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Markets & Stores 4

Saturday Farmers Market in Healdsburg

Melanie Wong | Sep 12, 200512:00 AM

Last weekend I caught the last half hour of the Healdsburg farmers market (9 to noon), my first visit this summer. It has been my favorite market. This year, it was better than ever with more local producers, greater variety, unique products, and more prepared foods for knoshing on the spot.

Lou Preston and Full Circle offered their breads on opposite ends of the market. Locally caught wild salmon cut to order (saving a trip to the coast), fresh pork and grassfed beef, and tiny extremely fragrant fraises grown by Villagomez for $2.50 per basket were new to me.

Pugs Leap offered tastes of farmstead goat cheeses --- mild styles with less age. They explained to me that their production is so low, they don't have enough milk to make aged styles of cheese yet. The names of the goats in their herd were displayed and they spoke lovingly of each animal I asked about (e.g., Vanessa and Eudora). I bought the last piece of Pavé, about 3.5 ounces shaped in a pyramid, and aged until chalky and near crumbly. The cheeses are sold by the ounce, this one was $1.50 per ounce. It was made from the August 22 milking.

Franco and Dino from Geyserville's Tavern Santi were selling their no-nitrates fresh sausages. They had a small smoker set up to cook samples for tasting or to buy an individual cooked sausage. The chorizo, linguica, and French country sausage I sampled were all wonderful with a succulent texture and fresh flavor that vacuum-packed, precooked offerings can't approach. When I returned to buy, only Polish kielbasa (pork and beef) was still available. A pound with four links was $8. Cooked at home, I liked these the least, as they were drier perhaps due to the beef content. But I look forward to buying the other, and my friends tell me that the Calabrese is even better than the ones I tried.

The Yucatan Tamales booth was selling banana leaf-wrapped tamales and yellow watermelon agua fresca. The tamales were $3 each and available in chicken, chili and cheese, CK lamb, and suckling pig. The owner told me that the suckling pig was from a local farm. I tried the lamb and the pig and was blown away by how good they were. These were very meaty with a smooth, fine-grained masa shell. The meats had slightly smoky nuances from roasting and great texture with the right amount of fat to add richness and keep them suave and moist. I couldn't decide between the two which I liked better, each had such distinct and intense flavor. The well-measured spicing of the roasted tomato-habanero sauce and the cinnamon-scented pickled onions hit just the right tones to complement the tamales. The simplicity, balance and directness of flavor caused me to muse that if Tuscans tried their hand at tamal-making, they'd taste a lot like these.

Image: http://static.flickr.com/24/40352492_...

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