Tall Grass Bakery

A Few Things to Be Thankful for at 2014's Last Bellevue Farmers Market

The original teacup squash, grown by the hub

Alas, we have come to the end.

And there's not even any time to mourn properly because Thanksgiving and Decembermageddon will shortly be upon us. At least my 11YO daughter reminded me to put out the Thanksgiving decorations, for their brief stint before the Christmas bomb goes off in the house. (Exhibit A: my favorite tablecloth [right], all but buried under three computers and truckloads of papers, homework, and other crud.)

If your mind is desperately trying to get a head start on the season, let me help you out. Whether you have to put the whole meal together, or someone just assigned you one dish, the Market has what you need.

Your holiday Market shopping list:

  • Cranberries for sauce. It's fine to make it now--all that sugar keeps it indefinitely.
  • Salad greens. Chard, kale, spinach, mixed greens. Thanksgiving meals can be so starch-heavy that you want your salad to perk up the palate. The flavorful greens go well with Holmquist Hazelnuts and Tieton Farm and Creamery Cheese. Toss in some thin apple or pear slices!
  • Soup. Make your own with some butternut squash or pick up some quarts to go from Got Soup? Everyone just needs a teensy cup of flavorful soup, to prepare them for the heavy-duty eating ahead.
  • Bread and rolls.
  • Cider and wine.

 Martin Orchards has mouth-watering apple and pear flavors. Drink them straight, heated with mulling spices, or splashed in with sparkling water for your own "sparkling cider." We bought a half-gallon of the pear, but my children have been complaining because we've had to ration it. This visit I'll grab the gallon.

  • Potatoes for roasting and mashing. Lots and lots of potatoes. In a range of colors and without any nasty pesticides.
  • Carrots and brussels sprouts. Roast 'em. You won't be sorry.
  • Now, I know you already got your heritage turkey. But don't forget sausage and herbs for the stuffing!
  • And round off with a couple pies. Buy on the spot, or place an order with Adrienne's, with pick-up at Bellevue Presbyterian Church on Wednesday!

Just look at those puppies!
Ye all-important Order Form

And, supposing you weren't asked (or trusted) to bring anything. Well, every hostess likes a thoughtful gift. May I suggest...

Yup. Chocolates or toffee or a bottle of wine or a jar of honey or some beeswax candles or a jar of pickles! If they're avoiding carbs and you don't want to unfriend them (yet), maybe some flavored hazelnuts..? All I know is, if someone showed up at my house with Market food offerings, he or she would be my New Best Friend. It's that simple.

Sigh. So while I have much to be thankful for, I'll still be counting the days for baseball season and Market season to resume. In the meantime, continue to check back here for your weekly food news and foodie book reviews!

Consider the Pastries

The Stash--before I got there

Last week was my son's 13th birthday, which means he's reached the age of wanting nothing, or nothing but expensive things (a trip to Hawaii) that I don't intend to buy at this point. One grandma aimed younger and got him Legos. The other gave up and sent cash. We ended up making him a photo book with here's-what-people-remember-about-you testimonies interspersed, which also was not something he wanted at this stage in the game.

But one gift was a hit: at the Market I bought him a truckload of Snohomish Bakery's pain au chocolat, and I put them in the freezer so that he could pull one out whenever the urge struck him. Because, was there ever a person who didn't love flaky, melting puff pastry at their convenience?

Then there was the birthday party the ten-year-old was invited to. The birthday gal was gluten-intolerant or -allergic, so the pastry trick wasn't going to work on her. Or was it?

Remember these beauties, from last week's quiz? (The quiz still doesn't have a winner, so feel free to take notes on your visit this week and win a free jar of Sunny Honey!) Well, these happen to be gluten-free sugar cookies from--spoiler alert!--Sod House Bakery.

We bought two of the cookies, but only one made it to the destination because the other got broken and, yes, we had to eat it. De-li-cious.

And Sod House is not our only source of gluten-free baked goods this year. You've probably also noticed

Wildflour's well-stocked booth. Haven't sampled yet, but I saw quick breads, foccaccia, yeast breads, and treats.

If you were invited to a Memorial Day Barbecue or face barbecues ahead this summer, you don't always have to bring the salad. Offer one of our awesome Market breads, pies, or other treats. Speaking of pie, here's another clue to last week's quiz. That awesome pie?

It's called Three-Berry Pie, and you can find it at Adrienne's Cakes and Pies.

Now that's two answers I've given you!

