Monday, April 19, 2010

Eat Me Out In The Vineyard for 20 Bucks

Whaaat the hell? No, my blog hasn’t turned into Craigslist and I’m not soliciting anyone to meet me in a dark grape alley for some hardcore bad-touch. No, I’m talking about the wonderful Vineyard Farmer’s Market. The best reason to go 100 yards north of Shaw.

I love the place TOO much. Without thinking hard, I can drop close to a hundred bucks there. And that’s not getting any flowers, plants, cheeses, or grass fed beef. Just bags and bags of fruit and veg. Always too much for me to cook in the short week between the next trip. But can you blame me? Sunchokes and meyer lemons and chocolate truffles oh my!

So, I’ve given myself a challenge (as I stand in the parking lot, sorting through the change in my pockets). Pillage the market for good and tasty things that I love, pull together enough to make a hearty green supplement to our beeftastic existence. And, keep the whole affair within $20. Don’t think I can do it? I’ll totally bet you’re wrong, because $20 is all I gotses in it’s pocketses. Precious.

So, a-shoppin we shall go!

Any wise Farmers Marketarian knows, first round of shopping you always hit the honest to jeebus locals first. Those cats who’ve got MOUNDS of green stuff around them, dirt still on the roots, everything generously portioned and not a damn price or label in sight. Why? Because these farmers are moving greenery as fast and as cheap as it can be done. This ain’t your Whole Foods manicured bunches of coddled greens, lightly pee’d on by electronically controlled angels at 15 and 45 past the hour. They were yanked or cut, howling in pain and rage from the earth at 3am this morning. If you listen carefully you can hear the sound of a vegetable Gettysburg, the freshly wounded, still screaming with strained chlorophyll lungs. Here you get your parsley, lettuce and greens, fat bunches of herbs you have to either dry half of or open up a fresh herb restaurant. Go nuts here. You’ll have fresh and crispy fiber up to your eyeballs. And when in season, an embarrassment of strawberries. Now take a trip back to the car, drop all this off and we’ll move on.

Dang it’s early ain’t it? Well, it better damn well be! You want to get the best pick don’t you? Not to say that I’ve ever been unhappy when I woke up late at 11am and dashed out for the last hour of the market. There is still plenty to love and buy. But I’m a snob and I likes to pick out the best when it’s freshest and when I can steal all of the morels and Kona coffee. Coffee? Thirsty! Need shopping thinking juice. To the Fabiano’s trailer! Beyond their fabulously local roasted, ground to order coffee beans, these lovely people also open up a table side cafĂ© offering 2 caffeinated and 1 decaf coffee to keep you amped up as you do three laps of the market eyeball shopping.

Yup, that’s the next step. After you nail your basics, take a couple laps and take it all in. Watch what the vendors are fussing over, maybe peep past the table to the bed of their pickup and see what all is goin on in there. Ask some questions, find out what that weird thing on the table is and maybe find out how you cook it. Get some ideas for how you’d like to experience the bounty of the particular season.

Market stalking over, move in for the kill. Or the purchase. Just doesn’t sound as predatory though. First off, I always like to buy something strange or new. I wasn’t crazy about the asian broccoli I got that one time, but I learned about it and no longer fear it as an ingredient. This time I sorta punked out due to the cost self constraint. But baby pattypan squash and kumquats (say it slowly, out loud. Someone came in the room didn’t they? Fun word!) count enough for the experiment. We’ll get to the squash merchants in a moment, but first a kind word about our Kumquat Lord. The citrus prince. The man, who for one week, left me in meyer lemon heaven. I don’t know how one farm can turn out so many fabulous citrus fruits. Blood oranges, navels, valencias, clementines, mission lemons. Too much good orange and yellow stuff. Must learn to make marmalade.

Next vendor! And my favorite vendor. Sun Smiling Farms. The shroom girls. The Ladies (in the British sense) of the market. Not only do they grow their own assortment of mushrooms, but they done got the hookup for the beloved morels. And as much as I hate the idea of you grubby unwashed masses muscling in on my beloved wild fungi, so too would I be enraged if but 1 tiny cap went to waste because there wasn’t an eager mouth to stuff it into. And as we jostle and jockey for position on their conical cappy goodness, there are other great finds like daikon, taro and a big handful of traditional Japanese ingredient I am still learning how to use. Like shiso leaves. Love these girls.

Ding! Change seats! Next we head over to the folks with the BIIIIG table. These folks rule the world of root veg. Taters, turnips, beets, OMG BEETS! And a hearty backup of a rainbow of greens, with a random sprinkling of nuts and fruits. Missing my beloved sunchokes, I do see a sweet little tender bunch of fresh cut asparagus. And there are some nice looking young fat leeks and some skinny little baby sweet onions. Yes, onions are the food-devil, but even a seasoned curmudgeon like myself can’t hate on babies. Onion souls are condemned to food hell after their first onion communion. Next!

Now it’s browsey time. I like to try to spend a little of my remaining cash at each of the vendors that I can afford to. They all have good stuff and are good folks. I want to help make sure they all come back each week. So, first I dash over to the organic greenery folks and splurge on a pound of their tiny wee baby pattypans, then across the way to my beloved tomater and garlic purveyors to grab a half pound of maters (2 in total) and a bunch of their super red-ass radishes. Then scooting over to the best damn sproutinista ever for a wee mixed bag. Which, along with the carrots, peas, basil and lettuce round out our $20 challenge.

Did I cheat? Hell yes I did! I totally bought morels on the side, as well as a habanero plant, a Cherokee purple tomato plant, 4 peter peppers (they grow into penis shaped peppers!!!) and a pot o’ cat grass for the pusses. But! The actual items, minus morels and plants, all really did come to a final total of $20. My choices might not get a household of 2 through the entire week, but that’s why there’s the Wednesday afternoon market there as well to supplement anything you forgot or are craving since the weekend.

Were people nice? Amazingly so. And charmingly enough, most folks mistook me for a proper photographer, rather than a smelly blogger rooting around for some flash to tart up my tawdry views of masticatory ecstasy. And dare I say, in a few instances I might well have mistaken myself for a paparazzo. Now show me sassy. I SAID SASSY YOU DIRTY ENGLISH CUCUMBER! Good thing security showed up late to work this morning. But everyone was equally as kind to me with a camera today as they have been in the past when I simply showed up with cash. It really is a lovely place and a fun experience. There is even an amazing purveyor of chocolate truffles, an on-site knife sharpener, fresh bread and pastries from La Boulangerie and the single most intimidating bee-guy/honey merchant I have ever seen in my life. It’s not like he’s mean or anything. Just looks like he can kick some serious ass. Bee or otherwise.

So concludes our twenty(fifty) dollar trip to the Vineyard Farmer’s Market. So I have no self control? Where better to lose one’s dignity than amongst those with the gumption to wake up ass early every day to tend to the wee groundly green things. I’d rather a foolishly spent dollar burn a hole in their pocket rather than some shareholder vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard. Our Vineyard, just a scant 100 yards north of Shaw, with morels and sunchokes and fine Kona coffee is far more precious to me.

Check out the remaining pics on our Facebook page here.