Hello boys and girls. Today we went to the farmers market. Allow me to reflect on days..well ok hours gone by. Ah yes the farmers market that neighborhood stronghold that screams capitalism with a slight whiff of manure. Ok well not always the manure and that’s because it’s not always a “Farmers’” market. This brings me to a quick point. There are two kinds of Farmers’ markets. The first is open year round and will supplement their wares with out of area produce in the off season. The second is usually open only during specific months of the year based on the growing season of your area. I am not one to knock the former because, in general, it does supply produce from local farms during the appropriate seasons and may also provide products that don’t have a season such as jams, jellies, and local butchers and bakers.
Such is the case with the Farmers’ Market in Allentown, Pa at the Allentown Fairgrounds. The first site that greets you when entering the door varies depending on the door you choose. You may get pizza, you may get baked goods, or you may get the yard sale version of a dollar store complete with second hand clothes. If you don’t choose correctly just power walk up the hall until you hit some of the better offerings. You may be a little surprised at what you find in this hallowed hall. There are a number of ethnic offerings including a Vietnamese Bistro, and a Mediterranean deli that offers all kinds of fresh dishes with the obligatory Feta sprinkled around. There is also a bake shop bringing in goods from Lancaster, including the apple Moravian cake below, and a bread shop that has the most incredible Sourdough.
Before I continue you may notice a complete lack of photographs from inside the market. Well let me just say that it was slow and every time I pulled out my camera it was well noticed and seemed to be frowned upon. When I did ask at a location I was greeted with a swift no. Despite explaining I am a blogger and am just writing a post that will only be seen by people who may stumble upon it. That being said I wasn’t as aggressive as I should have been and do plan on returning with a photographer friend to maybe add a little credibility to my standing there. My first foray into canning is going to require a fair amount of fresh veggies so I will be there with more of a purpose.
If you are fat and a foodie, like myself, a market with this much variety is a dangerous place. For today’s article I just strolled through and chose to avoid the half dozen butchers and save them for a later write up. I also have also gone rogue, wow that still sounds cheesy, and have avoided the fresh produce offerings. What you may ask did I choose to partake in? In what way did I satisfy my desire to try a little of everything? HOW did I make additions to my foodie resume? Well I am glad you asked but in the future keep it to one question, nobody likes someone who is long winded ok.
My first small stop was to a shop called the “Bread Broker”. This is a shop I have visited many, many times over the years and without fail I get my loaf of San Francisco Sourdough. It’s chewy, it’s tangy, it’s got a beautiful crust, I love it like someone would love a distant relative or the child that isn’t your favorite (I won’t tell but you parents know which one I mean) ok fine so you don’t have a least favorite child. Aliens don’t exist; see I can deny the truth too. Anyway we’ll agree to disagree and say that I just really dig good bread. If you live in or near Allentown and haven’t been to Bread Broker then you are missing out.
Now, as previously mentioned, I have been coming to this specific market for a number of years and yet I still find little things I never noticed before. Such is the case with Violets Horseradish. I have walked by Nanna’s Country Pantry a number of times and have even purchased honey and various jellies in the past. Today however my smart butt (my mother in law would not like it if I said the more common phrase so I have stolen her term for describing me) attitude lead me to a pretty great food find. I was walking by and saw a rather large sign that said “Violet’s Horseradish” and I asked the sweet elderly woman if she was in fact the aforementioned Violet. She informed me, with not so much as a smirk or chuckle, that she was not. However she did proceed to tell me that the horseradish was ground fresh that morning by her son whom also produced a mustard and hot cocktail sauce with the same ground root. She had me at freshly ground. Cracking open this jar will bring only the best possible of tears to your eyes. It will also keep you from ever being impressed by anything that has sat on a store shelf for months on end. There is a grain to it and one taste will leave you wishing you hadn’t thought it would be of the same potency of it’s on shelf second cousin twice removed that never gets an invite to the family reunions. Oh that’s you, umm sorry we still like you and all it’s just we like fresh ground better hug, hug kiss, kiss we’ll invite you next time really. I am still working out the right vehicle for this jar of spicy nirvana but when I decide you will see it here.
The rest would be a bit of a blur were it not for my last stop at the Vietnamese Bistro. I plan on going back but as a quick stop I took some advice from Andrew Zimmerman and saw that looked good so I ate it. I was walking back to one of the exits, trying to avoid a shop that had refused my attempts at photography, when I glanced down and saw several things all at once but one stood out. Okay two there was a carrot that had its’ top carved into a very impressive tiny pineapple. It was awesome, I was too nervous to ask for a picture so picture a bright orange, monotone pineapple and go with it. The second was a cup of bright layers. The bottom layer was a crisp white, followed by a mint jelly shade of green, another white , one of nearly clear brown and a final layer of white. I had to enquire, and enquire I did. I was informed that it was a parfait of gelatin with the white being coconut, brown being coffee and the green being Pandan jelly. Now the first two are self explanatory but those of us outside of the pacific rim may not be familiar with the last. When I asked what it was I was shown a green leafy vegetable that most resembled a leak with longer green leaves. I have supplied a picture but I am at a loss to accurately describe the flavor. The texture was of Jell-O that has just firmed up way too much. The taste however was very unique, bright, and fresh with light flavors of coffee, coconut and an almost herbal flavor. Wish I could do better but let me say if you’re local try it once.
So there you have it. As warmer months approach we will be making a trip out to the second kind of farmers’ market and getting our hands on local grown vegetables and dairy. In our next post you can look forward to that hot chili sauce I mentioned. In the coming weeks we move on to canning and we will be making another field trip to our favorite local Italian deli, BellaG’s, out in Emmaus, pa. Now if you will excuse me I have to go and start roasting my nearly five pounds of chili peppers.