Posted By Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle
5/12/2009 11:01:00 PM
We have a particular fondness for farmers markets, even the three vendor kind found by the side of the road in small towns. They provide an opportunity to enjoy real local food presented in season by folks who usually care deeply about the products they offer. Most will readily chat up anyone showing an interest. It's both inspiring and reassuring to hear the enthusiasm of these craftspeople working outside of the mass-production system.
One of our all-time favorite markets is the one in Portland. This is a large, but not enormous, fair of a market with a very sunny disposition, located near the university on Saturdays (and elsewhere on other days). Musicians play, children play, and everyone seems to be having a very mellow time. We were impressed by the uniform high quality to be found here. A springtime visit turned up baskets of fresh-picked strawberries (the samples offered proved them to be fragrant and intensely flavored) and piles of enormous, gorgeous morels, at very reasonable prices (for morels). There were yards of pristine greens and vegetables of many kinds, moist soil still clinging to their roots. Oh how we wished we had a kitchen!
For non-locals like us, however, there are a wealth of opportunities to graze among the various stands. In particular, Pearl Bakery offered a pecan-rosemary panini that may well have been (no exaggeration) the single best bread item we have ever eaten! Another stand featured scrumptious little petit fours, two for a buck, which were little almond pastry pyramids hiding a fresh raspberry. And we loved the Italian sausage sandwich produced by Salumeria di Carlo. Our major quibble with the garden variety Italian sausage sandwiches sold elsewhere is that the peppers and onions generally taste unseasoned and overcooked. The sandwiches sold here, while made with really terrific sausage, would be equally delicious without it, so well-prepared are the peppers and onions (but we do recommend getting the sausage).
No doubt visits at other times of the year will turn up different vendors selling different items, but we are confident that whenever we next visit, there will be plenty of wondrous food to ogle and enjoy.