Catt White calls herself the Market Maestra and this past week she wore the mantle well. White just opened the Adams Avenue farmers market and has recently taken over management of the North Park farmers market.
At both markets are many of the regulars found at her Little Italy Mercato. But, at least at the Adams Ave. market, these vendors found brand new enthusiastic customers. The place was mobbed and most vendors were sold out before the 7 p.m. closing time.
There's probably no better time to open a new market than spring and the farmers had their spring best out. Sage Mountain Farms was laden with sweet juicy strawberries, their beautiful peachy colored baby potatoes, fat orange and yellow carrots, radishes and gorgeous greens. Owner Phil Nobel's son Justin was representing dad at this market and sales seemed brisk. I picked up a basket of the berries and a pound of those pretty little potatoes.
Smit Orchards with their apples and Red Brooks cherries was nearby, along with Heritage Family Farms, Lisko Imports, and, oh, the scent of peaches that led to Lone Oak Ranch's booth. The trip from Reedley (near Fresno) was worth it. The white and yellow peaches, nectarines, and apricots were sublime and being taken up by everyone drawn in by the fragrant peaches.
Suzie's Farm was also there and with their greens, squash, beets, and tiny bits of tasty nutrition -- garbanzo beans and sprouting wheat berries among them -- along with bright yellow squash blossoms, perfect for stuffing.
George and Mary Palmer of Taste Cheese made their farmers market debut at the Little Italy Mercato just a couple of weeks ago, but they're now celebrating their appearance at both the Adams Ave. and North Park markets. (Sign up for their newsletter so you can learn what cheeses they're bringing to the different markets.)
At the Little Italy Mercato I enjoy Dennie Giles's avocados and woven baskets from his Paradise Valley Ranch. So, it was nice to see him at the Adams Ave. market, but this time he had some unusual fruit I hadn't seen before: Kalamansi lemons.
These lemons, originally from the Philippines, have hues of yellow, green, and orange on its skin and orange flesh -- thanks to the marrying of lemons with tangerines. They're sour sweet and used for everything from juice to squeezing on fish or into soup. I bought a basket of them for one dollar and used several to make a marinade for chicken.
The marinade also included champagne garlic mustard made by a new vendor, SoNo Trading Company. Owned by Zach Nagin (who I had met months ago when he was working at Halcyon Tea) and James Magnatta, SoNo has four "mostly organic" mustard varieties for sale -- Cilantro Lime, Sesame Ginger, Spicy Hatch, and the Champagne Garlic.
The partners also make a thoroughly enjoyable but extremely spicy pickle. These "Sweet Spicy Pickles" are wonderful chopped into a salad or sandwich.
The guys do this with their Cuban sandwich, grilled on the spot and made with ham and pork from Da-Le Ranch. In fact, they talk about this venture as being "about community" so they also use products from their fellow farmers market vendors -- Suzie's Farm, Spring Hill Cheese, Richie's Chiles.
Me? I added the pickles to a chopped salad I made from a mix of my market finds and other produce from Henry's: white corn, tomatoes, a yellow bell pepper, shelled green peas, cucumber, yellow onion, and mint from my garden. A homemade vinaigrette with Sherry vinegar, Temecula Olive Oil, smoked sea salt, more of that champagne garlic mustard, chopped garlic, and maras pepper was the perfect marinade. Top it with burrata cheese from Taste Cheese, scoop it up with pita from Baba Foods or slices of sourdough baguette from Bread and Cie (both at the market) and you've got a refreshing, delicious, healthy dish with a bit of a kick to it.
But, maybe you're in the mood for meat. Dave Heafner of Da-Le Ranch is at the Adam's Ave. farmers market with some new products: Canadian bacon and sausages. He's got Chicken Apple, Nurenburger Bratwurst, Hot and Mild Italian Sausages, Turkey Breakfast, and Smoked Bratwurst. Of course, there's always his tempting tri-tip. That was on the grill while I was there and it's truly delicious.
But perhaps what you really want is seafood. Poppas Fresh Fish is in attendance and this week they had live blue crabs, salmon, clams, and a wide assortment of other fish.
Plus, Mark Lane, the owner, made a couple of ceviches. One with white sea bass and mango was terrific, but my choice was the chopped shrimp with watermelon--reminiscent of Urban Solace's tasty watermelon salad.
It was great to see some other familiar faces there -- Eclipse Chocolat, Viva Pops, Loic Patisserie, Baba Foods, and my buddy David Wasserman of Joe's on the Nose.
The Adams Ave. farmers market is bound to grow, but first it must find a place to land. Originally set to be held on 40th just off Adams Ave., the market ran into permitting issues with CalTrans that must still be resolved. This week, it was in the Rite Aid parking lot near Cherokee, but that was just a temporary fix and White now has to identify a new spot for next Wednesday. So, let's call this new community treasure a moveable feast and stay tuned for the announcement of its next temporary home.
On Thursday, the North Park farmers market looked very different from the past. For one thing, White switched around the physical layout, creating aisles in the opposite direction to help the farmers with the bright sun beating down on them but also to better organize the types of vendors there. She's also said good-bye to some vendors she just didn't feel were still a good fit and added others. So, Suzie's Farm, Valdivia Farm, J.R. Organics, and Smit Orchards were some of the familiar produce vendors with more to come. SoNo was back as were Taste Cheese, Baba Foods, and H and B's Guac Shac. Majestic Garlic is there as is Kettle Corn, She Sells Sea Salts, and Gourmet Tamales. It's a promising re-start for the community market and worth re-visiting if you haven't been for awhile.
The Adams Ave. farmers market is held on Wednesday afternoons from 3 to 7 p.m. -- with the location still changing. The North Park farmers market is held on Thursday afternoons, also from 3 to 7 p.m. in the CVS parking lot at University and 32nd St.