Growing up I was a huge fan of eating, which naturally led to another passion: cooking. I once heard the essence of the culinary arts distilled as thus:
1. Start with great ingredients.
2. Don't mess it up.
Solid, solid advice. So if you're likewise gastronomically inclined, you're now wondering, where can I get the best ingredients? When in Marin, do as the Marinites do and check out a farmer's market. Pound for pound, dollar for dollar, there's no better place to get the freshest most delicious produce you've ever had. You'll get the first crack at whatever's in season and that's the start of a great meal.
Paraphrasing Chef Tom Colicchio in his excellent book, Think Like A Chef, chefs get inspired to cook a meal based on the best available produce. The proteins don't really change from season to season, but the first crop of kale, or white nectarines, or summer squashes-- now that's something to get excited about.
With that in mind, you should really hit up the Point Reyes Farmers' Market next time you're free between 9am and 1pm on a Saturday. In fact, I can give you 6 reasons why you owe it to yourself to check it out.
1. They have free samples there. Free samples are usually enough of a reason to get me to go anywhere (especially Costco). Here you have the added bonus of learning by trial and error how to judge good produce. Your senses will be tuned to ninja-like levels of precision in touch, smell, taste, and sight. Hearing... will probably be unaffected, unless you're listening to the fruit hawker telling you "yes, this one is ripe," which is a good idea too.
2. Royalty have been there. In November 2005, Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall went to the market. Are you going to stand there and tell me that you're better than royalty? That you're too good to shop where the royals shop? Check for ripeness what the royals check for ripeness? Freely sample what the royals freely sample? I thought not.
3. The environment. There's a lot of talk about the impact our food has on the environment and how much better it is to eat local, organic, and seasonal. It's a very important issue, and I don't want to mince words here. If you buy anything at the farmers' market you will save the world. I don't mean this figuratively. Any purchase that you make at the farmers' market will single-handedly solve every environmental problem we are currently facing. Literally. So buy an organic nectarine so we can stop worrying about this global warming thing already.
4. Music. The live kind. Played by people, and or cyborgs that look like people. Either way it'll sound really good and you won't know the difference.
5. You can make the best meal that you've ever had. As delicious as the restaurants in West Marin are, a lot of taste is the experience that goes with it. Picking the best ingredients out with the help of its growers is a great start. Plus, if you're stumped for dish ideas, the growers will know some great ones. If you want to put your time and energy into making one great meal, you'll create a dish and an experience that you'll remember for a long time.
6. There will be oysters. 'Nuff said.