Oct. 21 2008 07:52 PM

Olive Tree Market provides the perfect portable meal

eats-prime

Olive Tree Marketplace4805 Narragansett Ave.Ocean Beach619-224-0443 www.olivetreemarket.com

The adventure started four years ago, while I was walking down Shelter Island Drive with a friend. We saw a guy pulling a kayak off the roof of his car, and being the nosy girls that we are, we asked what he was up to. He said he was going to watch a concert at Humphrey's. “In the kayak?” we asked, not really grasping the concept. So he showed us a dock where intrepid folks can shove their little vessels off and paddle along the shore until they reach the side of the concert stage. Intrigued by the prospect of free live music and undaunted by our non-existent paddling experience, we bought an inflatable boat, as it seemed a more comfortable ride than a kayak, and set out on our maiden voyage.

There was much flailing about at first, but we eventually found our groove, averaging a concert a week and recruiting other friends to join our floating party. Food and drink was always present, in generous amounts. This season's highlights were Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton, Feist and David Byrne. For our last journey of year, friends from L.A. came down for the Duffy concert. I wanted to do our picnic up right, so I swung by The Olive Tree Marketplace in Ocean Beach to pick up a gourmet spread.

The Olive Tree has been a corner market in O.B. for more than 20 years, during which it has promoted the highly logical idea of buying local, stocking a number of San Diego-produced foods, including Bread & Cie loaves and O.B. gem Jackie's Jams. They have some produce, too, but I prefer getting local organic stuff at People's Co-Op up the road.  

The first thing I grabbed was a bag of El Indio tortilla chips and some spicy salsa from locals La Salsa Chilena. Olive Tree has a deep craft-beer selection, so I got a few bottles for the boat, plus some value-priced California wine from the wine department. I ordered five sandwiches at the deli, all made fresh with Boar's Head meat and cheese or homemade fillings, and then ran down to the dock to meet the girls.  

We paddled around obscenely big yachts in our little dinghy (our low profile allows us to slip under ramps and bridges for a direct route to the stage). When we arrived, we used carabineers to hook our two rafts together and unpacked the picnic.

I grabbed half a Reuben, a particular favorite; it wasn't at the optimal temperature but still tasted good. One friend declared the Picasso, a marinated chicken breast with pesto and melted cheese in a warm pita, the best sandwich she's eaten lately. The Sunset Cruise is usually on a fresh roll from Solunto Bakery in Little Italy, but the market had run out that day; still, the combination of roast beef, pastrami and corned beef was nice, even on toasted wheat. I tried a section of the Euro Veggie sandwich, filled with delicious homemade hummus, Kalamata olives, veggies and feta cheese.

I brought out a four-pack of Gordon's Ale by Oskar Blues—one of the finest beers in a can I've had, well, ever. We sipped our beer and wine and floated around, occasionally catching glimpses of Duffy, although the sound made us feel as if we were in the front row. Our British friend pronounced the whole evening “brilliant.” An impulse purchase at Olive Tree's register—huge, fresh-baked cookies—turned out to be a smart move; they were ideally chewy with big, soft pockets of chocolate. The ladies love 'em.  

Our boats have been put away until next season, but I doubt we've had our last picnic of the year.    

Write to candicew@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com.

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