaurant inside the Fairmont Mirimar Hotel is no exception. Garcia chooses to shop at farmers markets because he believes it's important to know what goes into one's food. On a recent Wednesday morning Eater caught up with the chef to chat about seasonal ingredients, menu inspiration, and some of his favorite farms.

In general, the market rules Garcia's menu. He likes to discover ingredients and challenge himself to create new plates as opposed to staying within his comfort zone and always preparing ingredients with which he is familiar. On this given Wednesday Garcia was especially excited about a modest bunch of blossoming rapini flowers he had procured to garnish salads later that evening. The chef explains that sometimes growers have such small quantities of product and he has to buy everything he can. Some farmers will sell all to chefs, other farmers will save product for the regular shoppers later in the day.

Garcia is a fan of Santa Barbara Pistachios, and the nuts have been a staple ingredient on Garcia's beet salad for a while. He's also sourcing Fremont tangerines for his market salad and is keen on Oroblanco grapefruit because it's not as bitter as regular grapefruit. Garcia goes through roughly 300 pounds of citrus a week.

Sometimes, when an ingredient is at its prime, Garcia will construct a plate around that one element. For example, Harry's Berries' Gaviota strawberries during warmer months. And, while tomatoes aren't exactly in season at the moment, Garcia says he thinks Harry's Berries' tomatoes are still really good this time of year.

Shopping local means eating better, knowing where your food comes from, and having relationships with farmers. Those positive relationships are, from time to time, highlighted at FIG with prix fix meals in collaboration with local farms like Harry's Berries or Weiser Family Farms. And, speaking of Weiser, Garcia is teaming up with the farm for a cooking event at Surfas in Culver City. More to come on that.