Posts Tagged ‘alexandria market watch’

At the Alexandria Markets: Strawberries!

Monday, May 4th, 2009

It’s Farmers Market week here at FoodieTots, so stay tuned all week for market re-openings and seasonal recipes featuring farm fresh food from the Chesapeake Bay foodshed. Hooray for spring!

veras brazilian tamales pamonhaThe rain held off most of the morning for the Del Ray Farmers Market (Saturdays, 8am-noon). New vendor Shlagel Farms had just a few of the season’s first strawberries. (We were too late for them, but the woman working at Three Way Farms’ stand reported bartering for their last box. Three Way will also have them next week.) Shlagel is a third-generation farm in the District suburbs (Waldorf, Md.) and had a wealth of potted plants and cooler of crisp lettuces. Three Way Farm had plenty of asparagus, and the farm from Riva, Va., returned this week with beets and peas (again, sold out early), broccoli and spring onions. Vera’s Bakery, a.k.a. the scone ladies, have new signage and expanded product offerings this year, including vegan cookies, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and these delicious pamonha (pictured), Brazilian tamales filled with corn and mozzarella. Marcela’s continues to do a brisk business selling their excellent chicken and beef saltenas — my favorite breakfast.

Unfortunately, the vendors at the West End Farmers Market (Sundays, 9am-1pm) grand opening were not so lucky, weather-wise, but they toughed it out despite the deluge. The library volunteers valiantly tried to entertain kids with the promised story-reading, but the Foodie Tot wasn’t going to stand in the rain unless there was food being offered. Poor Westmoreland Berry Farms was relegated to the far end of the lot and looked likely to be washed away in the storm drain overflow. (Her strawberries, though, are deep red and juicy thanks to all the rain this spring.) Tom the Cheese Guy brought his famous 7-cheese macaroni as a special “welcome back” treat (it’s usually reserved for winter months). Next to his booth (where soggy shoppers congregated under his tent with weather-protecting sides – smart purchase, Tom!) was North Gate Vineyard with their mostly Loudoun County-grown wines, including award-winning cabernet franc and petit verdot, and an apple wine. (What is it with Virginia wineries and fruit wine?) Lisa’s dog treats were a welcome reward for the pups whose owners dragged them out in the rain. Papa’s Orchard had Pink Lady and Fuji apples from last fall, while Medina & Son had more strawberries, radishes and a plethora of greens. Medina had potted flowers as well, and the flower guy has also returned with cut flowers.

west end alexandria farmers market

New vendor Wisteria Gardens, of Berkeley Springs, WV, was another popular stop for kids and grown-ups alike with samples of their wonderful fresh salsas and hummus, including spicy and Indian curried flavors. They also had lovely fresh, pesticide-free spring greens and sweet pea shoots. Other new vendors included J-Wen Farms’s fresh Pennsylvania milk and butter, a sheep and goat farm selling wool and soaps, a flavored olive oil vendor, another soap vendor, two coffee stands, and Bonaparte bakery with the soups and pastries seen Saturdays at Del Ray. The Gourmet on the Go truck has returned with other goodies to round out your shopping, including local bison and ham. (Hillsdale will be returning with organic chicken, but was absent this week.)

Sure, the Alexandria markets don’t have quite the diversity of products as the bigger DC markets – though they get closer every year – but we do tend to get items like strawberries a week or two earlier thanks to our slightly more southern Virginia farmers.

strawberry kale salad

Our first pints of strawberries are typically gobbled up whole before we have a chance to cook anything – in this case, we ate half a pint in the car while drying off – but I did make an all-local strawberry, “prosciutto-style ham” and spring green salad for dinner last night. Here are some of our favorite strawberry recipes from last year, which will be revisited soon:

& and check out the strawberry recipe round-up at The Whole Gang.

So, what did you find at market this weekend?

PS Local moms — pass this link on to your kids or spouse for a chance to win a mother’s day spa visit from Northern Virginia Magazine, deadline Weds. May 6.

At Market: West Virginia Ramp Crepes

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

In typical DC fashion, we jumped from unseasonably cool to 90 degrees this past weekend. Toddler in tow, I made it out to the markets a little earlier this time and successfully obtained my two wishlist items: ramps and asparagus. At the Old Town Alexandria market, the khaki-colored umbrellas of Bigg Riggs farm were a welcome oasis in a sea of dubious-origin produce. Melon, tomatoes and corn in April? Right…. I hope more local vendors will join Bigg Riggs as the season goes on, but unfortunately Old Town continues to disappoint those of us looking for authentic local produce. (Blue Ridge Dairy was there, and local bakers, but this market’s strength is its fresh flower vendors.

ramps wild leeks bigg riggs

Back at the Del Ray Farmers Market, Three Way Farms was rapidly unloading their fresh asparagus, even at the price of $5.50/lb. Fresh spinach was the last of my produce purchases before moving on for yogurt, cheese, ground beef and pasta. The warm weather crowds bode well for the season, though the small market space will quickly become crowded when fresh berries and more produce start rolling in in the next few weeks.

asparagus three way farm va

The West End Farmers Market re-opens this Sunday, May 3rd, in Ben Brenman Park. Tom the Cheese Guy was eager to let us know he’ll be joined there by a Virginia winery, North Gate, though the city forbids sampling their products at the market. At any rate, West End’s more spacious set-up — and wider array of vendors this year — make it great for a more relaxing stroll with meandering kids (or dogs – Lisa will be back with her homemade dog treats, too). The market is on Sundays, 9am-1pm; read more about this year’s vendors here.

Back to my finds… Sunday the toddler was in the early stages of a stomach bug, and requested pancakes for dinner. While he got plain old pancakes with maple syrup (I have a feeling he would have declared the ramps “too spicy!” but will have to test that another time), I used some of my ramps in a scallion pancake-inspired crepe, filled with leftover roast chicken. The quick and simple preparation let the ramps’ pungent garlicky flavor shine through, yum! Served along with simple roasted asparagus, this quick spring meal was perfect for breaking in our picnic table for the season. (Just be sure to stock up on breath mints before enjoying.)

Recipe: Ramp (Wild Leek*) Crepes

Ingredients:

  • 1 handful ramps, rinsed and thinly sliced
    - reserve some of the green portion for garnish
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • pinch ground black pepper
  • 2 cups cooked chicken meat, pulled into chunks
  • butter

Instructions: Beat eggs and milk in mixing bowl. Whisk in flour, salt and pepper until batter is smooth. Stir in ramps and let batter stand while you prepare the filling. Heat crepe pan or skillet over medium high heat. Melt a pat of butter in the pan. Pour crepe batter in a quick swirl to make a circular shape. Cook until just set and flip; cook just a minute or two more and remove from pan. Watch closely to keep crepes from browning. Fold in half and place on warm plate while you cook the remaining batter. Spoon warm cooked chicken (tossed with vinaigrette if desired) into crepes and serve. Makes a dozen or so 3-inch crepes.

* What’s a Ramp? Also called a wild leek, these delicate-looking little plants pack the flavor of a more potent spring onion and stench of fresh garlic. Use the whole thing, bulbs and leaves. They grow in the wild at elevations above 2000 feet, only in the mid-Atlantic region for a few weeks in early spring. For more ramp inspiration, visit Tiffany over at The Garden Apartment.