Somewhat Hidden Gems at the Bellevue Farmers Market

As the Thursday Market falls on the same afternoon as summer swim meets for my kids, sometimes my visits have been speedier than I would like. Yes, I volunteered to set up the pool deck, but don't we all have to take time to smell the roses (or rose-like lettuces)?

Lettuces so beautiful you can't bear to pull any leaves off!
Or maybe you prefer darker "petals"

Those lettuces aren't the only somewhat-hidden gems. Have you found these?

(1) The chocolates at Soulever Chocolates. Most of us have been lobbying for chocolate to be elevated to one of the four food groups, and Soulever is squarely on board, offering "chocolate that is health conscious, and tastes good, for you." Meaning, high quality chocolate, low-glycemic sweeteners, and no soy or wheat. (Did not know wheat in chocolate was a problem, but there ya go, if that matters to you.) Having only tried Theo's Chocolate because it was soy-free, I expected Soulever to be in the same ballpark--not the case! Soulever is creamy and just the right amount of sweetness. My husband ate the Dark Chocolate candy I got him with audible groans.

A flavor for everyone!

Now that we ate dessert first, it's on to...
(2) The main course. Chicken or Salmon or Beef or Pork or--heck--baked potatoes slathered in special sauce and thrown on the grill.

The marketing half of Seven Red Tagines

On Saturday I had time to stop and sample the authentic, Moroccan-inspired "elemental sauces" at Seven Red Tagines. If you like fresh, complex flavors, pick any one of these and you won't go wrong. I loved the Cilantro flavor, but as cilantro can be controversial in some families, I went with the also-delicious Basil. The sauces taste awesome right out of the jar (see the dipping hand in the picture), and I could picture even stirring in some yogurt and sour cream to make them into dips, but I hope to buy a nice piece of salmon and lay it on the grill. The sauces would be perfect when you have no idea what to make with the chicken you have in the fridge, or when you've been invited to someone's house and they already have a wine-cellar full of wines more expensive than the one you were going to give them.

(3) Speaking of wine, sometimes you're packing for a picnic or backpacking or boating, and the thought of toting a heavy, fragile glass bottle sounds like a drag. One of our vintners has thought of that!

Wine bags!

Piccola Wine Company has these 750mL wine totes they call bolsitas, after the bags carried by farmworkers in the vineyards. 750mL equals two bottles of wine, and they offer whites and reds in this eco-friendly packaging. The wine stays good up to a month after the bolsita is opened (in case you don't actually drink much and tend to go on loner picnics).

(4) A new meat farmer on Saturdays!

Some of the ranch hands

Windy N Ranch of Ellensburg is a full-service meat provider, offering "beef, pig, lamb, goat, fryer chickens, stewing hens, free range chicken eggs and free range duck eggs all on [their] Certified Organic pastures." Yowza! If you've been wondering where you were going to get your next grassfed goat fix, look no further. Seriously though, I still remember my college geography professor telling us we should all switch to goats because they're one-stop shopping (milk, meat, hide) in the most environmentally-friendly package (i.e., they even eat weeds and thorns and what-have-you, so you don't need miles of prime grazing land).

And finally, now that we've had our main courses of lettuce, chocolate, all-purposes sauces, and meat, it's time for another dessert. Did you see these?

That's genuine baklava, baby!

(5) That's right--at the place that makes falafel and kebab plates, you can also find homemade baklava (not to be confused with homemade balaclavas, which are useful if you want to rob banks).

You'll have to look elsewhere for these...

If you've never tried baklava, one of my favorite Maud Hart Lovelace books (Winona's Pony Cart) describes it as "a delicious-looking cake, criss-crossed like a checkerboard and oozing honey."

So no matter how little time you have to speed through the Market this week, be sure to find some of our hidden gems and suggest a few of your own!