Memorial Day and the holiday weekend leading up to it signal the beginning of summer. Just a few weeks ahead of the solstice, the days are wonderfully long and warm. It’s time to get out and do some summery things.
The re-opening of local farmers markets is another sure sign of summer to come. In late spring, the bigger markets have been open for a few weeks; others will swing into action in June.
With a spring in my step (yes, I’ll own the pun) we strolled through the Westport Farmers Market (Thursday 10 to 2) last week and were struck by how easy it would be to provision for the holiday weekend from the vendors there. The mix of fresh produce, prepared foods, Connecticut cheese, and pasture-raised meats make it easy to stock up for a picnic or cookout.
Although farmers are hard at work now planting and tending, they’re able to bring a limited selection of leafy greens and early vegetables to market. Every week, something new comes into season.
At Riverbank Farm they were excited about the soon-to-be ready Kohlrabi crop. In the meantime, beautiful organic leaf lettuces, kale, and Swiss chard are ready to go. Radishes — bright red or pink with white tips — are at their best. Soups, hummus, pesto, and salads along with kraut or kimchi are offered from the farm kitchen. We picked up a few herb seedlings to put in our planters for some home farming.
Sankow’s Beaver Brook Farm is focused on the savory side of the menu. From their sheep and cow herd they make a range of fresh and aged cheeses as well as grass-fed lamb and prepared entrees. Lots of good cookout supplies here.
Ox Hollow Farm produces all-natural, pasture-raised Angus beef as well as high-grade pork and poultry
on their acres in Litchfield County. Their extensive offerings include any meat you need for grilling as well as brats, knockwurst, kielbasa, and frankfurters made with their hormone-free and antibiotic-free meats.
Just a few booths along, Wave Hill Breads stands ready to supply rolls, award-winning breads, and sweet treats to round out the menu.
Kneads, a new bakery in Westport, has some pretty amazing cookies, biscotti, and pastries for breakfast, teatime, or dessert. We couldn’t resist a rhubarb-frangipane pastry to share for teatime.
Lost Ruby Farm produces a range of aged and fresh cheese from the milk of their “well-loved” goats. For now, they’re offering seven flavors of fresh chèvre. They’d be great for a snack, in a salad, or on a pre-dinner cheese board. If you have a minute, ask what the mischievous baby goats are up to this week.
Shopping at the farmers market can be hungry work. If you find yourself at the Westport market at lunchtime, join the queue at the Boxcar Cantina tent. Judging by the line snaking across the market, the tacos are worth the wait.
Just before we left, some picture-perfect Swiss chard tucked in amongst the lettuces at the Fort Hill Farm booth caught my eye.
At the New Canaan Market (Saturdays 10 to 2) there are more opportunities to stock up for the weekend. You can round out the menu with some fresh or smoked fish from Ideal Fish or Copps Island oysters — right off the boat.
Beldotti Bakeries, enthusiastically hawking their fresh mozzarella, pesto, and crusty loaves, is a perennial market favorite.
Carrot Top Kitchens is a regular stop for Marsha. Their garlic-dill pickle spears are her favorites and fresh-made gazpacho is an annual summer treat.
Don’t feel like cooking? There are plenty of options for prepared food at the markets. Local restaurants and caterers are happy to help with your cooking chores. Du Soleil caterers had colorful photos of their
offerings. Point to what you want and it magically appears, ready for to heat and eat: braised beef, lasagne, quesadillas, chicken and rice, sausage and peppers, and much, much more. While I watched, several repeat customers stopped by to pick up their favorites.
Marsha and I snagged the last dozen colorful chicken eggs from Henny Penny Farm to scramble with smoked salmon for our Sunday brunch.
Looking ahead to the holiday weekend, I could imagine myself grazing at a buffet of smoked fish, goat cheese, flavorful loaves, crisp salads, fresh mozz, and oysters while burgers or chops sizzled on the grill. I’m not sure if it’s dinner, lunch, or just snacks, but it sure sounds good.
Frank Whitman can be reached at NotBreadAloneFW@gmail.com.