Freds executive chef Mark Strausman is pretty much the ideal farmers market companion. Despite his many culinary accolades, the Queens native isn’t afraid to roll up his sleeves and do his own shopping—and he’ll have any accompanying market comrades laughing and learning along the way. Lucky for us, Strausman—who splits his time between the East and West Coast—invited us along for a recent Saturday expedition to the Santa Monica Farmers Market, where many of the Freds Beverly Hills ingredients are sourced. There, we learned firsthand that shopping for produce is as much about impulse as it is about lists; below Strausman breaks it down.

FREDS_FarmersMarket_0062
“I had never seen pink lemons until these amazing ones. Most of the times, I think they just get juiced right away. That’s how they make authentic pink lemonade!”

Tip: It’s better to go with a list. They say when people don’t bring lists to the grocery store they spend 30% more money than those that do! Truthfully, I usually don’t go with a plan. I look for freshness and things that excite me. Luckily, at the famers market nothing is out of season—that’s the whole point.

FREDS_FarmersMarket_0445
“I am drawn to the multicolor element of these non-traditional peppers. You know, people eat with their eyes. They love the look and color of food, and now everyone is taking photos of what they eat.”

Tip: Learn to trust your instincts. We shop with our instincts. It’s all about looks and smell, and really all of your senses will tell you what’s good and what’s not.

FREDS_FarmersMarket_0358
“Talk about a real carrot! It has a top on it and looks like something Bugs Bunny might snack on, not like those terrible supermarket carrots. You look at these and you can see how healthy and phenomenal they are. The colors make them really special ingredients too. Interestingly, you can’t peel the purple ones too much or they won’t stay purple.”

Tip: Food is a supply and demand industry, which I think people don’t always understand. Whenever the supply is really good, the produce is in its peak. So when things are not plentiful, they are usually not the best quality. The more supply, the cheaper the product too. Sometimes in a really good year, you don’t even need to buy organic, because the vegetables are so great and plentiful anyway.

FREDS_FarmersMarket_0521
“These are from Harry’s Berries, and they are delicious. They are an amazing fruit because you can eat them sweet or savory. When you think of California, you think of strawberries. On our Sunset Menu, we do a Laurel Canyon Sunrise with strawberry puree, which is divine.”[Check out the recipe below!]
Tip: Know which markets are on which days, as some are only on weekdays and some only on weekends.  I have enough favorites that there’s always one I can visit. Here are my go-tos:

L.A. farmers markets:
1. Santa Monica Farmers Market
2. Hollywood (SEE-LA)
3. Beverly Hills Farmers Market

NYC farmers markets:
1. Union Square Farmers Market
2. Tucker Square Farmers Market 
3. St. Stephens Greenmarket 

FREDS_OFTBMK_0043

The Laurel Canyon Sunrise, available as part of Freds Beverly Hills’ Sunset Menu

2 oz (or 1 fresh) pineapple juice
8 juicing oranges or 2 oz of orange juice
2 white grapefruit or 2 oz of grapefruit juice
8 puréed strawberries
A splash of club soda
2 oz of tequila or vodka (optional)

Take a highball glass (pictured) and fill with ½ strawberry puree and then ice. Add the juices (and alcohol, optional), and then float the rest of the strawberry purée. Garnish as desired—a fresh strawberry and cucumber work well.

Last month, our Freds Beverly Hills location launched its new Sunset Menu created by Strausman. Offered from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m daily, the menu features a selection of hearty and lighter dishes, such as raw vegan cashew “cheese” dip with crudité of fresh seasonal vegetables ($16) and Freds classic Tuna Tartare ($19), as well as ultimate California inspired cocktails, such as the the Laurel Canyon Sunrise (above).

FREDS_FarmersMarket_0437a

Reserve a table online at Freds Beverly Hills, Freds Chicago, or Freds Madison Avenue.