Get in the kitchen with Elise Polentes, owner of Sundial Pantry, a farmers’ market vendor. She’s new to the area but her approach to simple, seasonal cooking fits right in.

Tell us about yourself and what part of San Diego County do you live in?

I currently live in Normal Heights, San Diego. I love my neighborhood! I am originally from the Philadelphia area. I grew up in Bethlehem, PA, but spent years living in Philly. That is where I met my partner, and in early 2020, we decided to leave Philadelphia on a road trip across the country. COVID derailed most of our plans, but we ended up spending six months in a magical little mountain town, Salida, Colorado, and then settled in San Diego.

What are you interested in cooking and or eating lately?

Fresh farmers market produce! The produce in this area is absolutely top notch.

What are your essential kitchen tips, shortcuts, and tools? 

Don't overthink things. Keep it simple. Value and honor your ingredients. Less is more. If you are cooking with quality ingredients, they will shine.

Image: Elise Polentes.

Have you had a good drink recently?  

Yes! At Sycamore Den, which is a lovely bar around the corner from my apartment. They make incredible cocktails, have some good beers on tap, live music on Sundays, and a great vibe. I love hanging out there. The Red Bird is a great cocktail on their seasonal menu, but I also love ordering a good old fashioned Sidecar.

Are you enjoying seasonal ingredients or dishes? 

Yes, 100%. The whole ethos of my business focuses on working with local, seasonal producers. I buy whatever looks best at the farmers' markets and create my menus based on what I've bought. Lately, it is TOMATO season, and I absolutely LOVE tomatoes.

Image: Elise Polentes

What do you love about San Diego's food scene? 

I love that there is an abundance of local produce that is just incredible. Coming from the Philadelphia area, I had access to great produce (shoutout to PA & NJ!) but nothing compared to the growing seasons out here in Southern California. I love working with and being connected to the growers, makers, and producers in the food scene, and I am always eager to learn more about production and meet more people.

Where do you like to shop for food? 

For shopping, I primarily visit farmers' markets. I buy all of my produce at the local markets. I shop at Specialty Produce for bulk goods and dry goods, and if I need something specific I will occasionally go to Whole Foods.

Would you like to give a shout out to any favorite local growers or farms?

Right now, I am primarily buying from Rodney Kawano Farms (they have the best tomatoes and strawberries around when they are in season), R&L Farms (stone fruit and citrus), Smit Farms (stone fruit, berries, and dried fruit), Heritage Family Farms (citrus and avocados), and Gaytan Family Farm (pastured eggs).

What steps do you take to support a sustainable food system and why are these values important to you? 

I think eating local food is one of the best things you can do to support sustainability. I care about this for environmental reasons, but also because it means supporting the people in your community, and often, eating higher quality, tastier food.

How would you like to connect to the Edible San Diego food community and why? 

For personal reasons, I find people in the food industry interesting and compelling and I would love to meet people and make friends. For business reasons, I would love to network to grow my business. I think being part of the food community is such an important layer in the fabric of our society and I would love to connect with more people to be part of our future food community. I hope that together we can continue to make it a better, more sustainable industry.

You can find Sundial Pantry at the Pacific Beach Tuesday Farmers’ Market and Little Italy Mercato.

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