Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Open Air Market
Tri-County Produce is a very Santa Barbara market. At the base of Milpas Street, near the ocean, it sits high above the pavement on a thick concrete slab. The most unique feature of Tri-County's, is its one open wall. This allows the ocean breeze to waft past the checkout stands and bares a view of the beach and Cabrillo Boulevard. On cold days, Tri-County's clerks keep warm in heavy jeans and hooded sweatshirts.
The small market--just five aisles wide--consists primarily of fresh produce that arrives daily from local farms. Their slogan is: "If it's any fresher, it's still in the fields." Beyond produce, they have a small and eclectic array of other foods: a full aisle of wine, fresh locally baked bread and steaks and salmon in the cooler. The freezer holds a variety of organic foods and many flavors of ice cream
Recently, on one of my typical quick runs through the market, after snagging a brownie, a turkey sandwich and a bottle of cranberry juice, I noticed a middle-aged couple standing in the center of an aisle looking around perplexed. They seemed misplaced. Dressed impeccably in city clothes--the man wore a tweed jacket and dress shoes that shone bright enough to see your reflection--I immediately pegged them as out-of-towners. When I walked past them, the man looked at me with his face twisted into a question mark, and spouted, "What's the deal with this place?"
When I first started shopping there, I'd asked myself the same question.
He waved his hand toward a shelf and, as if he'd discovered some rare West Coast tribe that survived solely on Hagen Daz ice cream and coleslaw, asked, "Do you do all your shopping here?"
"No," I said, chuckling. "Mostly produce and a few quick fixes."
Yesterday, waiting at Tri-County's checkout stand, I gazed out at the ocean, and within the broad view, I caught sight of a perfect fragment. The Islands were outlined sharp against the sky. Tall palms towered above them, and a tiny boat, almost imperceptible to the eye, graced the frame like a lovely stroke of punctuation.