It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to grow melons, but former aerospace engineer Ed Munak does a damn fine job. The 86 year-old farmer (and yes, retired rocket scientist) has been growing melons and tomatoes for more than 30 years on his Paso Robles farm.
At Wednesday’s Santa Monica market, Alma chef Ari Taymor wheeled around an oversize box of Munak’s green fleshed melons. On the cardboard exterior, the word “ALMA” was scrawled in black sharpie. In the summer months, melons are to Taymor what the madeleine was to Proust. During a stint at La Chassagnette in Provence, the young chef tasted a charentais (French cantaloupe) just moments after it was plucked from the restaurant’s garden. He’s been searching for the holy grail of melons every since and tell us that, “the guys over at Munak are the closest thing I’ve found.”
At Alma, Taymor peels, seeds and then spins the melons into sorbet which he plates with compressed cucumber in chamomile syrup and a puff of sweetened wheat grass foam that looks remarkably like a dollop of green apple-colored shaving cream. On Taymor’s instagram feed, the icy pre-dessert refresher shows up like a Pantone ad for chlorophyll.
Across town at Manhattan Beach’s Fishing With Dynamite, you can find melons behind the bar mingling with gin and Japanese cucumbers; and if you’re in the backyard this weekend, follow the advice of FWD chef David LeFevre who opts for melon sprinkled with salt served alongside summer shandies and a game of cornhole.
Where to find melons: Munak Ranch (Wednesday and Saturday Downtown Santa Monica and Sunday Main Street Santa Monica), Weiser Family Farms (click here for market locations) and Murray Family Farms (Wednesday Santa Monica, Saturday Torrance and Sunday Hollywood)