12 September 2013

An Hour at the Northwest Farmers Market

By Peter D’Auria

Peter is a PFM volunteer who is having fun discovering (and devouring) Portland, one farmers market at a time.

DSCN0704The NW farmers market, at (NW) Everett and 19th, is rather petite, taking up a parking lot right across from Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.

The minimalism of the market belied the quality of the music. A father and son duo was playing instrumental songs with impressive finesse. They swapped instruments, pulled more instruments out of nowhere, took turns playing solo. It was all a beautiful blur of guitar, mandolin, guitar, flute, and possibly more? I was mesmerized.

DSCN0698When they took a break I was finally able to tear myself away and go see the market. The whole parking lot smelled of basil. There was a rainbow of different potato varieties lined up in bins, berries lined up in cartons, cases of pastries. I tasted some excellent molé from Marshall’s Haute Sauce. It had a dizzying list of ingredients, from chocolate to squash. “It’s a limited edition sauce,” I was told, “made only from ingredients found at the market.” It was like eating the whole market, blended and spread on a chip.

DSCN0706Next to me a discussion was taking place. “Wellingtons are sweeter,” the guy behind the stall said to a customer, “and the Surveyors are a bit tarter.” Wellingtons? Surveyors? It sounded like they were comparing the tastes of two different kinds of boot. But upon investigating I learned that they were in fact two different kinds of blackberries, and that the Wellingtons were in fact much sweeter and the Surveyors much tarter. Up to this point I was unaware that there even were distinct species of blackberry.

The learning experience was not over. When I visited Russell’s Bread, one of the displayed samples was labeled as a “Peach Blueberry Buckle”. All these foods whose names sounded like things you wear!

DSCN0705“What’s a buckle?” I asked.

“There’s so much fruit in it, it buckles,” the lady explained. “You have to bake it upside down.”

As I tasted the buckle, which was sweet and crumbly, a strange combination of conversations was occurring behind me.

“—No, really, the rest area on I-5—”

“—a redhead convention in Pioneer Courthouse Square—“

“—it’s fantastic, it’ll change your life—”

“—trying to break the Guinness World Record—”

“—now I regularly stop there—”

I tore myself away and went to buy a snack—a flourless chocolate cloud cake from Serious Business Pastries. I appreciated the name. Pastries are, as far as I am concerned, serious business. The chocolate cloud cake tasted indeed as I would imagine a cloud, if clouds were made of evaporated chocolate. I pocketed a couple of their free dog biscuits for my dog.

The father and son duo resumed playing and their strumming filled the market. Sometimes the market sounds just as good as it tastes.