And, of course, Tall Grass Bakery has returned, with its sourdough rye and soft pretzels and breadsticks and loaves.

Thanks heavens we have months ahead of us to make the rounds and find our new favorites...

In other news, berry season has officially begun, with the arrival of the earliest variety of Washington strawberries from the Skagit Valley. I'll be snatching up some of these for my book party that night, so, judging by how I cleaned out the chocolate croissants at Snohomish Bakery, you may want to hit the Market early!

Shopping List for Opening Day

At long last, Opening Day of the Thursday Bellevue Farmers Market is upon us!

The nitty-gritty:

WHEN: Thursday, May 15, 3-7 p.m.

WHERE: Parking lot of Bellevue Presbyterian Church

Follow the sounds of laughter and music and the delicious smells!

In case you haven't looked out the window, spring has sprung, and our farmers and vendors have loads of fresh, local, beautiful food for us. Consider the following for your shopping list!

1. Fresh asparagus. Yes, you can buy it in the store, but have you actually ever tasted super fresh farm asparagus? A little olive oil and throw it in the oven or on the grill. We had some last year that we actually groaned over, it was that good. Nutty and flavorful. Look for it at Alvarez, Growing Washington, and Crawford Farm.

2. Dark, leafy greens. Recently I've been hooked on kale and chard. I've discovered slivered chard makes a great substitute for shredded lettuce in tacos, or for the greens in your salad. Since I've disavowed bagged salad, I've gotten more creative with the kinds of salads that grace our table. May I suggest this one?

Kale-Lentil-Scallion-Almond Salad with Luscious Dressing 
Not exactly what your salad will look like because Gina of soletshangout.com used some different ingredients

1 bunch dinosaur kale, slivered, with the stems stripped out
3 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup cooked lentils (leftover from my fridge. Canned beans would also work.)
1/2 cup raw almonds, chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Luscious Dressing (which I found at Soletshangout.com):
3 Tbsp almond butter
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp maple syrup
1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
smidge of ginger powder
two cloves garlic
1/8 to 1/4 cup lemon juice

Blend dressing ingredients in food processor or blender and toss with salad ingredients.

3. Canned Tuna!!!! Can I tell you how excited I am that Fishing Vessel St. Jude will be at the Market on Thursday? If you like tuna salad or Salade Nicoise, you will taste them on a whole new level if you grab this tuna. Talk to Joyce Malley about how she catches her tuna and what makes it way awesomer than garden-variety grocery store kinds.

4. Eggs. The Market is here, and I am so over eggs with pale yolks and runny whites. Bring on those happy eggs from happy chickens on the loose! Bring on those richer yolks and firmer egg whites, which must come of eating bugs or other things chickens find on the loose. If you can't bring yourself to eat bugs, eat things that eat bugs. Gray Sky Farms joins our other egg vendors this year, so this should mean plenty of eggs for all.

5. Meat. Got my yearly bloodwork done, and I'm still anemic, dang it. Rather than take iron pills, I'm trying to up my consumption of red meat, so let's hear it for our farmers and their steaks and roasts and hamburger patties and sausages. We've got Skagit River Ranch and Olsen Farms. Pure, pastured goodness. And it's not just beef. You'll also find pork and lamb and cured meats!

6. Honey and Jam? Peach or apricot or nectarine jam, to be precise. Not sure if we'll have honey or jam folks this Opening Day, but I can hope...I've been nursing one jar of Camp Robber Nectarine Jam all winter, and I'd like to use it with abandon, thank you very much.

7. Apples and some frozen fruit. Don't know if you've noticed, but we're reaching the bottom of the barrel at the grocery store. It'll be nice to ask our farmers, "What's the crunchiest variety you have?" And if anyone has frozen peaches or berries, those sure would be nice in a smoothie about now.

8. Potatoes. Ask your farmers to recommend specific varieties for potato salad (boiling), baking, or frying. And just ignore the part in recipes where it tells you to peel them!

Sneak peek of a Snohomish Bakery danish. You want the full pic? You can't handle the full pic!

9. Baked goods. The problem will be choosing. Will it be the pretzel from Tall Grass Bakery? The three-berry pie from Adrienne's Cakes and Pies? Close-Your-Eyes-and-Pick-Anything--You-Can't-Go-Wrong from Snohomish Bakery? I might have to bring more than one kid along, so I'm forced to buy more than one goodie and to "tax" them all.

