By Lisa Bloom
A trip to the Foothills Farmers’ Auburn Market, open for business every Saturday in a City parking lot near the intersection of Lincoln Way and Auburn Folsom Road, in the shadow of our historic Auburn Courthouse, is an adventure. If you love to eat seasonally and like to know where your food comes from, this is the place for you. If you like to support local small business, the market is the ultimate “shop local” experience. For someone who cooks like me, the market is heaven of possibilities.
The market changes with the seasons. Open all year long, right now, in the early spring, the market is lively but smaller than it will be as the peak growing season of late spring and summer rolls around.
I have a process when I visit the market. Basically, I dawdle. I grab a coffee before arriving and then search out The Baker and The Cakemaker for a muffin. This Saturday it was pumpkin topped with crumbles…delicious! Then I make the circuit, checking out who’s here this week, what they have for sale, if anyone has something new to offer. Sometimes I’m there for something specific, particularly if I’m preparing a special dinner for a client. Most times I wander and let inspiration come.
This week I had nothing in particular in mind, so I made two circuits before I buckled down to actually purchasing. That’s never a hardship, particularly on a sunny Saturday, when you’re nibbling on your muffin, sipping on your coffee, people watching and being entertained by the gentleman playing horn at the entrance.
I went home with some lamb from Sinclair Family Farms, some golden beets and strawberries from Rodriguez Brothers Ranch (not local, but from my “homeplace” on the central coast) and some Chinese broccoli from Vue Family Farms, all destined for a dinner early the next week; a couple of tamales from The Crazy Gringo to build a meal around later in the week and some artisan goat cheese from Jollity Farm. Almost took home some fresh fish from The Little Fish Company, but opted for the red meat instead. Their fish is fantastic and you can order from their website, request custom cuts and pick up at the market. Costs a little more, but well worth it…maybe next week. Unfortunately, I missed out on my Meyer Lemon/Rosemary bread from The Baker and The Cakemaker…bummer.
One of the benefits of the Farmers’ Market is that you’re buying direct from the grower or the artisan. If you see something that you’ve not seen before or something you know, but you’re not sure how to cook it, nothing beats being able to get the 411 from the source. I’d never seen Chinese broccoli before…didn’t look like broccoli to me, but more like winter greens. So I asked…What’s it taste like? How does it compare to “regular” broccoli? How do you like to prepare it? The thing is, farmers love to talk about their product and they always have a favorite way they like to cook it! Turns out the goat cheese guy from Jollity farms has been making goat cheese for 20+ years and he’s passionate about his stuff! And it was great being able to sample and discuss. I opted for both a tub of the soft along with a little wheel of his aged goat cheese which was something new for me. It had a really unique tangy/nutty flavor, not a hard cheese like Parmesan, but not soft and spreadable. I’m looking forward to trying it with some local wine.
So my advice to you is to head out to the market some Saturday morning. Whether you’re the get in, get your stuff and get out type or a lollygagger like me, it’s a nice way to spend some time. There’s something for everybody…produce, artisan crafts, fresh flowers, cheese, baked goods, chocolates, fresh off the boat seafood, prepared foods, and even something for the pooch. You never know what will take your fancy. Get there early and beat the crowd or come a little later and take advantage of some wood-fired pizza from Bella Familia for lunch—you can’t miss. And bring a bag!
Lisa Bloom, Owner: A Window Opened