The Union Square Farmer’s Market opened for the season today. My summer Saturday ritual now begins: Up at 8, quick breakfast, walk down the hill to the market, and buy vegetables, fruit, and meat with an eye toward the week’s meal planning. I’ve been doing this for the three years the market has been running, so I’m a recognizable regular with most of the vendors.
I visited each stand today:
B & R Artisan Bread, bakers of the best brioche loaf I’ve ever tasted. Today I bought a lof of their light caraway rye.
It’s been three years and I still don’t know the name of this stand. (It doesn’t help that the owner can’t be bothered to put up a sign.) Later in the season he’ll have amazing hen of the woods and lobster mushrooms, but I chose the red leaf lettuce and peppery French breakfast radishes for a salad.
Two pints of strawberries from Drumlin Farm.
The Herb Lyceum had their usual offerings of honey and herbs to plant, but I’ll wait until they have the mixed herb planters in a few weeks, since I don’t have any planing space for a herb garden. The Lyceum is also the produce supplier for Cambridge’s Garden at the Cellar restaurant.
Kimball Fruit Farm gets off to a slow start, but their business will explode later in the summer when their tomato crop comes in. Today I bought their spinach and thin asparagus.
Cook’s Farm Orchard makes fruit pies so good you’ll weep as you eat them. I can never remember the name of the woman who runs the stand â€” we all call her “the pie lady” â€” but she remembered me and had saved me a triple berry pie.
The new vendor this year is Fiore Di Nonno who make mozzarella and burrata cheese. Although each vendor at the market can claim to be “local” â€” if you extend the radius for local to 60 miles or so â€” none are more local than these cheesemakers. They made the mozzarella the same morning at their kitchen, which is all of six blocks away.
Fiore Di NonnoÂ (“grandfather’s flower”) make only one thing, but they make it perfectly. The mozarella is firm, not mushy, with a bit of bite to it. The cheese’s taste starts salty, but finishes with a buttery richness I’d never experienced before. I’ll be buying a ball of this every week.
Although I don’t have a photo, I also stopped at Stillman’s to buy a dozen fresh eggs. I bought a share in their meat CSA (community sponsored agriculture), which will start next month.
Here’s today’s haul:
I’ll admit that London’s Borough Market has spoiled me for smaller neighborhood markets. But what the Union Square market lacks in depth it more than makes up for in community. I reconnect with people after the long cold winter. We catch up on local news, trade recipes, and generally act like what we are: neighbors.
The Union Square market is, from what I have seen, one of the better farmer’s markets in the area, in part because there is a nice emphasis on having a variety of good produce. Some markets are over-dominated by sellers of jams and cookies and the like, and not enough veg. After we move, that should be an easy short bike ride.
Last week I was at Russo’s picking up some cheese for a party (Terra’s group at MIT was having a party for their graduating students) and they had some cheddar labeled as being from the Borough Market. So I had to try it. It was a pretty nice cheese. Mild, but definitely cheddary. (Once in a great while I’ve found the Neil’s Yard cheddar, which is really nice, but too expensive to have more than once in a great while).
In my opinion, the best cheese counter is at the River Street Whole Foods. Huge variety without the snobbish condescension you have to deal with at Fromaggio in Huron Village. But don’t ignore Capone Foods in Union Square – smaller selection, skewed toward Italian, but excellent cheeses.
Oh yeah, Whole Foods is usually pretty good for cheese. I don’t think I’ve actually made it into Forgmaggio–I’ve gone over there a couple of times, and been unable to park.
“Skewed toward Italian” is okay with me.
“Skewed toward Italian” is also a good description of my childhood.