Seasonal Organic Local (SOL) Markets

| September 6, 2012 | 0 Comments

On July 25 Mission Hills Garden Club held a very different meeting. Originally Vince Brown, an attorney who is fervent in his belief that we must eat organically and locally grown foods available in season, was scheduled to speak. He owns SOL Markets which models his beliefs about food. When a last minute emergency made Brown unavailable, he sent his right-hand-man, general manager and former chef, Brandon Brooks, to speak in his stead.

With years of experience in the hospitality business plus a passion for growing food, raising 13 hens and also four ducks, Brooks is general manager of SOL Bistro & Market in Liberty Station. Founded in the belief that consumption of seasonal, local, and organic foods helps our environment as well as our local economy, these foods are better for our bodies, plus they taste better, too. For example, commercially grown tomatoes are picked green, transported from afar, only to be gassed in order to “ripen” them to red resulting in loss not only of flavor but of nutrients too. Transporting foods causes pollution as do pesticides. Hormones and antibiotics given to commercially raised livestock wreak havoc on our bodies.

Fueled by the same passion that Brown has, Brooks has helped build SOL from its beginning. As San Diego’s first market of its kind, it is a work in progress. We learned that Brown subsidized his dream by turning part of the building, an old firehouse, into a restaurant where lunch and dinner are served seven days a week from 11 a.m. on. It is a “farm to table” restaurant bringing in an income which supports the market as it grows into a thriving business.

The bistro serves locally and organically raised meat and chickens in a variety of dishes including lamb, chicken, and beef sliders. When asked what his favorite item was on the current menu, Brooks replied, “Beet and goat cheese salad.” Another treat on the menu is fried pickle.

Brooks and his staff love making pickles. “In fact,” Brooks says one of his bartenders specializes in it “and has been happy to help us perfect the craft.” Because the best pickles are fermented, they must be pesticide free. Brooks shared his basic recipe:

Pack quart mason jars with slices or spears of organically grown cucumbers. Fill each jar one quarter full of rice wine vinegar (or any other vinegar you like. He favors rice.) Add fresh dill and a half teaspoon each mustard seed and pepper corns. Slice a garlic clove in half and add the two pieces to the jar with three or four thin slices of red onion. Next add two tablespoons of local kosher sea salt. (Point Loma “out filters” salt water to make local sea salt.) Let the jar sit out for three or four days. These pickles will keep refrigerated for several months.

Brooks explained that all foods SOL provides are “Fair Trade.” This means production is closely supervised to ensure that workers, produce, livestock are treated well and that the workplace is properly run and cared for. We learned that SOL’s freshly laid eggs come from Fair Trade Certified Ebenhaezer Farms, one of the few pastured egg operations in San Diego County. One unusual feature of this ranch is keeping the hens in mobile chicken houses. A huge trailer is divided into a section of nesting boxes and bleachers for roosting leaving the rest of the trailer accessible to the pasture where the trailer stays for a few days. Busy chickens are happy chickens. Chasing and eating bugs, scratching for seeds, and taking dust baths in the sun, they remain safe from predators in these large enclosures. Every few days, this hen house travels to another section of pasture allowing, the chickens to fertilize new pasture while ridding it of pests — a very efficient system!

Other store items come from Stone Brewery. The brewery bought La Milpa, a bankrupt educational farm. Renamed Stone Farms, all their produce is naturally grown. Due to the cost of “Fair Trade” certification, it is not labeled organic. Nonetheless, Brooks insists their practices are organic.

SOL Markets serves twelve San Diego-brewed beers plus locally produced organic wines. They also sell organic and biodynamic wines from around the world. One local wine from Temecula, Berenda Road, tastes like a $35.00 bottle of wine. It sells for about $12.00, “a steal for even the most modest wine drinkers,” Brooks claims. SOL also runs $5.00 specials on this wine as well as others.

As the market grows, more and more items appear. Eventually the market will have a butcher shop; Brooks is working on getting aged grass-fed beef. Meanwhile, items that are either unavailable locally or are unsuitable come from elsewhere. Dairy products come from Northern California since our local farms do not meet SOL standards. Coffee, vanilla, chocolate and other items that do not grow locally arrive from all over the world; however, they are all grown organically and certified Fair Trade. Often even when an item arrives from afar, it is often processed locally. Coffee, for instance, is frequently roasted here although it came from overseas.

The market is evolving. Originally they were going to have cooking classes, but they soon “outgrew the kitchen.” Brooks hopes to resume cooking classes in the fall. Meanwhile, the staff is re-organizing and reconfiguring their current space, adding more and more local products to the shelves. Eventually Brown hopes to open a second market uptown. SOL Markets is in the north section of Liberty Station between Corvette Diner and Point Loma Outfitters. Watch it grow while you enjoy its merchandise.

September 26’s meeting will showcase Mike Mathews from The Audubon Society speaking on “Avian Angels and Devils in your Garden.” Meetings are at 4070 Jackdaw from 6 to 8 p.m. Guests pay $10.00; members are free.

It’s membership renewal time. Single membership is $35.00 a year; $50.00 for a couple. See you September 26.

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About the Author ()

Barbara Strona is a native Californian who grew up in the Mid-West and Los Angeles. She and her architect husband, Carl, came to San Diego in 1968 and have lived in Mission Hills since early 1971. Barbara received a Bachelor of Arts from Scripps College with a major in English, and a minor in Art. She attended UCLA graduate school and received a General Secondary Credential. She taught English in Los Angeles, Pennsylvania, and at Point Loma High School. She has been a Realtor specializing in residential sales since 1984. Her passions include her job, reading, writing, foreign languages and foreign countries, animals (feathered or furry), theatre, and her family: husband, two adult children and two grandsons.