Photo by Peg Mallett
Last month, I spent several weekends hanging out at some of the winter farmer's markets in the area. The reason I was there was to try to get my winter dessert cookbook into the hands of the people who might like it best: local food lovers. Plus, the ingredients for the recipes could be obtained right there on the spot: apples, squash, carrots, beets, parsnips, maple syrup, honey, cheese, cornmeal.
I've been a frequent shopper for years at the Wayland Winter Market held inside Russell's lush (and, more importantly, warm) greenhouse, but I had never visited the ones in Cambridge or Somerville. I really enjoyed seeing the different spaces and vendors while chatting with people about my favorite subject—food. But perhaps even more fun was eating my way through the stalls.
In the past, I've limited myself to buying only raw ingredients at farmer's markets. I'd pick up a bunch of veggies from Red Fire Farm or Winter Moon, a bag of apples from Apex, and a carton of eggs, but I rarely bought anything pre-made besides cheese. This time, though, when lunch rolled around, I was hungry. I wanted food and I wanted it now. I also had plenty of cash from selling my books (talk about eating my profits). So here are a few of my favorite vendors, some of which can be found at more than one market, some at all three, and some on alternating weeks (check ahead to make sure they'll be there when you are):
Mandy's Seafood Chowder: This is the real deal: Actual seafood—shrimp, scallops, clams, fish—in lobster stock with just a touch of cream and zero gluten. Absolutely delicious by the cup, she also sells little pouches you can freeze and then heat up in boiling water for dinner. The kids love it. Market: Wayland.
Hosta Hill Crimson Relish: Specializing in fermented foods like sauerkraut and tempeh, I fell hard for the crimson relish, a lacto-fermented salsa made with cabbage, onions, carrots, daikon radish, garlic, and a healthy dose of dried red pepper. Great on sandwiches or to snack on with crackers or pita chips. Markets: Cambridge, Somerville, Wayland.
Wolf Meadow Farm Cheeses: Cheesemaker Luca Mignogna makes a mean mozzarella. Ricotta, too. I ate his cheese straight out of the container with a spoon and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. My only question is where is he in the summer when the heirloom tomatoes are out? Market: Cambridge.
Q's Nuts: Fresh roasted nuts? Yes, please. These tasty snacks come in dozens of exotic flavors, but the ones I fell for were the chocolate-orange-cardamom almonds. Markets: Somerville, Wayland.
Tamales from Tex Mex Eats: I got a tip from the woman who runs the Cambridge market to try the tamales. She was right. Chef Amanda Escamilla makes traditional pork tamales that will knock your socks off and put them right back on again. So goddamned good. Market: Cambridge.
Valicenti Organico Fresh Ravioli: Sensing I might be too tired to cook that night, I bought a package of ravioli filled with porchetta, fennel, and chili. I boiled it up and served it straight up with a little olive oil and Parmesan cheese. Delicious! The kids loved it, too. Valicenti Organico has an incredible selection of handmade pastas and sauces made with local ingredients from their New Hampshire farm. They have dozens of seasonal flavors like Pear, Prosciutto, and Gorgonzola, and Roasted Pumpkin with Brie, which can also be ordered online. Market: Cambridge.
Only a few more weeks until the winter is over. Don't forget to visit these markets while you still can. There's local fish and meat for sale at all three locations. Soluna Garden Farm offers hot tea and spices at all three as well. The Somerville market has two doughnut vendors and kombucha. Wayland has gelato (and this Saturday is Cheese Day!). Cambridge has locally made dog biscuits. Go!
Wayland Winter Farmer's Market, Russell's Garden Center, 397 Boston Post Rd., Wayland, MA, 10am-2pm thru March 15 (parking in the rear)
Cambridge Winter Farmer's Market, Cambridge Community Center, 5 Callender St., Cambridge, MA, 10am-2pm thru April (on-street parking for Cambridge residents or cheap parking at the Green St. garage)
Somerville Winter Farmer's Market, Arts at the Armory, 191 Highland Ave., Somerville, MA, 9:30am-2pm thru March (parking in the rear)