It is the very best time of year for fresh greens, and February is the zenith of Texas spinach. The spinach leaves are perfectly mature, tender, and at their peak flavor, because spinach loves the cold. At a certain point, the spinach becomes good only for cooking, but right now it is just right for salads or a quick wilting.
Russian kale and dinosaur kale are also magnificent these days, the leaves big, but nowhere near big enough to get tough. Both spinach and kale are lovely cooked up with bacon. Flying Pig Provision Company makes the best, read all about it if you haven’t already.
Lately, I usually buy my tomatoes at the Downtown SFC Market, but this week I waited to buy on Sunday from South Star of Texas at the Bluebonnet Market. These tomatoes are grown in greenhouses out in Marfa, Texas, and have a really wonderful color, deep red all the way through. They are never refrigerated, so they can be stored on the kitchen counter to continue to ripen, just like a summer tomato.
Sometimes there are vendors who I pass by, usually because they are selling something I already grow in my garden, or something I make myself. This was the case with Juicy Jay’s Meatballs. I make my own marinara (usually with Ottmers tomatoes), so I barely glanced at his wares, which was a mistake! Last Sunday at the Mueller Market, I finally tried his marinara with pork and meatballs, and it is incredible. Thick, rich, red tomato sauce, with tender, falling-apart pork and big meatballs; it tastes just like I imagine the marinara sauce in the movie Moonstruck tastes. It is also quite a bargain, only $12 for a large container.
Juicy Jay’s also makes Marinara with just meatballs, Marinara with tofu balls, and gluten-free cheesecake. Jay had sold out of the Tofu Balls (this is Austin!), but was happy to let me sample his cheesecake, which is extremely light, with a rich lemony finish.
Engel Farms has been growing strawberries this winter under protective cover in sun tunnels, and they are bringing the early fruits of the crop to the Cedar Park Farmers’ Market and the Downtown Farmers Market this Saturday. There aren’t enough strawberries yet to last until the Sunday markets; even on Saturday, you’ll want to get there early.
In a few weeks, a few vendors such as Willie McKemie and Hairston Creek Farm will be bringing asparagus and artichokes to the Mueller and Cedar Park Markets.
This just in: The Parks and Wildlife Department will be releasing rainbow trout into the Mueller lake this weekend!
IO Ranch Lamb has some of the prettiest lamb right now. I ran into chefs Jennifer Costello and Chris Hurley hand-picking lamb chops at the Sunset Valley Market last Saturday, and I got some great photos of lamb, like this one of a “Frenched” standing rib roast. Jeff at IO Ranch has chops, rosemary sausages, sirloins, roasts, and entire legs of lamb that are all outstanding.
The Winfield family of Winfield Farm, who sell their vegetables and canned goods at the Barton Creek Farmers Market, have suffered a dreadful calamity: they have lost their barn, their tools, their pet tortoise and their new goat. (I think the barn burned down.) Let’s buy everything they have to sell this weekend. If they have a fundraiser, you can find out about it in this space next week.
Johnson’s Backyard Garden lost so many crops to the Arctic blasts that Brenton has brought in some organic Washington State apples to augment his CSA boxes, and they are available at the JBG farmstands, too. These are nice, hard apples, very crisp, but sweet rather than tart. JBG is also still bringing up organic grapefruits and oranges form the Rio Grande Valley. I bought a bag of grapefruits last weekend and they are just-picked fresh and heavenly.
JBG also has red and green cabbages of varying sizes, something you can’t get at the supermarket, where they are all enormous. The smaller cabbages are perfect for one meal, and are tender, as well. If you have never sauteéd fresh cabbage in butter, you are in for a treat.
STAR Market has really wonderful salad turnips right now, perfect for glazing. CKC Dairy has also added a new product: Artichoke Jalapeño goat cheese, which I have to admit is on my list for Saturday already; it sounds so good.
New Bread Rising will be back at the Saturday Barton Creek Market and the Sunday Bluebonnet Market after taking last weekend off.
Austin Honey Company, who sell at many area markets including HOPE, Downtown, Sunset Valley and Cedar Park, still have just a little of their honey-in-the-comb. I am a huge fan of comb honey, and it is only available for a short time every year. Austin Honey has a vast array of bee products, including beeswax candles, dining tapers, lip balm, pure beeswax, clear honey, and cream honey.
Vital Farms (Bluebonnet and Barton Creek) is selling boneless, skinless breasts, legs and wings in big packages this weekend, perfect for Super Bowl grilling. They have also begun selling a line of gluten-free Teff bread. Teff in an ancient grain that is very good for you, still a major dietary component of many African cuisines.
If you miss the Saturday markets, Ruth Wilmore at the Bluebonnet Farmers’ Market is selling some Full Quiver Farm products on Sunday, as the Sams family has to get back to their farm. Lately she has been selling Full Quiver Cheddar, Feta, Mozzarella, and a few of the cream cheese spreads.
Last Saturday as I went up to the Celtic Seafare table, there were little tasters of hot-smoked salmon to try. After one taste, I said, “I’ll Take It!!!”. But it was too late; Sebastien had already sold out. Celtic Seafare is getting to the point where they just can’t make product fast enough to meet demand...get there early.
Over at the HOPE Market, they will be welcoming a new vendor: Flat Track Coffee, who will be selling the full range of espresso drinks.
Countryside Farms (Downtown and HOPE) will begin selling Petite Boîtes this weekend, which are little boxes full of their specialties, such as charcuterie, pre-sliced smoked duck breast, goose plum pate, wild hog chorizo, duck and goose rillettes, and oxtail terrine. I hope someone at HOPE will be selling baguettes!
Windy Hill Farm will be bringing goat sausage to the HOPE Market this weekend. Ground goat and goat ribs will be on special as well. I have had goat ribs, and they are fantastic, so easy to cook and packed with flavor.
In other Farmers’ Market News, a new, indoor Farmers’ Market is in the planning stages. The Quonset hut-style building is on East Fifth Street, very close to the HOPE Farmers’ Market in Plaza Saltillo. A loan from the city will be needed for the redevelopment to take place. Because the proposed new market will definitely be encroaching of the HOPE Market’s turf, so to speak, it is to be hoped that the newcomers will reach out to the more established market, and that both will prosper.
The Dai Due Butcher Shop made oh! so many special treats for Super Bowl Sunday, but sadly most of them have already sold out to their mailing list customers. As of this writing, they will have Venison Hot Dogs for sale for your Super Bowl parties, but the queso is gone, gone, gone.
Here’s the menu for Saturday Downtown and Sunday at Mueller:
Breakfast & Lunch at the Market
Breakfast Sandwich - Smoked boneless pork chop, a scrambled egg, and Stryk cheddar on a Gougere roll;
Chilaquiles with a fried egg, crema, onion, and duck cracklin’s in green chili sauce;
Achiote Duck Taco with cortido;
Venison Andouille and Oyster Gumbo with smoked wild boar, Texas rice, and green onion;
Cafe a la Olla.
See you at the Market!
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