Santa Monica is home to four Farmers’ Markets where shoppers can purchase the freshest produce directly from those who grow it. (File photo)

PCH — Santa Monica’s finest chefs and farmers will pair up to dish out unique, farm-to-table cuisine at the Localicious event set to take place this Sunday at the Annenberg Community Beachhouse.
Guests will have the opportunity to sample creations from dozens of local chefs, each crafted from food purchased from the same operations that Santa Monicans see every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at their very own Farmers’ Markets.
Chef Gianfranco Minuz of Locanda del Lago plans to serve a cold soup made from fresh produce plucked from the Farmers’ Market. He’ll be working with the produce from Gloria’s Farms for the venture.
The soup, which is also featured at the restaurant, has celery root, broccoli, spinach, onion, potato, squash and basil blended together and finished with a splash of olive oil.
A second dish involves fresh ricotta cheese with caramelized onions topped with an eggplant sauté, Minuz said.
Minuz takes inspiration from the Farmers’ Markets, talking to the farmers about what’s in season that week and what appeals to him.
“You walk around and you come out with an idea to make a special risotto from what you see in the market, or some soup,” Minuz said.
When he’s not cooking at Locanda del Lago, Minuz keeps it simple, even as low key as fresh broccoli drizzled with olive oil.
For those who still need a little help easing their way into the  market, he has a suggestion: Just dive in.
“Choose all the stuff for you and go home and try to cook it. This is the best way,” Minuz said.
Nyesha Arrington, the chef at Wilshire, has never been afraid to try her hand in the kitchen.
She will be tempting Localicious-attendees with a mulled spiced wine filled with fall fruits like pear, citrus and pomegranate.
The produce will come from Maggie’s Farms, a producer that Arrington uses for her own work at Wilshire every week.
Although she won’t talk down on chain grocery stores, Arrington likes the personal connection and information that comes with getting to know local producers.
“I like to know who grew it because I get a lot of insight into the product itself,” Arrington said. “The history, origin, stuff like that. I know exactly where it’s coming from. It helps.”
That’s a desire Helen Dombalis, a policy associate with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, understands well.
Dombalis believes that sustainable agriculture helps support the three legs of the “sustainability stool” — people, planet and profit.
It does so by connecting individuals to good food and the people who grow it, lessens the negative impacts on the planet through reduced use of chemicals and transportation and helps support the economy by paying food producers the true cost of what their product is worth, she said.
There’s a positive impact to that personal connection, by bringing food back into a communal space rather than putting middlemen between people and their farmers.
“Traditionally, when people say ‘demand local,’ it’s because they want to know their farmer, know where their food is coming from and know where it’s grown,” Dombalis said.
Another piece is, admittedly, profit.
Farmers have to grow food that is sustainable for the environment, healthy for the community and also for their own bottom line, Dombalis said, but the dollar you spend with a farmer at a Farmers’ Market goes further for the producer than one spent at a grocery store.
“Longer supply chains have more middle men,” she said. “That has to get divvied up.”
Keeping that dollar whole can mean positive benefits for communities, studies suggest.
As of 2010, there were few studies that documented the direct impact of “buying local” on the economy. However, according to the Economic Research Service for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, empirical data has found that expanding these local food networks can increase employment and income in the community.
It can also reduce energy use or greenhouse gas emissions, although that is not a sure thing, according to the report.
For those that are still a little gun-shy when they approach the Wednesday or Saturday markets, don’t worry, you’ll get there, Dombalis said.
“With time it gets easier. You find out, that’s where I’m getting my kale, that’s where I’m getting my apples. You get into your pattern,” she said.
Localicious caps off a weekend of foodie fun and education at the Good Food Festival & Conference, produced by FamilyFarmed.org, an Illinois-based outfit that seeks to build public and private partnerships that support the growth of regional food systems.
The Good Food Conference, held Saturday at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, will include panel discussions featuring speakers like Santa Monica’s own Farmers’ Market Supervisor Laura Avery alongside Evan Kleiman of KCRW and others.
They seek to show attendees the benefit of naturally-produced local fare not only for the palate, but also for the body and economy.
Tickets to the conference are $35 for LACMA members and $45 general admission. Sunday’s Localicious event costs $125, but Daily Press readers can get a 20 percent discount by entering the code LOCAL20 when they purchase tickets through Eventbrite.

ashley@smdp.com

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