Travel Smart: “Cooking” for a Crowd in Santa Monica

A new hotel package sends you to the farmers market to select the menu for an entire restaurant.
santa monica market

I discovered the farmers market in Santa Monica by accident a few years ago, walking out of a hotel one morning and turning right into the thick of it, like Alice (Waters?) stumbling into Wonderland. The colorful array of fresh produce caught my eye, but it was the huge globes of purply artichokes that made an indelible impression. They were bigger than any I’d ever seen. As if by magic, I ran into Michael McCarty, owner of nearby Michael’s restaurant, where I’d had lunch the day before. He took me in tow to all his favorite stands in the huge market that’s open once a week, year round.

Last week on my most recent trip to L.A., I was not surprised when Travis Lett, chef at Gjelina, just down the coast in Venice, told me he was a regular at the market, too. (Plenty of L.A. chefs are.) What did surprise me, though, was the new “Shop with Chef” package at Shutters, the beachside hotel in Santa Monica where I stayed this time. The chef Michael Reardon had already been serving a farmers market dinner once a week at Coast, one of the hotel’s restaurants. But now guests have a chance to make the rounds with him on Wednesday mornings, picking out ingredients for that evening’s meal. Sadly, I checked out of the hotel before the package took effect (just this week), but I couldn’t help wondering how diners at the beachside café would have taken to my “artichokes-ten-ways” menu.

Here’s the deal: $989 for two people; two nights (Tuesday and Wednesday); a trip to the market; and a three-course dinner “created with your input.”

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