ariell ilunga carla's fresh market

SOMETIMES, YOU WANT TO FEEL like you’ve gone to a farmers market even if you didn’t have the strength to wake up early and roam the streets with a canvas bag and a woven wide-brimmed hat. Ariell Ilunga, founder of Carla’s Fresh Market—LA’s newest grocer in the city’s Highland Park neighborhood—imbued her love and appreciation for the California farmers market scene into a marketplace that is bringing high-quality, fresh, farmers market produce and forward-thinking brands to historically overlooked neighborhoods—all within a beautiful space that is as vibrant as what’s on the shelves.

Beyond just curating a beautiful selection of BIPOC-helmed food brands, Ilunga is focusing on tackling food equity from every angle, now accepting EBT offering Monday Happy Hours where all customers can purchase farm fresh organic produce bundles at a discount so as to better avoid food waste.

If you’re in the neighborhood, you can now dine in at Carla’s cafe, which is serving next-level, freshly made sandwiches and salads surrounding farm-sourced seasonal ingredients, homemade condiments, and freshly baked bread.

Given her farm-fresh expertise, we had to know everything Ariell keeps and curates in her fridge.
what's in my fridge with ariell ilunga
WHAT’S ALWAYS IN MY FRIDGE: Ghost Town Oat Milk, parmesan cheese, eggs, assorted cheeses, tortillas, a bottle of wine that needs to be opened or one that has been open for a week, cucumbers, avocado mayo, preserves, and salsa.

WHAT’S NEVER IN MY FRIDGE: My kids are growing so fast, so these days it feels like I never have enough food in my fridge!

FAVORITE FOOD MANTRA: Food as vibrant as you is our guiding principal at Carla’s Fresh Market. We are so lucky to live in California with immediate access to a colorful array of not only great fruits and vegetables, but also some of the most flavorful condiments, spices, prepared foods, and many more from some fantastic BIPOC makers! Simple meals can easily be enhanced by a spoonful of chili crisp or sprinkle of a spice blend over the sweetest tomatoes we find at the market.

7 STAPLES ALWAYS ON HAND: Garlic, lemons, onions, eggs,  a bottle of wine, beans, noodles, and soy sauce.

GO-TO PROTEINS: For plant protein: beans! And for animal protein: chicken, and for ease: Peads & Barnett sausages.

FAVORITE VEGGIES: I love them all! But I tend to shop what’s in season. Right now, the early spring asparagus and baby artichokes are so good. Broccoli, green cabbage, and cauliflower are staples in our home.

MUST-HAVE MUNCHIES: Blueberries. Apples with whatever nut butter is floating around.

BEST FARMERS MARKET FIND: The whole darn thing. Moving back to LA and rediscovering farmers markets was life changing; they set me on a course to open Carla’s.

ariell ilunga carla's fresh market

GOTTA-HAVE-’EM SWEETS: Anything by Normal,  I love cookies. My sister sends my kids home with pre-batched frozen cookie dough, which we bake off and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.

FAVORITE CONDIMENTS: Chili Crisps reign supreme. Too many faves to name!


MUST-HAVE PANTRY STAPLES: Good olive oil, beans, pasta, anchovies, soy sauce, rice, canned tomatoes in various forms, assorted vinegars, honey, and my spice rack is off the chain!

BEST 30-MINUTE MEAL: Pasta. Noodles, sauce, and a bit of cheese!

FAVORITE PLACES TO SHOP: That’s easy, Carla’s Fresh Market! Truly, I designed the store with mothers like myself in mind. We have you covered on the freshest farmers market produce, all the essentials to stock your fridge and freezer, and tons of new novelty pantry goods, candies, and snacks to keep things exciting! Plus, the space is intentionally gorgeous with seating to pause with a cup of coffee or a satisfying, nourishing, and absolutely delicious sandwich.

GO-TO HEALTHY COMFORT FOODS: Spiced-rubbed roasted sweet potatoes with pat of butter and flaky sea salt.

BEST BARGAIN: Bargains? Haven’t been able to find any. The best way to manage our growing food costs is to cook and eat at home. We reserve delivery for maybe once a week—usually Friday or Saturday night and dinners out are a treat.

carla's fresh market

ONE THING THAT NEVER MAKES IT TO THE FRIDGE: Farmers market guavas when they are in season. We devour them while driving home from the market. They rarely make it to the front door.

BEST LABEL-READING TIP: If I can’t pronounce it, I tend to not buy it

CRAZIEST THING I BUY: Even though I own a store with an amazing natural selection in our Bottle Shop, I still have wine club memberships at two of my favorite bottle shops, Vinovore and Mission Wines. Go figure.

FAVORITE SPLURGE: A beautiful cut of meat, like a ribeye, bone-in pork chop, or lamb chops.

FOR LAST-MINUTE ENTERTAINING: Oh dear, I might actually order then!

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