Panoringan: Quarantine Grocery Guide, Farmer’s Markets and Grocery Updates

Nick Gerda, VOICE OF OC Archive

A shopper selects some grapes at a farmer's market in Huntington Beach. 

Anne Marie Panoringan

Voice of OC’s food columnist — reporting on industry news, current events and trends. Panoringan’s prior work includes writing about food for 8 years at the OC Weekly in which she interviewed more than 330 chefs, restauranteurs and industry professionals for her weekly On the Line column. She has been recognized by the Orange County Press Club and she also is a recurring guest on AM 830’s SoCal Restaurant Show.

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Generally speaking, one of the reasons Orange County offers a multitude of farmers’ markets is due, in part, to its consistently pleasant weather. (Although this week wasn’t a prime example.)

Strolling the aisles, sampling goods and buying fresh produce directly from growers is a lifestyle for Southern Californians. Fortunately for now, these outdoor markets are still considered an essential service.

With the exception of three, a number of farmers’ markets are still operating, rain or shine. Many do not have a dedicated website (or it’s not the easiest to find online). In addition, the status of these may change at any time or favorite vendors may or may not be participating.

As of this writing, we learned that Costa Mesa’s Thursday market, Laguna Beach’s Saturday market and Orange’s Home Grown Saturday offerings are temporarily closed. The Orange farmer’s market provided a contact sheet of their vendors for direct sale inquiries.

The following is a listing of the markets with either a website or social media page that indicated they were not closed. It is in order by day of the week starting with Tuesday, as we did not locate any listings for Monday-only markets.

Tuesday

Irvine at Irvine Regional Park: This has temporarily relocated to 13042 Old Myford Rd. 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Wednesday

Tustin in Old Town Tustin: Located at the corner of El Camino Real and 3rd St. 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Newport Beach at Lido Marina Village: Located at 3432 Via Oporto. 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. In addition to street parking, there is a pay structure.

Thursday

Downtown Anaheim: Along W. Center Street Promenade at Lemon. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Friday

Laguna Hills: 24200 Laguna Hills Mall, in front of the former J.C. Penney.

Saturday

Irvine: 5001 Newport Coast Dr. at Mariners Church. 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. This is currently a drive-through market only.

Dana Point: La Plaza Park at the intersection of PCH and Golden Lantern. 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Costa Mesa: 3315 Hyland Ave. at SoCo. 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Sunday

Laguna Niguel: 27271 La Paz Rd. at Plaza de Paz Shopping Center. 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Newport Beach: Newport Beach Pier. 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Irvine: Orange County Great Park at Parking Lot 2. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. In observance of the Easter holiday, they are closed this week, but will resume April 19. Also, this is currently a drive-through market only.

Updates on Grocery Outlets

Previously, we wrote about some of the changes many grocery brands put into place during quarantine. In addition to reduced hours for restocking purposes and exclusive senior entry hours, there are newer guidelines in place at one or more chains.

Costco has the most evolving procedures. On Wednesday, they announced priority access to healthcare workers and first responders with a Costco membership card and official identification of their role. Those furnishing both will be allowed front-of-the-line access to the entrance of any Costco warehouse. This is in addition to putting in place a maximum entry of two people per membership card. A revision on shopping for members 60 years and older extends the days to Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (previously only Tuesday and Thursday) from 8-9 a.m. Certain items (toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning wipes, etc.) have a limit of one per membership and will not be eligible for returns. As a reminder, Costco will be closed on Sunday in observance of Easter.

Depending on where you shop, similar coronavirus guidelines have been put into place. For example, Albertsons is currently not allowing any returns, regardless of the item. Many Trader Joe’s are practicing physical distancing, allowing a limited number of customers into their stores at a time. If you bring your own bags into Whole Foods Market, cashiers are asking you to bag your own groceries. These procedures are practiced for the safety of both workers and consumers.

On a related note, when I utilized the drive up service at a nearby Target, normally they charge a dollar for the bag my items are carried out in (but refund the cost after if I transfer the items to my own bag). In this instance, I was informed that they are not charging for bags at present time. Refer to your grocer’s website for ongoing updates.

Many eateries still operating are doubling as bodegas, stocking grocery staples for sale in addition to their kitchen menu. If you frequent a local dining room, check with them directly to see if they now offer this service.

The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano is best known as a resource for those wanting to learn more environmentally conscious habits. They began selling Farm Share Resilience Boxes filled with fresh vegetables and fruits (with add-on selections available) that can be ordered and picked up curbside on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Pricing and the ordering process can be found online.

Throughout the year, Irvine’s Tanaka Farms is an active farm that conducts seasonal farm rides and tours of the property. Strawberry, watermelon and pumpkin picking are especially popular with families. While their events are cancelled for the time being, they are now offering a daily drive-through produce market stand. You can order online between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. for same-day pickup. Visitors without an existing order are welcome to shop without having to get out of their vehicle between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

In Other News . . . .

It was strongly recommended that residents remain at home this week, as there were predictions of a spike in reported cases of COVID-19. This made grocery shopping leading up to now even more difficult, as individuals were restocking their refrigerators in preparation for extended quarantine. Basic animal proteins such as chicken or beef became scarce.

Alternative protein sources are actually plentiful, if you are open to the idea. Here are three shelf-stable ingredients that provide the energy you need.

Pulses, the dry, edible seeds of plants in the legume family, are super foods that include chickpeas, lentils, dry peas and beans. Use them in soups, make your own hummus with garbanzos, cook a batch of kidney bean chili, or go simple and do black beans and rice.

Quinoa may appear to be a grain, but it is also a sustainable source of protein that normally takes the place of rice or pasta in a dish. Making a salad with quinoa as a base is also popular.

Both nuts and seeds can make a wholesome snack. I prefer adding pepitas to a dish to add another level of texture. Nut butters on toast or paired with jelly is an unfussy way to lunch, and it’s perfect comfort food.

Anne Marie Panoringan is the food columnist for Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. She can be reached at ampanoringan@voiceofoc.org.