Boulder Farmers' Market returns with greens and goat meat
It's Saturday morning and I'm driving to the Follow @CafeWestword">Boulder Farmers' Market. The car radio is spinning a jubilant story about a dragonfly who ran away (but she came back with a story to say) and the sky is an interesting mix of colors and cloud shapes -- transparent light blue lakes, a thick bar of charcoal over the mountains portending eventual rain, cauliflower-shaped cumulus clouds. I haven't eaten ice cream or gelato all winter. Well, maybe a cone or two. But the gelato at Bryce Licht and Giulia De Meo's Fior de Latte stand last summer ruined me for the regular stuff and once the market closed last fall, I couldn't find it anywhere else. That's one of the reasons I'm so excited about the market opening for the 2014 season this morning under the leadership of a new executive director: Brian Coppom, who's evangelical about soil, small farmers and fresh local produce, and who has some interesting changes planned.
Hazel Dell Mushrooms display at the Boulder Farmers' Market.
There are other reasons for excitement: lox, smoked salmon and long pink glistening filets of fish taken from the water by fisherman Matt Aboussie of Alaska Wild Salmon. You can get it elsewhere, but I prefer chatting and swapping recipes with Matt in person. Pork from Eva Teague, whose Plowshare Farms is undergoing a transformation from meat-only to include vegetables -- which means Eva has spent the winter hard at work, hiring, planning and planting.
Greens from Black Cat Farm.
Once I've arrived and parked (it pays to arrive early if you want to park anywhere close), I begin strolling the market and see bunches of glistening spring onions on the Plowshare stand, next to cooked samples of breakfast sausage.
Farmer John Ellis will eventually bring in luscious peaches; for now the stand boasts jams and flour ground from his own wheat. ELA Family Farms is also offering jams and fruit butters, as well as slices of dried apples. Usually the pickings for vegetables at the first couple of markets are slim: lots of bedding plants, some of last winter's stored onions and potatoes, leafy greens. But many of the farmers are clearly motivated to stretch limits this year and there are also a few new vendors on hand.
You never see tomatoes and cucumbers this early -- but the folks from Honeyacre are here for the first time this morning with huge, unblemished hothouse tomatoes, and at least three stands boast cucumbers. I buy a bag of the crisp small ones grown by Peter Volz at Oxford Gardens. Hazel dell Mushrooms has spruced up its display, placing mushrooms on trays, so that you can inhale the forest-floor scent and admire the colors shading from cream to almost black and the beautiful, varied and eccentric shapes. There are also a couple of large growing blocks, with mushrooms at every stage peering from the sides.
Frank Silva of All Natural Homestead Beef has a larger stand than before on which to display his wares, and he has plans for a general expansion. His daughter Julie is exploring the market with her little son, Isaac, who has trouble summoning up a hello for me since he's grieving for a spilled hot chocolate. You can buy ground beef in the store -- quality, organic, grass-fed, even -- but I swear it's greasier and less appetizing than Silva's, and I wince at the possibility that every dollop of commercial ground meat may contain the remains of several cows. After years of attending this market, I know just how meticulous Silva is in the care of his cattle, and I also know this is how I want my family to eat.
Chef Eric Skokan is behind his Black Cat Farm stand, clearly happy to be back, and discussing different kinds of greens with a customer: arugula, mizuna, baby lettuce leaves and things more exotic. Where I see a close to undifferentiated row of greenness, he's a connoisseur, aware of flavors from bitter to sweet to biting to mild and happy to advise people on what goes best with what.
A new vendor, El Regalo Ranch from Salida, is giving out samples of ground goat meat. It's tasty and juicy and I buy four little chops: I've never cooked goat, and I'm anxious to experiment.
El Regalo Ranch goat meat.
The New York Times has been breathless lately about new baked goods. It started with the cronut -- a cross between a croissant and a doughnut -- and the long lines that formed every morning at the door of the creator, pastry chef Dominique Ansel. Now other novelties are jostling in the marketplace: The least appetizing-sounding of these is the pie milkshake, and the winner, according to the Times, is the scuffin, a muffin-shaped scone with jam inside. It's an indicator of how decadent we've become that, with so much hunger in the country, we're constantly on the prowl for the new and trendy.
But there's one trendy treat I can't resist, the kouign-amman, or Colorado Queen, sold at the Udi's bread stand: layers of crisp buttery dough with a sugar glaze. One of these with apples on top, along with coffee from Silver Canyon, makes up breakfast.
For dinner Saturday night we have a huge salad: a mound of greens (Black Cat, Toohey and Sons, which carried whole heads of tender butterhead lettuce -- something you normally never see at early markets); cucumbers (Oxford Gardens); transparent onion slices (Far Out Gardens); tomatoes (Honeyacre), hard-boiled eggs (Black Cat); smoked salmon (Wild Alaska Salmon); capers King Soopers!). For the dressing, I thinned regular store-bought mayonnaise with lemon juice and a little water and doctored it with dried dill and garlic. So easy, so fresh, so delicious and a true homage to the new season.
And chocolate gelato for dessert.