Wilridge Winery

Not to Be Overlooked

I once wrote a book in which a younger sister, lovely in her own right, was frequently overlooked because of her older sister's raging beauty. It wasn't the main plot, but it was a factor.

That story came to mind last Thursday because I got to the Market by 3:40, ready to buy my first Rainier cherries of the season. You know Rainiers: those blushing beauties with their sweet flavor and extra-dollar-per-pound premium. (They're the gorgeous, high-maintenance girlfriend of the cherry world.) What did I discover, but that some of you other Market customers had the exact same idea about picking up some Rainier cherries, and one family in particular came in right after the Market opened and cleaned out the inventory. Bought every...last...one! It was no use whatsoever to rain down curses. The Rainiers were gone. Leaving "only" the Chelans.

Always a bridesmaid?

In the absence of Rainier cherries, however, Chelans would get their due. With their rich glow and delightful sweet-with-a-hint-of-tart flavor, they're pure awesomeness in cherry form. Only no one notices when the darned Rainiers are around. See what I mean? It's that more beautiful, older sister thing. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

Let this be your advisory: learn to appreciate and love all cherries because, while the season started earlier, supplies may be shorter. Sam at Collins Family Orchard reports that a giant hailstorm took out a lot of cherries and apricots in their area. They didn't lose as many, but their neighbors lost plenty.
The Rainiers were back for the Saturday Market, but again, they were going fast.
The more beautiful sister - but what'd I say about the price tag?
While I'm on the subject of overlookedness, did you see we had raw milk at the Thursday Market? You might have dashed right past it, but if you've ever wanted to try it, look for this fridge:

Raw milk proponents say the awesome bacteria present (that usually gets killed off by the pasteurization process) can boost gut function and the immune system. Raw milk opponents say you take your chances and might get a lovely case of GI unhappiness. Having had both raw milk and raw milk cheese, I've not yet had a bad experience, but ask our friends at Sea Breeze Farm if you want to learn more.

Note the fridge location

And finally, those of us who don't know much about wine may have breezed past Wilridge Winery at the Saturday Market.

They've got whites, reds, and even dessert offerings, and you can even buy a refillable(!) "growler." As Wilridge points out on their site,

60% of the carbon footprint for a wine comes from the bottle...It takes only 5% of the energy necessary to melt a bottle for recycling as it does to wash a bottle for refilling.

You can even bring back the cork!

Growler on left
And on right

Wine is big business in Washington, and with the drought spreading, it promises to get even bigger in future years, per this New York Times article. I do wonder if table grapes are similarly drought-friendly because I sure would love to find those at the Market. I've seen some Concord grapes in Eastern Washington farmers markets, but none over here.

I've got more finds for you--the Market is bursting with them--but they'll have to wait for later posts. Go enjoy that sunshine!

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.


Bellevue Farmers Market: Bad News, Good News Edition

If you're like me, you always want to get the bad news over with first. But, take heart, in the instances I am about to share with you, the good news almost always outweighs the bad.

THE BAD NEWS: First off, there is a terrible drought crippling the Midwest that promises higher food and fuel prices. We had some friends visiting from Indiana, and they reported on the endless heat and wilted fields of corn. If you want to lay eyes on some pictures, Forbes ran this photo essay recently. So if you love your frozen and canned corn, your high fructose corn syrup, your ethanol, and your countless other corn products, there are rough times ahead.

Our apologies to the Midwest

THE GOOD NEWS: Washington corn is looking and tasting great! My in-laws brought us a dozen ears from around the Tri-Cities area, and they were beauties. Full-grown ears with sweet, crisp kernels. Not unlike the ones I saw for sale at Alvarez Organic Farm (Thurs and Sat). Get your hands on about 3-4 ears and try the following recipe. You will not be sorry.

Slow-Cooker Corn Chowder (modified from a recipe found in Not Your Mother's Slow-Cooker Cookbook--Market ingredients marked with an "*.")

1 Tbsp butter
1/2 of a large Walla Walla Sweet onion, chopped*
3 ribs of celery, chopped
3 large carrots, chopped*
2 cups chicken broth
1 small bay leaf
1/8 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried thyme or 1 Tbsp chopped fresh
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups milk (I used whole milk)
about 3 cups fresh corn kernels, cut off the cobs*
1-2 cups diced cooked Polish Sausage from Skagit River Ranch* (ours was leftover from a barbecue, so it imparted a lovely smoky flavor)

In a medium skillet, melt the butter over med-hi. Add onions, celery and carrot and cook until the onion is transparent and browning. I dislike crunchy onions in soup, so I do this about 5 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker and add all ingredients EXCEPT milk, corn, and sausage. Cover and cook on LOW for 5-6 hours.

Add the milk, corn and sausage. Stir. Cover and cook on HIGH another hour. Adjust seasonings.

THE BAD NEWS: No sampling of alcoholic products at our Market.

(L to R) Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Red Table Wine, & Red Dessert Wine

THE GOOD NEWS: You won't be sorry if you give those products a try! I've posted before about my deep, deep love of Rockridge Orchards' Quarry Stone Hard (Apple) Cider, and at the Saturday Market we now welcome Wilridge Winery. Wilridge is a family-owned operation with organic grapes grown outsideYakima and a tasting room at the Pike Place Market. While the selection may vary from week to week, Megan chose her recent favorites this time out. For your next meal on the patio, check out the Pinot Grigio and Viognier, two crisp whites with green apple notes and a hint of pear. If you're grilling steak, try the award-winning Red Table Wine. Or the Dessert Wine with some dark chocolate.

THE BAD NEWS: Razey's Orchard reports that Bing cherry season is drawing to a close.

THE GOOD NEWS: We still have another couple weeks of Rainiers and still longer of such varieties as Lamberts and Sweetheart. Binge while you can!

THE BAD NEWS: I locked my keys in the car at the Saturday Market and had to borrow a Market volunteer's cell phone to summon my understandably irked husband.

THE GOOD NEWS: Before I could get a hold of him, I thought I would have to walk home, bag of iced Loki Salmon, hunk of Samish Bay Ladysmith with Chives, and all. It was very hot on Saturday, if you recall, so to prevent possible heatstroke I stopped at The Juice Box and ordered their "most fruity" option, the RPP. This freshly prepared juice concoction featured sweet red bell pepper, pineapple, key lime, and coconut water. Delicious and refreshing. Next up I want to try their "Julius," which I heard them recommend to a mom as something her kids would like. Before I could even finish my treat, my hub called, and I was spared the long trek.

THE BAD NEWS: Economic times are tough (duh).

Lori, naming names

THE GOOD NEWS: Farmers markets march onward, growing in number by nearly 10% last year, according to Reuters. This is made possible by eaters like you, committed to good food and community, and wonderful folks like the Bellevue Farmers Market sponsors, which Director Lori Taylor spent time calling out and thanking last Thursday. Thank you again, sponsors and Marketgoers, for making our wonderful Market possible!