Although several farmers have been running [a review of the first Evanston maket can be thru the link below], Oak Park opened today.
Last year's early season donut problems made it all the way to the front page of the Tribune Metro section, and perhaps being the most notabable story out of our village until the appearance of the Tasty Dog showdown. Anyway, no early season jitters this year. The donut makers were in mid-season form turning out exellent elemental donuts: plain, powedered sugar and cinannamon-sugar. The blues grass musicans were also in mid-season form. As always in their insular circle, making no reference to the crowds that, also, by chance happen to be in this parking lot this morning. Even if they do not like you, you cannot help like their roots music.
The wares: As I have rued before, there is no spring vegetable season around here. Certainly no spring fruit season. Gapping spaces existed in the parking lot where the Michigan fruit farmers will appear soon. Even more space was left void until later in the season when the big trailer filled with sweet corn gets parked. In addition, the slim pickings meant that by the time we arrived at about 9, a lot of stuff, like wild mushrooms, were kaput.
We barely recognized Nichols Farm because of their small bounty. At least, fulfilling expectations, they had three kinds of radishes. I went for the elongated stiped icicle at a pricey $1.50 per (small) bunch. We also picked up some rhubarb that I want Ms. VI to compote and serve with one of the great food memories from my time in Wales, shakey-shakey (i.e., condensed milk). They had some neat looking purple-hued spring onions and other alliums, but I am not fond of those kind of things.
The one abundant product was asparagus. We bough ours at Stibbs (I think that's their name), a Michigan farm that is the only place that sells equal parts of fruit and veg. Ms. VI wants to cook them with duck eggs (excuse to go to chinatown?), but I do not think it will make a huge difference to use hen eggs.
I expected more peas/sugar snaps. We found one very small stand selling sugar snaps at an ungodly price of $3.00 a pint. The free samples, however, lured us into submission. Unfortuantely, Ms. VI and Hannah ate most of them on the way home.
The other thing I expected was strawberries. We found them in the back corner at a stand that features stuff as close to Jewell as anything at the market. Their Illinois strawberries though, were ultra-real. Not very sweet yet, but tasting extremely of that rare stawberry flavor. Very pricey as well at $5.00 a pint.
The Honey Man, featured in a famous Avedon picture retured as did Herb the vinegar man and the cheese curd people, all in roughly the same spots as before, an amazing bit of continuity that feels so good.
See you next week.
The Oak Park Farmer's Market is in the Pilgrim's Church Parking Lot on the north side of Lake Street at Elmwood. Ample parking can be found on nearby. Pilgrim's church, true to name, looks extremely New Englandy.