Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Of markets, cook-offs and super clubs

So, this past Saturday, May 1, was the "soft opening" for Lancaster's Eastern Market, which is scheduled to open Memorial Day weekend (Saturday, May 29). Of course, I had to work and was unable to attend. There are several new vendors I'm excited about, including a new raw milk vendor, a female duo bakery (I saw their luscious photos on their facebook page), and a local soap maker using grassfed tallow (I screech with glee every time I think about it!!!). There are a few new farmer-vendors as well, added to the standard mix of regulars. I am excited! Once Eastern Market opens, I pretty much forget that Central Market exists unless I have a specific reason for going.

//Insert rant//

Central Market, I believe, is run by 3 market managers who are all about making money. I've heard some rumors of dealings, not sure if they're true, but what I've heard suggests that they want to know how much you're making every year and if they aren't satisfied you can lose your stand; there's a waiting list. Also, Central Market can be very "hodge podge" in its offerings - very limited local organic offerings, some local produce, and a lot of shipped in produce (which I take serious, serious issue with), as well as a lot of prepared food, meat vendors (only 1 that's grassfed local), eatery stands...and the one type I hate most, neck in neck with the stands that sell shipped in produce, would be the kitsch and Amish kitsch stands. When I think Farmers Market, I think producer-only, meaning that EVERYTHING grown or made to sell there is from the producer/vendor...and I'm not really keen on having non-food related stands there.

Enter Eastern Market: run by a nonprofit (I think??), appealing to the real food/sustainable movement folk, producer-only, not over-run by kitsch or eateries - there's a nice balance of foods, eateries, and artisans. They also run an Artists Market where local artisans sell things like hand-spun and hand-dyed wool yarn (!!!), jewelry, greeting cards, unique artsied-up baby clothes, etc. Eastern Market has a greater community feel to it than Central Market, which feels more impersonal to me (though I have gotten to know some vendors, it's nothing like at Eastern), and very touristy. And did I mention the fabulous local musicians they schedule to play? And Ten Thousand Villages Days where the Ephrata store sets up a stand to sell select fairly traded items made from global artisan cooperatives? And Freecycle days? Gardening demos? People on hand to fix your bicycles? AND A WHOLE HOST OF OTHER AWESOMELY AWESOME AWESOMENESS!

//End rant//

Two nights ago when I was battling sleep at 3 am, freshly inspired by my reading Cathy Erway's "The Art of Eating in: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove," my mind was racing with cooking ideas. Wouldn't it be FANTASTIC if Eastern Market hosted a series of cook-off challenges, with donated prizes from local artisans, businesses, and eateries? Market goers could get samples, and an established panel of area chefs/restaurant critics/etc. could judge entries. Somehow, they could charge a fee for entry, and for attendees to sample everything, and use the money as a benefit for Eastern Market's upkeep and/or the local food bank/mission. Great idea, right?! Why hasn't anyone there thought of this yet?!

What about a series of "cooking classes" or demos at Eastern Market, like they do at the famed Reading Terminal Market in Philly? This would be especially helpful to those market goers that are unfamiliar with how to cook or use certain heirloom varieties of produce and what to make with them.

AND, if there is one or more someone needs to inform me, why are there no local underground supper clubs in Lancaster?! I want to start one! I want to cook and eat with likeminded sustainable foodies/cooks! Eastern Market would be the perfect place to "troll" for potential members! I wish they'd have a Community Board that you could put up advertisements for stuff like that so others can check it out and get in contact with each other....I really need to pitch these ideas to Eastern Market managers.

I recently read an article in the NY Times about the foodie scene in the Bay Area - fermenting preservation methods are alive and burgeoning on the West Coast, and I love it! I couldn't help being black with envy over the Underground Market they have in San Francisco that is relatively new; up and coming home cooks that want to sell some of their yummies on the side are able to do so, withOUT the use of a commercial kitchen or business license (like the health departments require for a legit business), on the Underground Market that moves around, once a month, to different "secret" locations. There's a bit of cloak-and-dagger to the sign-up of being a vendor OR a consumer attendee, and that only enchants me further! It allows foodie cooks to make a few bucks and enjoy what they're doing, as well as providing consumers in the know with a product they want and are willing to pay for without government intrusion/protection. This, in Lancaster, would completely satisfay a few of my "rebel against The Man" fantasies I have going. We need to make this happen here.

Over the next several weeks I'll be recipe testing for desserts. I'm thinking of starting a weekly feature on Mondays called "Manic Monday Morsels" - I'll make the recipe over the weekend, photograph, and post for Monday, which leaves you all week to try it out or get what you need to try it out the following weekend, should your little heart so desire. I'll also be posting on some upcoming foodie classes I'll be taking; I'm attending a cheesemaking workshop this coming Saturday, and (hopefully) the following Saturday I'll be attending a canning workshop in Philly so I can learn how to can! I'm inordinately ecstatic to be adding some kitchen skill notches to my proverbial belt.

A quick note on dinner tonight (since this is so long already...): There is nothing like homemade pizza. I would be content to never darken the doorway of a pizzeria again. If you're curious, I used the recipe for no-knead Olive Oil Dough from the cookbook Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, some of my leftover spaghetti sauce (recipe in an old post), and the ubiquitous shredded pizza cheese and seasonings. Here is the picture of my personal 9 inch pizza (those are Mario Batali non-stick pizza pans I used - I haven't readied my new Williams-Sonoma baking stone yet). Get a load of this lusciousness:

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