One indication that a farmers’ market has “arrived” is when you can hit the market for a dinner party and in one stop, have your menu planned and your shopping done. I am talking flowers, appetizers, meats (including fish and poultry), cheeses, vegetables and finally, a sumptuous dessert.
They did it. On Saturdays, you can buy everything you need for your next dinner party at the Nashville Farmers’ Market.
And just because summer is over, don’t think it’s shut down. It’s bustling, really bustling.
Recently, WNPT did a series on farmers’ markets across the US. The markets in the northeastern cities are amazing, serving tons of prepared foods like chowders and barbecues, and have huge stashes of gourmet foods like cheeses, chocolates and meats. We’re not that — yet — but one point the series drove home was how much people loved the camaraderie and goodwill they experienced while shopping at farmers’ markets. I realized, “This is me.” I relish the open-air buildings, running into old friends and talking to the sellers about their food.
So, the next Saturday I headed over to the market ready to feel the love it had to offer!
My first stop was Hill and Hollow to grab some herbs and flowers for the party. Aren’t the colors in their sunflowers wonderful? This is a CSA and while I was there, scores of people were picking up their baskets of food. I spent under $15 for three armfuls of flowers. I also grabbed some basil for my dinner party salad.
As I stood there talking to the flower purveyor, I noticed about 20 people standing in line. They were having a rousing good time visiting with each other and laughing. I had to ask, “What’s happening over there?” and one of the vendors said, “Milk — they sell delicious milk. And there’s always a line.”
Who doesn’t love a line when it’s milk from a free-range cow? I immediately got in the JD Country Milk line, which was being manned (and womaned) by two of the JD family members. As the story goes, there are five brothers and three sisters and they all have the initials “JD.” Not only do they sell low-pasteurized milk (enhances flavor), they sell yogurt, crème, half and half and the most amazing sour cream I have ever tasted. At this stop, I scored two supplies for my dinner party: whipping cream and sour cream for my dip
Next, I spied a huge white truck with Little Joe’s Seafood on the outside. Joe Chandler carries an ample supply of shrimp, snapper, grouper, lobster tails and meats. With shrimp Creole on the brain, I asked, “What’s your favorite shrimp?” He touted a sweet Gulf shrimp, so I bought a couple of pounds.
If you think tomato season is on the wane, it’s not. Late October tomatoes are delicious and plentiful. My friend Brooks coined the phrase “bustin’ ripe,” which adequately describes the small, sweet, squishy tomatoes packed with flavor. Every fall Brooks indulges in “tomato therapy.” Instead of going to a shrink, you get a couple of bushels of bustin’ ripe tomatoes and work out your problem by preparing gallons of homemade tomato sauce for your winter stash. Prozac no more, de-stress with a tomato!
There is no better vendor for late fall tomatoes than Smiley’s located in the northwest corner of the market. They will have tomatoes for sale until there aren’t any on the vine. Granted, this was one of the worst tomato seasons on record due to the May floods and weird weather in general. But, Smiley’s has the best selection of locally grown produce, including okra, corn, beans, eggplants and peppers. I scored several ingredients for my main entree’ of shrimp Creole.
A quick trip inside (which is now open and looks fabulous) sent me to Shreeji International Market. I have shopped here forever and many times just wander the aisles marveling at the vast display of food from all over the world. If you want your kids to see Nashville as a truly international city, take them to Shreeji’s. I grabbed a huge bag of rice to use in my shrimp creole and some coconut for my granola in the morning. The new store is bright with great light — a true improvement over the original store, which was damaged by the flood.
Finally — dessert. You must visit Dozen located in the open-air part of the market. Dozen was started by Claire Meneely, a University School graduate (I’m proud about that since my kids go there) and her delicacies are incredible. Her recent jaunt to Paris inspired many of her creations — try her berry shortbread to munch on while you shop. The sample of her pecan squares sent me over the top. They’re drop-dead decadent and chocked full of pecans and luscious goo. There is not a bakery in Nashville that can rival these gems. I plan to heat them up slightly and top with a dollop of whipped cream from JD’s milk. This will complete my fabulous menu for the evening.
If you’re lucky, Russell Ries will help you decide what to buy; he slipped me an extra pecan bar and gave a quick wink.
There is no better Saturday than to wake up early, throw on your sweats and head to the Farmers’ Market.
A piping hot cup of coffee and berry shortbread awaits you!
A thanks to StyleBlueprint reader, Jeanne Marchetti for her pictures of the gorgeous vegetables available at the Framer’s Market.