Two years ago I and my lovely DC became empty-nesters and moved from Andover to downtown. I have made some progress in coming to understand the opportunity that is the Haymarket, want to share as well as get your impressions.
1. If you do not care what you spend on produce, do not go to the Haymarket. If you can buy everything at Whole Foods or Wilson’s without flinching, do not subject yourself. I flinch.
2. The value of the Haymarket increases exponentially with how easily you access it. Needing to drive e.g. is probably a showstopper, but people do it. I am fortunate enough to walk past it on Saturday morning pilgrimage to the North End.
3. You can never count on any specific produce being available at the Haymarket. You need to go with the attitude that you will cook/eat what you buy rather than you are going to buy things you have already selected to cook. I like this, forces a sort of ‘Iron Chef’ thing every week.
4. Much of the produce at the Haymarket is on its way to a dumpster which is why it is at the Haymarket to begin with. If you want consistently, brilliantly fresh produce see number 1.
5. There are exceptions to number 4 and herein lies the opportunity. Each week there are generally several extraordinary values. E.g. 4 lb bags of baby spinach for $1. Passable asparagus for $1 a bunch. Really nice naval oranges (this past weekend), 6/$1. At these prices the produce is essentially free … and here is what is, for me, special about the Haymarket. What do you do with free asparagus? (hint: you buy a lot of it, blanch it, puree it, and fill up your freezer. Yes, you will get sick of asparagus soup but that takes a long time). Same with berries and fruit for smoothies (cut up and freeze).
6. The Cheese Guy: Probably deserves (and I am sure has) his own post. Again, the key is to not compare him to a regular cheese store. Use him in *addition*, not instead of. He has many cuts of cheese at undetermined weights. They are $3 for 1, $5 for 2, $7 for 3 … sometimes, like last week he will sell a last (after 3) piece for $1, not always, you need to discuss. Some weeks all of the cheese is crap. Others there can be real bargains. Last weekend very good feta and my favorite – Weinbergkse Vignotte. Just weighed a piece, exactly 7 oz., if you assume it was a $2 piece that’s $4.57/lb. which is a great value.
7. Haymarket Pizza: Cheap! Not bad, not great.
8. Clam Guy: 3 freshly chucked cherrystones for $2. Awesome with the qualification that I am frequently there early in the morning, raw clams are a weird breakfast. If it was later in the day and there was a ‘beer guy’ next door we’d be onto something.
9. Dealing with the vendors.: Do not ask them to make change if you can avoid it. Never ask them to deal with coins, remember the produce is essentially free, round up. They are a lively bunch, on your first visits watch others; you will get a feel for the rhythm.
Any other Haymarket fans out there? What has been your experience? Any tips?