Seattle's Farmer's Markets
The debate over food miles and what is best for the environment may continue, but when it comes to taste, there really is no contest. Which would you rather have? Berries just picked that morning, or those that have been sitting for weeks in a refrigerated environment of volatile aliphatic acids? Finding the best local food, particularly when it’s organic and sustainably raised, is a win-win for your tastebuds, especially in the summer when Seattle’s almost-daily farmer’s markets come alive.
Each week local area farmers bring new treats to tempt and inspire me. I can't help but come home from a trip to the Saturday morning University market with something special. This week it was huckleberries, last week garlic shoots. I rarely know that I'm going to do with my finds, but it's such a joy to discover them. And often, they are available for just a short time that I certainly can't resist. And, from the looks of the other shoppers, with their bags brimming over and ear-to-ear grins on their faces, neither can they.
Local Seattle chefs from all over the city get into the act as well, either sourcing local ingredients directly from the farm or joining the rest of us in the market aisles.
Start with Sitka & Spruce whose chalkboard menu is the epitome of fresh, seasonal and local. Try one of the just tossed, herby salads with the greens of the moment to go along with meats ranging from a milk roasted pork to beef tongue. Don’t be scared off by the unusual combinations! Dishes may test your comfort zone, but the brave are rewarded by some of the best food in the city. Food & Wine agrees, having named chef/owner Matt Dillon one of the top 10 best new chefs in the nation.
Heading downtown, chefs have their pick of the Pike Place Market, and many take advantage of all it has to offer year round. Kerry Sears of Cascadia, in addition to shopping regularly at Pike Place Market, offers guided tours followed by a market fresh lunch on select Fridays and Wednesdays throughout the summer. Sears, who seems to know all the vendors by name, excitedly picks up an heirloom tomato, and slices off a sample for each person in the group. It’s sweet and tangy without a trace of mealiness. The perfect taste of summer. A stop at Quality Cheese, and we taste some of Sally Jackson’s luscious goat cheese from Oroville, Washington. The creamy bite simply melts in my mouth.
At the newly opened Entre Nous (“between us”), chef/owner Stephane Ohayan brings French tapas to life with fresh market finds as well. Each morning, if you arrive early, you’ll likely spot Stephane combing his way through the stalls looking for haricot vert or mussels from Puget Sound. One particular evening, Ohayan stops by our table to excitedly share his find of sea scallops. We don’t resist, and have no regrets about adding an order to our meal and chowing down on these perfectly seasoned jewels of the sea.
Although smaller than some other markets, the Columbia City summer market, every Wednesday afternoon, draws in local restaurateurs like La Medusa's Julie Andres who can be spotted piling her little red wagon full of fresh produce. If you are lucky, you'll get one of her highly coveted seats for Wednesday night dinner, which combines the best of her just-picked finds with modern Sicilian cookery.
Upper Queen Anne’s Eat Local takes a different spin on reducing food miles. Instead of dining out, fresh ingredients sourced from local, organic farms are chef-prepared for you to take home and serve. Full Circle Farms, Carlton Ranch and Circle S are just some of the local farm names that dot the seasonally changing menu that ranges from brunchy foods like housemade granola and flapjacks to specialties of Dungenous crab risotto, ratatouille lasagna and baby back ribs.
Really, it's hard to find a Seattle restaurant that isn't serving up the local goods in this time of year. The International District's Made in Kitchen, a chic and charming Vietnamese restaurant within walking distance to the stadiums gets into the game this time of year with a special plate of fresh Rainier cherries as an after dinner nibble. Anthony's Homeport at SeaTac airport serves up local strawberries in cocktails and desserts at the peak of the season.
Eating local may just be the latest foodie fad, but it’s a fad that deserves to stick around. It’s great for local economies, it’s healthy and most importantly, it tastes oh-so-good.
Article and photos by Lara Ferroni, local Seattle photographer and writer
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