Monday, March 12, 2018

Portland State University Farmers Market: A Review

Glorious bouquets at the market.
Our recent travels took me to Portland, Oregon for a visit with friends and family. Of course, they graciously joined me on a foray over to one of the weekend markets happening in that lovely city, the Portland State University Farmers Market.

Set deep in the heart of the city on the campus of Portland State University, I found a delightful crowd of vendors and immediately lost myself in the sights and smells of a bustling weekly market. Even in winter, when apparently the market is half of its summer size, there was plenty to choose from to set a table for the week.

Awesome baby carrots! (I somehow neglected to take a photo of the orchard table...)
My first stop of Kiyokawa Orchards. Recommended by a friend, the orchards are plum full (pun intended) of delicious fruits. On that particular Saturday, they offered an excellent supply of apples - Red Delicious, Cameo a.k.a. Carousel, and Crimson Crisp -  with four kinds of pears at one end of the display. I came away with the Cameo and Crimson Crisp as I can resist almost no apple when at a farmer's market. (I will also highly recommend this YouTube video produced by the Hollywood Farmer's Market where they visit the orchard and talk with Randy Kiyokawa.) The farm grows about 120 different varieties of fruit and has a highly recommended U-Pick experience that if I were here during apple season would be a definite stop.

Jeff Garritano of Scratch Meats at the Portland State University Market.
Owner and chief sausage guy at Scratch Meats, Jeff Garritano, stood before a sizzling grill tempting passersby with the scent of his homemade sausages. A former math and science teacher, Jeff has been selling his sausages for six years, although he's been making them forever he says. "The Italian sausage is a family recipe," he told me as I took a bite. Made using ingredients from Oregon and Washington, the sausage is flavorful without being too greasy or overpowering. His family originally hails from the Calabria region of Italy, and it is clear that along with the recipe Jeff inherited the talent for making it.

Gathering Together's display that my photo does not do justice.
Trust me. It was beautiful.
I wandered then past one of the best fresh vegetables displays I have ever seen at Gathering Together Organic Farm's stall. The textures and colors of the kales, chards, and radishes were so like a painting with their vibrancy that it was difficult to look away. Their selection of baby greens was just as lovely, and I was thrilled when my friend gathered up a huge bag for our salad that evening.

There were plenty of places to stop for a bite, but I tried to stick to my rule of making at least one lap of a market before purchasing anything. The warm scent of Enchanted Sun Burritos drifted over, but I kept moving, excusing myself through the long line of people in front of Money Bowl. My friend told me this is a newer member of the take-away food scene at this market, and we looked on with gurgling stomachs as people left the stall with metal bowls of noodles heaped with various bright vegetables and sauces. However, the next booth proved irresistible.

Eva with her on-tap kombucha.
Eva Sippl of Herbucha serves up three different kinds of kombucha in to-go or stay-at-the-market cups. "It's not konbu-cha," she warned as she handed me a sample of her Rose City Blend. Instead of that salty, kelp-infused brew, I imbibe a soft mix of herbs and a wee bit of rose water that is an acknowledgement of Portland's love affair with that particular bloom. A licensed natural health practitioner, she puts her knowledge of herbs and healing techniques together to craft something unique in Portland. After a bit more sampling, I chose Detox in a stay-at-the-market cup. "It feels really healthy," my husband said, but I fell in love with it for the zippy ginger flavor that sparkled tangy and sweet on the tongue.

Elizabeth of Lonesome Whistle Farm and that amazing popcorn.
I didn't get too far before the scent and sight of one of my absolute favorite things in the world pulled me to a booth like a magnet. Elizabeth, part of the crew at Lonesome Whistle Farm, was serving up bags of freshly popped heirloom popcorn. Dakota Black, one of my early favorites, is on the menu and I paused to chat and munch. Around for about 15 years, Jeff Broadie and Kasey White, the farmer-owners of Lonesome Whistle are carving out a delicious and important niche for their farm in the new grains movement. Their booth offered rolled oats, whole barley, wheat berries, bread flour, and golden flax seed. The Dakota Black comes ready for popping, but they also offer it ground as cornmeal and polenta. I am still excited beyond belief.

Other than popcorn, chocolate is another item I cannot resist. So, when I spotted the samples at Honey Mama's, I casually paused to try a bite. Made using a blend of honey, cocoa, and coconut oil (see more about their ingredients here), I worked my way through lavender, coconut, Mayan Spice, peppermint, and coffee nibs before getting edged out by other visitors. Smooth and perfectly sweet, the bars are magnificent.

Ian of New Deal Distillery serving up the good stuff.
My final stop at the market was New Deal Distillery. A little overwhelmed at this point and not sure if I had another lap in me or not, this was a great place to pause and chat. Ian, a New Deal Distillery staff member and enthusiast, stood cheerfully bundled against the cold behind an array of bottles. Being from Wisconsin, I opted for the pear brandy. "We got the local fruit and just let the magic happen," Ian said as I sipped the surprisingly clear liquid. Smooth and flavorful, it went down easy, but it was the Ginger Liqueur that stole the show for us and the small crowd of other visitors that soon gathered around to sip and assess. Sweet, hot, and pleasantly punchy, we all were in love with this one.

Portland State University Farmers Market
Every Saturday
9am - 2pm (November through March)
8:30am - 2pm (April through October)

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