10. Dinner. Say, just for argument's sake, you get so hungry just walking around the Market, buying items off your grocery list, that you decide just to pick up dinner there. Will it be gourmet mac & cheese from the new vendor Melt? Hard to resist varieties with names like "Cozy Pajamas" (three cheese) and "Game Night" (Buffalo chicken mac). Or maybe you should just pick up some soup or the tried-and-true favorite, pizza. Best yet, perhaps, would be just to meet your family or friends at the Market, that way everyone can choose his own adventure.

Lots and lots of good stuff ahead! Meanwhile, I'll see you all Thursday. I'll be the lady with the camera and the begging children hanging off her.

2013 Thanksgiving Holiday Market

You wouldn't know it from the decorations up in the stores or the songs on the radio, but the Forgotten Holiday is almost upon us. Take a seat, Santa--it's time to talk Turkey.

This Saturday will be the final Bellevue Farmers Market of the Season (chorus of waaaaaahs!), and it's chock-full of goodies for your holiday and beyond. Never mind the Twelve Days of Christmas--tell your true love you've got some Thanksgiving Market Must-Haves.

1. Vegetables. Thanksgiving has the most wonderful variety of vegetable side dishes, and we've got the fresh, local vegetables to make them happen. Potatoes. Carrots. Squash. Onions. Brussels sprouts.

2. Apples and Pears.

An impressionistic view from Collins' website

Both Martin Family Orchards and Collins Family Orchard have got the apples for your homemade pies, this season. Talk to the farmers about which varieties they recommend. Some people like their apple slices intact with a little crunch, even after baking. My family prefers no crunch at all. And just for eating out of hand, try the Packham pears at Collins. I am not kidding--don't let these get away. We ate them with groans of utter delight.

3. Cranberries! For your sauce or to throw in your pies or to frost with sugar syrup and serve as a beautiful holiday appetizer.

Ask nicely at Bloom Creek, and they'll give you a handout of tasty, easy recipes.

4. Don't feel like making your own cranberry sauce? Camp Robber Jams has plenty of alternative jams and spreads. Rome Doherty has whipped up Cranberry-Jalapeno Jam, Cranberry-Apple Butter and Cranberry Chutney to accompany turkey, all made with Bloom Creek berries. Or, for the less traditional barbecued turkey, he suggests Smoked Apple Butter with Chili!

5. Speaking of things you might not feel brave enough to undertake, remember the Market has handmade pies and tarts and pastries.

Yippie-Pie-Yay's pumpkin offering

6. Or first-course soups made from perfect ingredients! According to Got Soup?'s website, this week Jerry will be carrying a mouth-watering Potato and Kale with Smoked Gouda, among other offerings.

7. Thanksgiving wouldn't be Thanksgiving without any bread. Bread to accompany soup. Rolls to go with turkey (my kids especially love this). Bread for stuffing.

Tall Grass pics

8. And finally, to wash all that goodness down, Ciders and Wines.
Finnriver Farm & Cidery will be sampling special, small-batch cider varieties at the BFM this weekend:

In Finnriver's own words, "The Apple Blueberry is made with Finnriver's own estate organic blueberries and antique Hewe's Crab apples, for a sparkling, ruby-colored blend of sweet berry field and earthy orchard.  The Golden Russet release features the 'champagne' of cider apples for a bright, bubbly, off-dry, charismatic cider that will complement a holiday feast with its hearty taste and tribute to tradition." Oh my word.

And for those who prefer wine and no bubbles, Wilridge Winery suggests their Estate Nebbiolo as the perfect complement to our Thanksgiving meal. According to their website, "The 2010 Naches Heights Estate Nebbiolo is the second from Wilridge Vineyard.  2010 was a challenging year for many Washington vineyards.  However, some late warm weather in the fall favored those who were not afraid to leave the grapes hanging as long as possible.  Nebbiolo loves a long cool growing season like 2010 where it has time to gain ripeness but also maintain acidity from cool nights.  The result is a delightful wine that will gain complexity for many years to come."

Since it's the Thanksgiving Holiday Market will be our last gathering of 2013, don't forget to put some goodies by as gifts and personal stockpiles. It's a long, long way to May.

Summer is (Un)officially Here!

No 2013 blueberries yet? No problem!

It's the last day of school in the Bellevue School District, a day greeted with equal parts relief and dismay. Relief: no more having to get anyone up and out the door. Dismay: yes, you really did forget to buy the teacher an end-of-the-year gift, and you already opened (and ate half) of the packaged goodies you bought at the Bellevue Farmers Market last week. Thank heavens for that one jar of Camp Robber Jams Cherries with Kirsch you've been saving...

