I like farmer’s markets. I really love small farmer’s markets. I like the intersection between farmer’s markets and artisanal food producers. I like artisanal food producers. I love local and I love fresh.
When things are hopping at the Dallas Farmer’s Market shed #1, also known as the “local shed,” is stunning. The Dallas Farmer’s Market has instituted a program whereby a farmer must certify that a certain amount of their produce is, in fact, locally grown to even be in that shed. Here you will find the colors of the Texas summer. There are onions, and beans and whopping tomatoes, and squashes and zucchinis. And on this visit there was one lovely gentleman there who had boxes of the biggest, most lovely Portobello mushrooms that I have ever seen. Mike Lucik of Kitchen Pride Mushroom Farms was selling fabulous Gonzales, Texas mushrooms that just blew me away.
That is what a farmer’s market should be ALL about.
Shed #1 also houses the stall I would return to even if the rest of the place didn’t exist, and that is the one that sells Susan and Brandon’s Pure Local Blackland Honey. This time I bought a bottle of zip code honey, where the bees actually live in my neighborhood. That is local farming.
A nice surprise on this visit was what excellent treats I found in the enclosed and blissfully cool, shed #2. This shed used to be full of furniture vendors, if I remember correctly, and now it is sectioned off and spots are allotted to artisans, shops, and artisanal food vendors on a first come first served basis. There were not many folks in there on a lazy Sunday morning but two of the vendors made it utterly worth walking through. First, Wackym’s Kitchen, run by proprietor Paul Wackym, specializes in some of the best cookies I have ever eaten. I generally don’t buy cookies, because, frankly, I make killer cookies. But, Lily, leading the way, scored us a little nibble of their lemon cookies and I was hooked. These are the crunchiest, crispest, freshest little munchies around. They are made with real butter and natural ingredients and the flavors build after the crunch already has you smiling. Some of the lemon cookies came home with us. But we also tasted salted caramel and margarita cookies which were terrific. Don’t think tequila, think lime and sea salt. Holy cow. If I ever have a party and don’t want to bake, I’m going to put out a giant platter of these guys and watch my people descend into pure gluttony as I did the moment I opened the box. And they are great with coffee, one of my favorite cookie attributes.
Finally, I met some lovely folks with a tasting station set up for The Texas Hill Country Olive Company. I am quite impressed with the things going on in Texas with olive oil. I recently read a wonderful story by Nancy Reed Krabill of Flavor’s from Afar in Edible Dallas Fort Worth (check out the online version) about the Texas Olive Oil industry and I have spoken about the Texas Olive Ranch. And this is another stunning addition to the family. The Terra Verde olive oil that I purchased was incredibly smooth and delicious. And, I also tried a fig balsamic vinegar that was delicious, as well. I’ve said this before, but I really think these great Texas olive oils are going to become my go to hostess gift because unlike wine, they will be enjoyed over a long period of time and really highlight a wonderful and thriving new industry for Texas.
And if the Texas grown olives weren’t enough, there is also a family from Wichita Falls, Cesare and Betty (Taubert) Nadalini, that has an olive orchard in Italy and produces a lovely olive oil called Tutta Toscana. If you don’t get to the Farmer’s Market to try the Texas Hill Country Olive Company’s products, you can purchase both the Tutta Toscana and the Texas Olive Ranch Products at Flavor’s From Afar.
I detest shed #3 at the Dallas Farmers Market. There, I said it. And I think it ruins the nature of what could be a stunning farmer’s market. My understanding is that it is the same bulk produce that you are going to find at your neighborhood chain grocery store except without the air conditioning. And, if you are as lucky as I was, some rude (yes, probably overworked aching back tough job, etc.) creepy vendor woman will YELL at you right in front of your seven-year-old daughter for taking a picture of her onions. I have personally vowed, starting today, to never step foot again into Shed #3. I am a taxpayer. I get to be honest about the Dallas Farmer’s Market.
Because, I’ll tell you something…I like my local Albertson’s. I like my checkout ladies and I like the lady who meticulously cleans and stacks the produce and I like Jennifer who always bags my groceries and asks about my kids by name. That, too, is a kind of “local.” And the fact that it is three blocks away and not on the other side of downtown makes my Albertson’s experience pretty darn green, as well, in relation to the bulk produce sold in shed #3. So for me to get up early and go out to a farmer’s market it has to be a “food plus” scenario. It can’t just be food, because food I can get 3 blocks away. What shed #1 has (and not #3) that will keep me coming back is people who actually work on farms and in farm communities. There is one stall with a big and interesting bean huller and another with a giant pecan shelling machine. There I can point at purple un-hulled peas and tell my daughter about my Grandma Alma’s garden in Lakeside City, Texas or my Grandma Katie’s prolific cherry tomato plants on Hirschi Street in Wichita Falls. Because let’s be honest, in this world that has been spray painted green and where moms are made to feel abusive if they are not feeding their kids organic this and that, or because they (gasp) use the wrong type of plastic bottles, I’m not buying into the “feel good” farmer’s market game unless I see some farmers. Otherwise, it is an affectation.
But, getting yelled at notwithstanding, Lily and I had a nice morning and took some fun photos (which might be the actual draw of the DFM…which then led me to part with $50 for produce and products…which is something I think perhaps the yelling vendor didn’t consider).
I was told today that the next farmer’s market that I need to check out in this neck of the woods is the one at White Rock Lake and the sweet little Celebration Restaurant Farmer’s Market on Lover’s Lane that is back in business. Of course, I love McKinney’s farmer’s market. But if you know of a nearby (in the DFW metroplex, that is) market that I need to experience, please let me know. Or if you live anywhere or have visited any exceptional farmer’s markets, speak up. You never know when I’ll be in that neck of the woods.