I had so much fun yesterday at The Farmer's Market.
That statement will get The Best Husband in The World's eyes rolling - but it's the truth.
Side Note: TBHITW reminded me that when we were dating I took him to The Farmer's Market one Saturday afternoon, then cooked him dinner from our purchases. LOL. I had him the first time I turned on the stove.
Anyway, what a day! My friend Anne had to cancel because her daughter was home sick from school so I ended up going myself. No biggie - but Anne I missed you! I promise in a couple of weeks I'll go again.
As I was saying; what a day. I wasn't inside the market more than 30 seconds when I overheard a merchant say to a customer, "okay then, thank you. And don't forget to tell your folks hello". Ohhh.. can you imagine? When was the last time you heard that in the produce aisle of your local store? I must have started grinning right then and there and am still smiling for all the polite and kind people in that market.
The following is an actual, factual account of my day:
At a vegetable stand I bought some pale yellow, thin skinned Yukon Gold potatoes. When I handed over the basket to be weighed the man doing the weighing told me that they were his favorite kind. He went on to tell me that his wife boils them up (skin and all), then mashes them with butter, sweet cream and salt and pepper. He told me that's all he needs for dinner when she makes a pot of those Yukon Golds. I almost fainted for want of some of those mashed potatoes right then and there.
At the same stand I bought some spring peas (still in their pods), a head of Bibb lettuce, and some mushrooms - all grown at the same nearby farm.
I then wandered over to Alderfer's Farm stand and bought some organic, free range eggs and some "meat" sticks (they are like Slim Jim's, only handmade) when I told the man they were for my 15 year old son, who just loves them, he threw in 2 extra for free (with a wink) and told me those 2 were for the "growing boy."
At Weaver's Meats I spotted some smoked bacon and asked for a pound. The bacon guy kept sorting the bacon around, telling me he wanted to find me the leanest, best pound. Ah-huh. That has happened never at my local Pathmark chain store.
Now I was in search of turkey. At Mr. Bill's Poultry I found all natural turkey. I asked what they meant by "all natural" and a very nice young man explained that it was free range, never frozen, no antibiotics and no steroids are used, but the farm wasn't certified organic because the supplemental feed they give the turkeys is not certified organic. He did assure me that if I hadn't had a "Kohl's" turkey before I was in for a treat. I bought a 5 pound turkey breast and a 2 1/2 pound rabbit on his recommendation. He was kind enough to cut the rabbit to order (tastes like chicken).
Speaking of chicken. At the Fairgrounds Poultry Market I found organic chicken breasts and bought 4 lovely full breasts (with tenderloins attached - have you noticed lately that mass produced aka Perdue, etc chicken breasts have the tenderloin removed?) At this stand they also sold grass fed lamb, but they didn't have any lamb racks today. The gentleman behind the meat case gave me his phone number and told me next time I come I should call him the day before and he would be sure to have a rack of lamb (or two) for me. Okay....
I was beginning to get the picture here. Nice people. Proud of their food. Going out of their way to be of service. Hmmm.. what a concept. Stay with me because I'm saving the best for last.
At the Amish Bakery I bought a gorgeous cheesecake from a lovely young Amish woman. She was wearing the traditional dark blue dress with pristine white apron of the Amish. Her long hair was woven into a bun and tucked up into a net bonnet. I was more than happy to hand over $17.00 for a huge creamy cheesecake to celebrate Jacob's 19th. birthday. Happy Birthday Jake!
Just past the Amish Bakery I was able to score just made salted potato chips. And just beyond that I bought 2 bottles of wine from Clover Hill Vineyards (Breinigsville, PA - just a few miles from the fairgrounds). The lady in the winery store insisted I taste one of their newest lines, a delicious steel barrel aged Chardonnay. I chatted with her over a few sips of wine for a few minutes before moving on.
By now I was getting hungry so I stopped by a little stand where a lovely dark haired woman was making empanadas. I ordered a chicken empanada happy that the newest immigrants to Allentown were nestling in with the oldest. Viva la difference!
My final stop was at Clover Farms, the oldest meat vendor at the market. As I was perusing the meat cases filled with delicious looking sausages and burgers and meats, the most charming man I met all day asked if he could be of service. He told me his name was Aaron.
I spied some gorgeous veal chops and asked for two. Aaron sighed and told me he hated to even sell them because it's less for him to take home. We chatted for a bit and I asked him about the fresh sausages (about 10 different varieties!) laying all coiled up like soft pink ropes. He told me his family makes them and told me which were the best sellers. On his advice I bought 2 pounds of "American Pie" - apple and cheddar cheese and 2 pounds of "The Italian Job" - basil and garlic. Aaron also made me a gift of a marinated steak that he said I just have to try as it's his own special concoction. Okay Toto - we are definitely not in Kansas anymore.
I took his picture in front of the blackboard picture that he said his mom drew. See it at the top of the blog post? I asked him for a card, but they don't have one. Instead he took the time to write down the name of the farm, Clover Farm, their phone number (610) 751-4211 and the owner's (his dad) name, David Solove. I don't think the Solove's would be upset that I published this information. This is their business, their livelihood, their family tradition. Aaron also asked me what my name was. I bet he remembers it too.
I am not making this up people - you can actually buy food from people with names. Not corporate entity's but real names that they give you along with their phone numbers.
Can you imagine? Merchants who are so proud of their stuff that they take the time to explain to you everything you want to know about it? Sellers giving you stuff "so you can try it". Vendors who come back to the same stand year after year, decade after decade, who know their customers by name?
What is this world coming to?
If you find any of this hard to believe, I bet you haven't visited a local farmer's market lately. Take the time to find one. Go there. Buy stuff. Sample. Report back here with your experiences. Really, I want to know!
I haven't even begun talking about the cheeses, breads, seafood and other fresh meats and oh - my - wait until actual harvest time! I will be back Aaron and all you other perfectly lovely people I met on my shopping excursion.
Thank you for a perfect day.
PS. Please share your farm market or you pick it stories! I'd love to hear from you.
This is my locavore dinner this evening for me and TBHITW this week (no kids, date night at home). The only thing not locally produced are the lemons and capers and a little olive oil.
Veal Chops with Lemon and Capers: (serves 2 perfectly happy adults)
2 fresh veal chops
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Freshly ground pepper
In a flat glass dish, place lemon juice, thyme and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Salt and pepper both sides of veal chops. Place in glass dish, turning to coat. Let rest for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
After 30 minutes, remove chops from marinade. Pat dry. Reserve marinade.
Heat remaining olive oil in oven proof skillet over medium high heat. When almost smoking, add chops. Sear about 4 minutes. Turn, pour reserved marinade over top of chops and place in hot oven for 6-8 more minutes for medium.
Serve with fresh peas, some awesome Yukon Gold mashed potatoes I've been lusting for and a nice steel barrel fermented Chardonnay.