The Queen Anne farmers market neighborhood
Seattle is a hilly city. I walked from Lake Union up to the Queen Anne farmers’ market for 45 min and I could feel it, it replaced a workout. It took me through a neighborhood of individual houses all with some patina and character. It seemed that people here were living since quite some time, some with elaborate gardens and a few with veggie growing on the sidewalk. Hybrids and Volvos were to find as well. It didn’t look rich but definitely not poor either. On the main street Trader Joe’s and some post-hipster shops were clearly visible. Somehow a perfect cliché area for a premium farmers’ market.
I was overwhelmed by the market: so big, so lively so many great choices. The neighborhood seems to truly embrace this market, it looked like everybody was there to purchase fresh produce for home cooking. They had often big baskets and were wandering from one fresh produce stall to another, checking on what would best fit their desires. Veggies and fruit were in full season: berries, peppers, pumpkin, eggplants, zucchinis, tomatoes, salads, chilies, corn, beets, and so much more. All was nicely presented, making it impossible not to buy anything. Find the “best” producer wasn’t easier either, but it was fun. The vibe was definitely a feel good one.
The fresh produce stalls are dominating the market, something I always appreciate. It is the best way to get a feeling for the differences in quality and taste. And it is a great incentive to cook from scratch. Most of the stalls made an effort to explain their way of production, e.g organic, free range etc. to show their customers that they contribute (hopefully) in local or regional sustainability. As we were in full garden season, farmers showed the different varieties of produce like yellow, green and purple looking beans; tomatoes showed different shapes and colors as well. Now: what to chose for which type of recipe? I still have to learn that and the market is the right place to do so, and Queen Anne farmers market delivered the right excitement and motivation.
My two heroes (bacon & cider)
At markets I often have the chance to make discoveries, mostly I just tumble across them without any system or so in my mind. Sometimes it is about a great story, sometimes about a great produce or even both. At Queen Anne farmers market I was again lucky.
I walked by Carl’s Cutting Board a couple times without noticing the stall. One of the challenges of US farmers’ markets is that there are no meat or fish mongers who have a nice display of their produce. Almost everything is frozen and stored in coolers making it hard to appreciate the full range of products. I am not sure what the reason is: lack of power or lack of capital for a decent stall.
After my second or third round of the market I gave it a try and started talking with Carl. He had a good story to tell. He came from Sweden to Seattle to work with Amazon in their headquarters and soon started to take culinary classes in his free time. He liked it and decided to start his own business producing bacon, sausages and more, but no meat cuts. It sounds like one of these urban fairy tales which always amazes me: giving up a corporate life and starting a craft business out of sheer passion. “When your are doing something you really like, you need less money” was is answer when I asked him why he was giving up a high salary job. His choice of profession was good for me, and I guess for others as well: the smoked bacon I bought had a superb taste, not comparable with the one you get at super markets.
Sampling is one of the easy things to do at a US farmers’ market. And sometimes even sampling of alcoholic beverages. The Finnriver cider stall did it as well. I know cider as a drink which rarely provides a taste beyond a basic one. Here, I had about half a dozen samples and I am now convinced: you can do so much more out of an apple. The ciders had such a broad range of aromas that it was a real pleasure. The variety was truly large: some ciders were more traditional, some more modern, somehow the apple analogy of unusual craft beers. There were oak-aged ciders (I bought that one), botanical ones, … I was deeply impressed how far the cider craft can take us in discovering the world of aromas. And looking at the number of Finnriver fans on Facebook, I am not the only one who thinks that way.
What did I buy?
Being in a hotel restrained my choice, despite a kitchenette. It was blueberry season, I can’t resist. Alvarez organic farms had very nice pickled peppers/chilies with the right heat to it. The oak-aged cider made me very happy, and sad, because I believe I will not find such a good one back in Germany. And yes the bacon did not last very long …
I tried also some street food, salmon on a roll, it couldn’t convince me. Still it looked good like most of the other food.
All in all: Just a great market with excellent produce and a very nice feel good vibe – worth a detour
A little link list:
- The official website of the Queen Anne farmers market
- The Queen Anne farmers market on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram
- The website of Carl the Swedish guy who makes such great charcuterie of course on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook as well
- The website of the great cider maker Finnriver, on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook