Nagoya native Shiho Yoshikawa baked at Tartine Bakery and The Slanted Door in San Francisco before opening Sweet Rose Creamery with Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan at the Brentwood Country Mart in L.A. We joined her on a September 12 tour of the Santa Monica Farmers Market and gained insights into Yoshikawa’s approach, which shifts with the seasons.
We wandered from stall to stall, with Yoshikawa finding inspiration in tabletop fruits, vegetables and herbs. We witnessed the tail end of the summer fruit and the rise of autumnal apples, pears and less prominent fruits like passion fruit and the jujube, a “spongy” Asian fruit that Yoshikawa compared to a cross between an apple and pear. Last year, jujubes factored into batches of Korean-inspired jujube tea ice cream with roasted pine nuts. It took awhile for customers to warm up to flavors like jujube and black sesame, since the flavors were foreign to a lot of Brentwood Country Mart customers. They’ve come to trust what’s in the display case, and become more familiar with flavors.
She knew Bay Area farmers well, and it took awhile to become acquainted with their SoCal counterparts, but Loeb and Nathan helped to make introductions. However, stalls swap vendors each season, depending on farmer crops. For instance, October pistachios give way to Becky Terry and her November pomegranates. As Yoshikawa said, “There are a lot of fun things in fall and winter, but just not as bright and exciting and fruity as summer.”
Yoshikawa notices sweet potatoes and references her favorite application, sweet potato paste swirled in black sesame ice cream. Mutsu, a tart Japanese apple from Windrose Farm, joins fennel in sorbet. Jonas apples from See Canyon also join her haul.
Coleman Farms is Yoshikawa’s primary source for fruits like sapote and dragon fruit. Sometimes, she asks farmers to grow unusual ingredients, or they’ll offer different but similar alternatives. The Colemans are usually game for improv.
She showcases herbs in Sweet Rose Creamery ice creams and sorbets, including Maggie’s Farm tarragon, which is “very fragrant, with a hint of vanilla” and accentuates vanilla ice cream.
It might sound counter-intuitive, but Yoshikawa likes tomatoes in late winter/early spring, from the desert. She relies on Deborah Chamberlain from Wong Farms, who’s literally located in Mecca, California, for beefsteak tomatoes, which contribute to basil ice cream or lemon sherbet. Next summer, Wong will once again grow Valencia pride mangoes, which Yoshikawa prizes. Citrus like tangelos and blood orange from JJ’s Lone Daughter Ranch also contribute.
California also produces plenty of nuts, and Yoshikawa prefers ground pistachios from Santa Barbara Pistachio Company. She even turns the husks into marmalade with orange skins, folding the results into salted pistachio ice cream.
Only a few bins remain constant: banana, strawberry, vanilla, coffee, mint chip and salted caramel. Another control group is dairy from Clover in Petaluma.