Portland Farmers Market has been ”bringing the best of the country to the heart of the city since 1992.” The Saturday market, located south of downtown on the Portland State University campus, features one of the best selections of produce, flowers, meats, cheeses and prepared foods of any farmers market in the country.
We were happy to enter “The Kingdom of the Brine.” Since it’s a kingdom, that would make Chef David Barber the King and his gardener wife Barbara the Queen. The pickled Royals also own Three Square Grill in SW Portland.
It was also impossible to bypass the Pickle Kebab ($2):
– Orange Fennel Beet (brined in orange, fennel and clove, “They cast their own light!”)
– Asparagus (from Eastern Washington, in a white wine vinegar brine)
– Garlic Green Bean (not dilly, “super crispy”)
– Pickle of the Future
– Spicy Carrot (escabeche style)
– Bread and Butter Pickle (“sweet slice”)
Michael Farley and wife Susan farm lavender, herbs, spices and garden vegetables in the hills of west Salem, Oregon. I asked Michael Farley why he and his wife decided on lavender, and he said, “It was an accident. We tried to do dried flowers, but they weren’t selling, so we decided to make lavender jam and sell it up here.”
We sampled two of Sundance’s lavender-infused jams: lavender marionberry and lavender pear raspberry. In other jams, the Farleys utilize loganberry, boysenberry, peach and blueberry. They buy the fruit from nearby farmers.
We bought a tin of the lavender-infused grill rub ($4), which contained rosemary, thyme, fennel seed, basil, marjoram, chives, onion flakes, lemon, pepper, garlic and sea salt. [We used it on boneless pork chops within days of our return, and the rub imparted an intoxicating aroma.]
Oregon is known to be a paradise for foraged wild mushrooms, and Springwater Farm, based in St. Helens, featured baskets full.
Mark Doxtader helped run his family farm in Canby, Oregon. Beginning in 2000, he set up a wood-fired brick oven at the Portland Farmers Market, making baked goods on site. Just this month, Doxtader opened a small restaurant in SE Portland, but continues to make pizzas and wood-fired sandwiches at the farmers market. The menu is always different, depending on what he sources from local farmers.
Tastebud offered three different slices of pizza ($4). We opted for the variety with parsley pesto, roasted zucchini, spring onion and ricotta. The middle was flavorful, but the outer crust was a little chewy.
We ordered a Lamb Pita Sandwich ($9). The pita and Cattail Creek leg of lamb were cooked in the oven. The luscious slices of sheep meat were stuffed in the pita with wheat berry salad, smoky spears of roasted asparagus, spring onions, hummus and spring greens. The counterwoman asked if we wanted hot sauce. I asked if it would make the sandwich taste better. She was strangely confused, but ended up pouring on some sauce. It was a solid sandwich, but the pita was actually the list interesting component, dry and wheat-y.
We found a sky blue paleta cart beneath a canopy of green “leaves.” Sol Pops partner Bob Pullen explained that paletas are Spanish for “little shovels.” He, Noah Cable and Aaron Harmon work three days per week at different area markets. SOL stands for (S)ustainable (O)rganic (L)ocal. Noah Cable was friends with Aaron Harmon and his wife, who’s still in North Carolina before she moves to Portland in August. They had a paleteria in North Carolina. Noah and Aaron decided they could do the same thing in Portland, only organic and local. Bob said his brother’s friends started making paletas in ice cube trays, and he was brought in to contribute a “culinary approach to the process.” He attended Western Culinary Institute “before it went corporate.” Bob’s currently developing a blackberry hopsicle for the organic Brewers Festival on June 27-29.
Noah said, “A lot of them are inspired by what’s fresh at the market.” The trio gets rosemary, lavender, basil and strawberries from surrounding stands. Noah said, “I skip like a little girl with an armful of basil.” He made basil lemon and ran back to give the farmer a new product made using their basil.
The blackboard menu changes depending on what the trio finds at the market. Today, the offerings included cucumber lime jalapeno, strawberry lemonade and coconut agave. The cost: $3 apiece or 2 paletas for $5. Our first selection was basil lemon, which was sensational, containing what must have been two ounces of finely chopped basil.
The Portland Farmers Market was every bit as impressive as my first visit there in 2004.
Portland Farmers Market runs from April – December. The hours are Saturday from 8:30 AM – 2 PM.