Specialty Produce: Shop Where the Chefs Shop

Kelly Bryan of Specialty Produce

Have you ever tried a Sea Bean? It resembles a squiggly cactus needle and bursts with the salty briny brilliance of the ocean. How about a juicy chocolate brown Kumato Tomato or a perfectly shaped slice of sweet-tart Star Fruit? These are just a few of the flavorful finds gracing the tables of area chefs and foodies in the know. So if your bored with the drudgery of banal supermarket options, add panache to your palette and experience a vivid world of unique textures, tastes, scents and forms. Discover Specialty Produce, a one-stop shop located near Old Town for over 700 area restaurants. With the largest selection of fresh local organic and conventional produce available anywhere in San Diego, Specialty Produce is open to the public seven days a week from 8am-5pm.

Equally impressive are the super friendly staff and exceptional service. Some employees are former chefs. All have an encyclopedic knowledge about the products that they sell and an unbridled enthusiasm for sharing with customers. Isn’t it refreshing to shop in a place where people enjoy their jobs and are happy to help? And it’s no surprise that this prestigious family owned and operated company has been in business for over 30 years.

Specialty Produce is open 24/7 to service the San Diego culinary community. With its focus on quality and service, they work with local restaurant chains or sole proprietors who share their basic values such as Alchemy, Starlite and The Marine Room. Having established long term relationships with both customers and suppliers alike including an estimated 125 farms, the company’s goal is to make it easy for chefs to shop in one location online or at the warehouse, on any given day, at any given time and find the best produce available county-wide and beyond. A fleet of trucks runs continuous deliveries throughout San Diego. “We even have an active buyer, Nathan, who combs local farms and the Santa Monica Farmers Market for the latest and greatest foodie finds. He then shows up at restaurant doorsteps on Saturdays so that, in addition to their regular orders, chefs can pick and choose special ingredients straight off the truck,” says Cassandra Poindexter, Retail Manager.

Shop where the Chefs Shop
You can shop where our city’s best chefs shop. In fact, you may spot TV celebrity Sam the Cooking Guy or your favorite neighborhood restaurant chef perusing the aisle. Chefs often roam the warehouse to find inspiration. They could be scouting the bountiful herb wall or studying the magnificent selection of baby vegetables and edible flowers. More likely, they will beeline straight for the Farmers’ Market Cooler — a room showcasing organic and seasonal finds. Here are a few examples of what’s in stock now:

• Citrus: seedless, delectably sweet Sumo Oranges and acid-less pink-fleshed Vanilla Blood Oranges
• Baby Purple Artichokes: deep violet in color, these artichokes grow on the underside of the plant and are harvested young for a tender rich flavor
• Black Trumpet Mushrooms: often called the “poor man’s truffle” because of their similar dark color they have a chewy texture and rich, buttery flavor

There’s no doubt that Specialty Produce influences the decisions San Diego Chefs make when designing season-driven menus and creating distinctive dishes.

More Gourmet Fun
In addition to produce, Specialty Produce carries dairy products, dry goods, condiments and other assorted groceries. Their deli case features scrumptious handmade San Diego goodies such as probiotic-loaded Happy Pantry Organic Sauerkrauts, farm fresh Eban-Haezer Eggs and luscious handcrafted Andrea’s Truffles. The selection of San Diego cookbooks includes our recently published Living Coastal: Inspirations for Entertaining, Decorating and Cooking California Style, a stellar resource for recipes by top chefs using sustainable seafood and produce. Check the Specialty Produce Facebook Page for information on a special upcoming chef demonstration and book signing.

Finally, the company offers a weekly Farmers’ Market Box program with free delivery for groups. Tantalizing options for add-ons range from Catalina Offshore Products to Sadie Rose Baking Co. and Chuao Chocolatier.

Giving Back
Specialty Produce is strongly committed to helping various community causes. They work with a local screen printer to design and produce a line of “Share Shirts.” Four dollars from the sale of each shirt directly benefit Olivewood Gardens, an organic garden and learning center catering to underprivileged families. And they partner with Catalina Offshore to run Collaboration Kitchen featuring ongoing chef demonstrations. Participants get to enjoy a four to five course meal and the events benefit various charities.

What’s Up Next?
Specialty Produce is taking over the space next door with exciting plans to expand their organic and shelf-stable retail product selection.

Shopping at Specialty Produce is a multi-sensory experience: an opportunity to taste, explore and learn about healthy choices for fixing magnificent meals at home. From the dazzling array of micro-greens to the myriad of mushrooms harvested from nearby farms, amazing surprises await those willing to venture to midtown. Specialty Produce is a San Diego treasure, and lucky for us, we can briefly become consummate chefs as we stroll the aisles of this produce paradise.

About Specialty Produce:
1929 Hancock St., Suite 150
San Diego, CA 92110
(800) 221-9730

Cylindra or Butter Slicer Beets

Tumeric Root at Specialty Produce

Kumato Heirloom Tomatoes at Specialty Produce

Condiments at Specialty Produce

Fresh Herbs at Specialty Produce

Fallbrook Oyster Mushrooms

Eben-Haezer Organic Eggs

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About Jolee Pink

I am a California-based writer, designer, artist, super foodie and avid traveler. I view travel as a superlative learning experience and have visited nearly 50 countries. As the author of Living Coastal: Inspirations for Entertaining, Decorating and Cooking California Style, I brought together artists and chefs to capture the spirit of San Diego influenced by the Pacific Ocean. The Wabisabi Green lifestyle blog focuses on art, design, food and travel. My colorful ceramic sculpture has received national recognition and is on permanent display at Rady Children’s Hospital. I also design and market a boutique eco-friendly textile line featuring bold modern motifs based on nature, world travels and the southern California coastal lifestyle.
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