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Potato chips from a favorite farmer

March 2, 2009 | 12:30 pm

Potatoes Mixed new potatoes from Weiser Family Farm

Alex Weiser's potatoes already are a favorite of chefs and shoppers at farmers markets. And now he's been experimenting with turning them into an addictive snack: potato chips.

Weiser said over the weekend that he's been experimenting with recipes and potatoes of different colors and shapes to make chips in a kitchen that's planned to be opened soon near the Hollywood Farmers Market. The chips would be available at a retail spot there all week and at his market stands.

Weiser mentioned the chips when he was a panelist Thursday night for a standing-room-only crowd at the Santa Monica Public Library, along with Michael Cimarusti, the chef-owner of Providence, and his sous chef, Sam Baxter, and Karen Beverlin, a buyer for Fresh Point Produce.

With moderator Evan Kleiman, owner of Angeli Caffe, they talked about how the chefs' desires and demands affect what farmers grow and how they support each other. For example, Cimarusti said he always includes "shout outs" to farmers on his menus "because I am proud to be able to use their stuff."

Kleiman, who hosts the radio show "Good Food," noted the tug at farmers markets between ordinary consumers and the professionals: chefs or buyers like Beverlin.

"I really try to grow enough for everybody," Weiser said. And he often tries new crops, sometimes with amusing results. He planted rutabagas too close together, he said, and they grew to look more like parsnips. So he's calling them "rutasnips."

A couple of audience members said they were dismayed that sometimes what they want is gone from a market table, for them only to see someone pushing a cart full of that vegetable. Kleiman said that having chefs shop at the market helps keep it going -- that for many farmers, leftovers often are a loss because their perishable products can't be sold even the next day.

-- Mary MacVean

Photo: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times