Summer is (un)officially here! Until mid-July, we're still living off last year's frozen blueberries, like Whitehorse Meadows Farm's Rubels and Jerseys. I bought a bag of Rubels to make blueberry muffins, since they are smaller and tangier than Jerseys--closer to huckleberries, in fact--and the kids approve. If you don't want the frozen berries, they also offer several preserves and chutneys and a blueberry compote perfect for dishing over waffles, ice cream, or straight into your gaping mouth.

Lovers of fresh fruit need not despair, of course.

'Cuz strawberries are in. Multiple varieties at multiple farmers. Best to try them all. My ten-year-old favors the big berries (all that brainwashing from what she sees in the clamshell containers at the grocery store), while I like them tiny.

Strawberries with a smile.

And the cherries continue.

Even on days too cloudy to see Mt Rainier, we still have the eponymous cherries

You know, don't you, that soft fruits and berries regularly make the list of produce that you want to buy organic? If you're not sure how our farmers grow their fruit, just ask! Some are certified organic; others don't bother with the (very expensive) certification, but their fruit is still "spray-free."

Our (un)official summer Market isn't just about fruit, you know. Did you see this colorful sign last week?

If you followed the arrow, it led you to these puppies...

No, those are not carved wooden beads

Raise your hand if you've never cooked with Morel mushrooms! Well, my hand went up, too. I can't even get my kids to eat the cutesy button mushrooms that make it into cartoons, so I confess I didn't buy any of these. But after a little research, I'm thinking I want to saute some for the next hamburger cookout or to add to scrambled eggs. It looks like once you've gone Morel, you'll never go back.

And finally, having just read Michael Pollan's Cooked, which I will talk about at some later date, I have to put a word in for bread and cheese.

I was at book club last night, to which I brought a quarter wheel of one of these:

and talk turned to our farmers market. One friend said she tried the Saturday Market's Midori Bakery on my suggestion, and she and her husband went back four times. It was that good. The traditional croissant and "Sugar Brioche" came in for special mention, and everyone's mouth got to watering. And I've got to put a word in for Tall Grass Bakery's Sourdough Rye, which I bought after reading how Pollan extols the wonders of sourdough in Cooked. My attempts at homemade bread are well enough, in their way, but they do not begin to approach this loaf!

So happy kind-of summer to you! Hope you celebrate lighter traffic and lazier mornings with a visit to our wonderful markets.

A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, and Thou

That's amore. (Photo courtesy Sea Breeze website)

More new discoveries last week at the Bellevue Farmers Market! You and your true love (or devoted foodie friend) can put together the most delightful gourmet picnic with the help of Vashon Island's Sea Breeze Farm and Tefft Cellars.

Cody and I at Sea Breeze Farm had a great discussion and tasting session. First I sampled their Head Cheese, an item I remember from reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods:

Ma scraped and cleaned the head carefully, and then she boiled it until all the meat fell off the bones. She chopped the meat fine with her chopping knife in the wooden bowl, she seasoned it with pepper and salt and spices. Then she mixed the pot-liquor with it, and set it away in a pan to cool. When it was cool it would cut in slices, and that was head-cheese (p. 17).

Similarly, Sea Breeze braises and brines the pig's head for a day. Cody laughed about people hearing the name "Head Cheese" and being horrified of getting an eyeball or something, "but most of the meat is from the cheeks."  After tasting a slice, I could see why Wilder remembered it well enough to write about it fifty years later!

Also delicious was their classic French Country Pate with pistachios and onions and the soft, brie-like, raw-milk cheese they age sixty days and call "Vachonbert." I bought a hunk of each and served them the next day on slices of bread from Tall Grass Bakery. Had it not been midday and the kids coming home, our picnic would have been enhanced with a glass of wine from new vendor Tefft Cellars of the Yakima Valley! Paul Tollner and Rhonda Taylor grow many varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Sangiovese, and Chenin Blanc, and, in 2009, they opened a tasting room this side of the mountains in Woodinville. Their motto is "il suo stile de vita"--"it's a lifestyle!"

So even though I bought cauliflower and asparagus last week, the Market is clearly about more than the vegetables! New up this week: Rome Doherty will be there this Thursday with his luscious jams, including Pear with Creme de Cassis and Rhubarb with Lavendar. Say the password "Megan's Visit" and receive $1 off your purchase!

See everyone Thursday.