by Terri Beyhus
Having just returned from a trip to Thailand, I find that my prospective on life is permanently changed. The people in Thailand possess a grace and calmness of heart I have never witnessed in the US. They are thrilled at every aspect of life; pettiness and negativity has been replaced with a joyful existence. They also eat mostly in markets (street vendors pop up every where and sometimes even in the middle of a busy street) and the food is fantastic. I embraced this culinary habit, and swooned for it upon my return stateside. The Avila Beach Fish and Farmers Market was the answer to my Thailand misplaced heart. The market is a seasonal event that takes place from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm every Friday.
From the squeal of the bounce house to the face painting clown that insisted on a no gum policy, I was enthralled. The coastal sidewalk was filled with farmers, food, flowers, and delicacies as a spectacular bluegrass band, Cuesta Ridge filled the notes in between the waves crashing on the shore.
My road experienced eyes laid upon the strange label marked, Frog Balls. They ended up being pickled Brussels sprouts and quite appealing. It did not seem as adventurous as the fried chicken feet assortment I ate in Bangkok, but it fueled my exploratory heart and that was the quest.
We tried a huge pulled pork sandwich from G. Brothers smokehouse restaurant. These guys are the hardest working guys, running the restaurant in SLO and attending all the farmers markets (they also sell the kettle corn). Our next booth was Baba Foods who provided delectable hummus, taboulie, and pita bread that we tried and saved for lunch the next day.
Gary picked his favorite cart; California Hot dog. He claims this is the best hot dog around because of the special steamed bun. Bobby the owner confirmed that his superior product and secret bun techniques were due their accolades. Gary then switched to the Sweet Spot ordering a dozen mini doughnuts. He inhaled them; whip cream, sprinkles, and all.
It was time for serious food and the fish cooked at this market is so virtuous it was hard to choose. Old Port Inn won the fish taco contest, as maestro Harry made us a fish taco just pulled from the sea. It had large chunks of rock cod, an amazing dollop of spicy guacamole, cheese, salsa, and cilantro. It was huge and it was perfection. Pete's Pier Side won for best crab cocktail, although I adore every item on their menu. Fat Cat's had the best clam chowder.
I had to try two more sweet treats. The first came from the taco booth, a heaping cup of fruit topped with a pico chili lime sauce. Gary ordered extra pineapple and mango, but the cantaloupe and watermelon held its own in flavor. This delight is hard to find. I take it as a side dish to parties, and it is always a hit. The chili brings out the sweetness in the fruit. My other enchantment was a red tent with only a sign that read "$6 for everything". Inside was a bacchanal of strawberry treats; chocolate dipped, shortcake, parfait, served with brownies and smoothies, all made with sweet Santa Maria strawberries.
With so many things to try, we vowed to be back every Friday night, and to ride the Avila trolley to avoid the parking nightmare. This free service operates Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays all year, connecting you from Pismo Beach Premium Outlets, all the way to Avila Beach and back.