It was a sunny Sunday afternoon, and families with children in and out of strollers, couples with dogs on leashes, women holding vibrant bouquets of flowers and equally vivid bunches of farm fresh asparagus were all streaming to and from one place. The sound of acoustic musicians and dreadlocked drummers filled my ears and the smoky smell of food grilling drew me to Esther Short Park. Another season at the Vancouver Farmers Market had begun.
The market was filled with farm stands bursting with a rainbow of fresh, local fruits and veggies. Bouquets of flowers in a kaleidoscope of colors were for sale. Old favorites like Mighty Bowl, Zabor Mexican Grill and Grandma Candy’s Jams had set up their stands. I missed Hello Waffle Cart. Arika White serves her yeasty overnight made-to-order waffles with sweet and savory toppings only on Saturdays.
Newcomers Relevant Coffee, Tierra de Lobos winery, and Scratch Meats had set up tables. Jeff Garritano of Scratch Meats was searing his house-made sausages on a grill and handing out samples. I tried the Italian, a spicy, porky sausage that is close to Jeff’s heart and a celebration of his Italian ancestry. I bought a small plastic bear filled with Mystery Raw Honey from Jessica Carmello (and her 8-year-old assistant and son, Alexander) of T Bee S of Sherwood, Ore.
All this farmers marketing was making me hungry. I strolled along the food stalls. Getta Gyro’s blue awning caught my attention. I ordered a traditional gyro — a blend of lamb and beef. The pita bread was fresh, pillowy and stretchy with a hint of olive oil from the grill. The gyro meat was savory and well-seasoned. The veggies (lettuce, tomato and onion) were fresh and the feta and tzatziki sauce added tang and creaminess.
Salad the perfect thing
Still hungry, I wandered. The sound of reggae music and a colorful painting of a purple cabbage multi-armed goddess bearing eggs and produce beckoned me to Herb N’ Roots. After considering the menu for a long time, I chose the Beet N’ Apple salad.
While I was waiting for the salad, an order of the polenta cakes with grilled mushrooms, seasonal veggies, and fried eggs came out. For a moment, I considered polenta thievery. But when my salad arrived, I was pleased. It was fresh and zesty filled with sweet, earthy roasted and marinated beets, slices of apple, peppery farm-fresh arugula, and a crunchy and savory mix of spiced nuts. The orange vinaigrette was vinegary and citrusy. The feta cheese was creamy and complex.
This salad was on par with fine dining quality food made with fresh, local ingredients, but at farmers market prices. It was the perfect thing — though maybe even better with those polenta cakes — to eat on a park bench on a sunny day in Esther Short Park.
The Vancouver Farmers Market is located at Sixth and Esther streets in downtown Vancouver. It is open until Oct. 29 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays.
Rachel Pinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @couveeats.