LJ-razz, 9.17.07: Downtown Phoenix Public Market

Last week, I started waking up ten minutes earlier before work so I could have a more leisurely breakfast (e.g., no hurrying to clean up exploded oatmeal before running out the door). I was happily astounded when I woke up at the same time on Saturday even though I’d stayed up late the night before to finish a baking order. Since I was up early, I decided to go to the Downtown Phoenix Public Market (Farmer’s Market), since Mario had been raving about it since it started up back in February 2005. It was much more awesome that I’d imagined. It’s a small setup, and I was able to walk through the whole before vendors officially started selling at 8. People were already lined up to start filling their baskets. The produce looked delicious and healthy, contrary to what I’d heard about some reports describing organic veggies. It was a pretty good spread, too—all sorts of squash, onions, potatoes, beans, herbs, apples, pears, melons, mammoth okra, radishes, bok choy, garlic, peppers, and various eggplant. Everyone I talked to was eager to talk about what they had.

-Breakfast burrito. Sandwiches are my favorite food, and burritos are just Mexican sandwiches. I especially love breakfast burritos, and Nina’s had chorizo burritos. While the burrito itself was tasty, the salsa verde made it even better. I could’ve drunk it, it was so fresh. I think a lot of people who are used to Americanized Mexican food might’ve been freaked at its thicker texture, but this was authentic stuff, made with fresh tomatillos.

-Mario. Since Mario told me about the market, I was hoping to see him there. I called him at 8, and he said he’d be there around 9. I didn’t find him until it was almost 10 (he’d suffered a disaster surrounding his gallon-bottle of water during his long bike ride in). Even though I’d been around the market a few times, he gave me a special Mario tour and introduced me to all the vendors. Another reason I wanted to see him was to give him the third cookie (see below).

-Fresh dates. My god. They’re full of calories and carbs, but I couldn’t pass up a bag of Art’s Dates. The only other dates I’d had were always oversweet and too chewy, like a big raisin. These melted in my mouth and tasted almost like caramel. I’m not sure, but I think they’re Zahidi dates—smaller than Dejools, but the same blonde color. For some reason, Art and Laverne, the old couple selling them, wrote “Mike Dates” on the bag, but I can’t find any reference to them online. Saturday was also Art’s 82nd birthday. He must be pretty dedicated to his dates to be there on a hot day on his birthday. I chopped some up and added them to my curry, and they lent some of their sweet, dreamy flavor to it. Yum. Mario bought a bag or dark dates, and I expect to see them in some shape or form at Saturday’s Equinox dinner.

-Fresh pickles. When I was a kid, my dad would grow cucumbers and make his own pickles. I remember sharing pickles with him all the time. He’d make a special jar that wasn’t loaded with the super-hot Filipino sili peppers. I remember loving them. When I went to college, I didn’t have pickles for awhile. The next time I had one, probably in some burger joint or sandwich shop, I was disappointed, and every bite of pickle I had since didn’t alleviate the disappointed. I decided my tastes had changed as I’d gotten older. Saturday’s pickle proved me otherwise. The bread and butter pickles from Cotton Candy Farm were amazing. You could actually guess that they were made from cucumbers.

-Cookies. I didn’t think I’d find food that didn’t use white flour and sugar, but I found Raimondo’s, an Italian food stand that specialized in low-carb offerings, using mostly veggies in its dishes and whole wheat in its bread, and I found Bread Basket Bakery, which offers a lot of whole wheat selections and which doesn’t use any oil, fat, dairy, or preservatives. They had a lot of whole wheat cookies, and I settled on a three-pack of white chocolate chip macademia nut. They were awesome. Tasting good is one thing, but I like my cookies to have crispy, crunchy edges, but soft, chewy middles with a healthy bite. You usually have to have a good balance of baking soda and baking powder to get just the right effect, and these cookies were full effect. I didn’t want to scarf down all three (I ate two while I was listening to the featured musician, enjoying being outside and people-watching), so I scarfed two and saved the last for Mario.

-Manageable herbs. I love to use fresh herbs. I tried to grow some on my patio, but there just isn’t enough light. Some perished after I overwatered them, and the rest succumbed to darkness. *sigh* The supermarkets have herbs, but in large quantities that I can never use up, and for a lot of money. I found a vendor who sells smaller quantities for cheap. I bought a small bunch of parsley, and it’s almost all gone after I added some to an herb omelet, and more to my curried acorn squash. It was nice and fresh, too!

Other highlights were the fresh cheese (mmm, kalamata olive cheese spread—excellent) and the lithops (I described a blooming lithop to Mario as buttcheeks farting a Gerbera daisy … not the classiest description, but not so far off.).

The farmers told me that November is the peak of Arizona’s fall harvest, so I’m looking forward to going back to seeing what they have. If I can manage, I’d love to g back every Saturday! They’re expanding into a regular market geared toward selling local, organic food, and to holding the market on Saturday and Sunday. They’ve come a long way in just over two years! Good for them!

On a related note, if any of you watch "Endless Feast" on PBS or its sister channel, CreateTV, they aired a special on Friday showcasing Arizona's local, organic farmers, and it was another reason I wanted to check out the market--all of the vendors from the show sell at the Market!


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