The Vancouver Farmers Market opened for its 31st season this spring with some new eats. Old favorites like Funky Fresh Juice, Hummus Hummus Middle Eastern Cuisine, Mighty Bowl and Sabor Mexican Grill are joined by relative newcomers Melted Crumbs, the Taco Dudes and So Long Cookie.
Melted Crumbs, located in the center of the market, offers an unusual mix of Greek donut holes (loukoumades) as well as empanadas served with spicy peri peri red sauce or mild green sauce.
Donut holes come with a variety of toppings including Nutella, caramel sauce and cinnamon sugar in various combinations.
The empanadas have a flaky pastry wrapping filled with classics like ground beef with garlic, onion and green pepper as well as more unusual fillings, like the cordon bleu-style offering with chicken breast, ham and provolone cheese.
Birria tacos sizzle on the grill at the new Taco Dudes booth. The dudes — Michael Castaneda, Francisco Garcia and Christina Sims — have decades of experience in the food industry, doing everything from fine dining to large catering. The trio’s registered business name is Truck to Table, but they do business at the market with the jauntier Taco Dudes moniker.
The Taco Dudes cook chuck roast for 10 to 12 hours in a mix of guajillo, California and pasilla chiles, creating tender, succulent, chile-spiked beef and a rich consomme for their birria. An order comes with two tacos topped with garlic tomatillo salsa, pickled onions, cilantro and a red sauce made with the same chile combination used to cook the birria. A small container of beefy broth comes on the side for sipping and dipping.
The Dudes’ sangria doesn’t contain wine, much to the disappointment of many market-goers.
“Ninety percent of ladies ask if there’s wine involved,” Castaneda said.
Sorry, ladies: This alcohol-free sangria starts with a base of hibiscus tea and apple cider. The diced cucumber, jicama and apples mixed into the sweet purple base come from Amador Farms in Yakima. Taco Dudes was trading tacos for produce with Amador Farms and decided to use Amador Farms’ products for a cold drink to go with the tacos. The sweet and floral sangria complements the rich, savory tacos.
So Long Cookie
The cookie line for So Long Cookie can be seen by glancing to the right while waiting to enter the market. Molly Scott’s cookie booth serves freshly baked, tender cookies and bars ranging from salted chocolate chip cookies and brownies to chocolate apricot cookies and tahini blondies. This is her third season at the market, but her booth moved to a new spot and is more visible this year.
Scott strives to keep up with market demand. She’s never certain which things will sell out on a particular day. For the weekend of April 16, Scott baked 22 additional salted chocolate chip cookies, but they sold out before 11 a.m.
So Long Cookie’s items are made with such high-quality ingredients as Jacobsen Salt’s Guittard chocolate salt, King Arthur Flour’s strawberry yogurt chips and Valrhona ruby chocolate. To create new recipes, Scott combines flavors that she thinks will go together and then tests the recipes until she likes them. The results are interesting combinations like a chocolate apricot cookie and a bar called rose pinkie made with ruby chocolate and rose water mixed with freeze-dried dragon fruit (for color and sweetness), topped with dried rose petals and drizzled with a rose water glaze.
Getting customers to try some of these more unusual creations is difficult because samples aren’t allowed at the market right now due to COVID-19.
Scott’s personal favorite is the tahini blondie. Tahini isn’t commonly found in baked goods in Vancouver, but this sesame paste adds a light, toasty, nutty flavor and a moist, creamy texture. They’re so uniquely delicious that one customer recently drove all the way from Woodland to stock up on them.
Eating isn’t currently allowed at the Vancouver Farmers Market, but Esther Short Park is filled with benches for a socially distanced picnic. There also are spots on the Vancouver Waterfront for those who don’t mind a short stroll and want to watch the soothing waves of the Columbia River while they eat.