Saturday, October 30, 2004

Irvine farmer's market

Saturday mornings in Irvine mean there's probably something interesting to taste over at the farmer's market near the University. Our market compares feebly to Santa Monica's or San Francisco's Ferry Building market that I wrote about in September. Sadly, the UC Irvine farmer's market remains the largest one we have in Orange County.

My four year old cares nothing about exotic produce or how much better things are at other markets. The important thing is all the free samples of fruits in season. Today's tastes featured Fuji and Pink Lady apples, Fuyu persimmons, pomegranates and the last of this year's yellow peaches.


Irvine's hyperplanned development over the past couple decades means that most of its former farmland and wild grasslands have been paved over into the ├╝ber-suburb that you see today. While there are large plots in Irvine still being farmed industrially for tomatoes and strawberries, these too will be developed over the next decade.

So it's nice to talk to real farmers who work the earth every day and buy carrots that smell of rich, fertile soil, even if it's trucked in hundreds of miles from California's Central Valley. Here, a young boy in the midst of Southern Californian suburbia can learn that apple season starts as melon season ends, and taste how strawberries have no flavor or sweetness in October.

UCI Farmer's Market
In the shopping center parking lot across from the UCI Campus
Campus Drive, cross street is Bridge
Look for the In n Out Burger or Steelhead Brewery
Saturday mornings from 9a-1pm

Some folks on Chowhound wrote about Strickland's Ice Cream, a mile east from the farmer's market in yet another strip mall. This is an Ohio based chain that dates back to 1936. Here, you'll see large churns dispensing old fashioned soft-serve into freezer bins. The soft serve feels smooth and rich on the palate, with no discernible ice granules. Vanilla and chocolate are always on the menu, and two other flavors of the day constantly rotate on the menu of soft serve. Hard-frozen pints and quarts of other flavors are available to take home, too.

The folks on Chowhound described the soft serve as a frozen custard, and I asked what that means. Technically, any ice cream base that has egg yolks in it can be considered a frozen custard. The lady I spoke with said that eggs were in Strickland's original recipe prior to WWII. Since eggs were too precious during the war, they changed to an eggless recipe and nobody seemed to mind. Their recipe remains eggless to this day, and is no longer called frozen custard.

I'm told they add real fruit purees to their base. Today, we tried vanilla and pumpkin, since it's Halloween and all. Both tasted like the real thing, and were pleasantly sweet. For soft serve ice cream, I think it's the best game in town. Far, far better than the frozen custard at Kill Devil's in Lake Forest.

Strickland's Ice Cream
4523 Campus Drive (next to Jimmy Z's)
Irvine, CA


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