Fresno's Year-round Vineyard Farmers Market
Last month I had the chance to visit the Vineyard Farmers Market in Fresno twice. It's a lovely setting, shaded this time of year by a grape arbor. The first time, I was there before 8:30am, and things were already quite busy at that time. My second visit was just before noon and some booths were sold out (good to see!) and getting ready to leave. It was interesting for me to see how much further ahead in the growing season the local farms are compared to my home turf in Sonoma County. Full size summer squashes, abundant berries and mature garlic vs. the preemies and garlic scapes I found at Petaluma's market the next week. Prices are also lower.
The meaty, violet-fleshed Tulare cherries from Easton were an excellent first cherry buy of the year for me. The Armenian cukes I bought wound up as an appetizer at Hunan Restaurant. I enjoyed the two raw milk cheeses from Three Sisters. I'm sorry I didn't jump into the line for strawberries from Moa Produce, and I wish I'd bought some of those chayote vine leaves. I've yet to open the packages of bastirma and soujak I bought from Ohanayan. I was happy to see nopales and calabacitas (Mexican white zucchini) offered. Heads of purple-tinged garlic were a good buy at 50¢ or $1 for three smaller heads on the stalk. The raw milk butter from Organic Pastures is my most memorable buy, dense and complex with a nutty finish, and has been a hit with my dinner guests. The kefir was also interesting, fizzy and tart with an alcoholic kick.
The baby beets took much longer to cook/soften than my usual suppliers' and even then they were still more fibrous than I'd expected. Beefsteak tomatoes looked wonderful but the greenhouse origins showed in the lack of flavor . . . my bad for wishing I could get a jump on the season. Likewise, the organic apricots from Vince's were cottony with no juice or flavor. Rustic Bakery's peach turnover looked nice, but were soggy in the middle and the teeny amount of filling was way over-sugared.
Overall, a charming market and venue with a lot of positives for this early in the summer and well worth a visit.
Ohanyan's International Deli
1335 W Shields Ave, Fresno, CA 93705
Vineyard Farmers Market
Blackstone and Shaw Streets, Fresno, CA
Organic Pastures Dairy
7221 S Jameson Ave, Fresno, CA
Three Sisters Farmstead Cheese
24163 Road 188, Lindsay, CA
They have a website at http://www.vineyardfarmersmarket.com/ .
I've not been there nearly enough but have visited at all times of year and there's always something new to me. I appreciate that they also operate Wednesday afternoons, which lets us night-shift workers enjoy the harvest too.
It's really one of Fresno's gems. I'm already salivating over the annual Fig Gig in August!
Thanks, try clicking on the Place link for the farmers market in my original post, and you'll find a link to the website, map and other info.
Last weekend, I finally opened my packages of bastirma and soujouk from Ohanyan's for guests at a friends' dinner party. I liked the bastirma with its smoky notes and spicy paprika seasoning. It was presliced in the package and I might prefer it sliced thinner so that it's not so chewy. The soujouk wasn't as appealing to me, though our guests liked it quite a bit too. The cure is a little too tart for my taste. But I'm glad I got to try both. I'm a bit sorry that I didn't buy some of the manti (dumplings) Ohanyan's offfers.
Yesterday I had a chance to drop by the Vineyard market again for a quick run-through with PolarBear. The best treasure was a half-gallon of unsweetened, unpasteurized fresh pomegranate juice from Toby Farms, $11. I also picked up a slice sourdough loaf from La Boulangerie, some Armenian cukes, and Musca rosa grapes, a red seedless variety with a bit of muscat-y exotic flavor. We also bought a Russian melon, which I had misidentified as a Santa Claus melon (same shape and coloration) but the flavor is too subtle for me. It was great to see the market as it moves into fall, the various grapes I sampled were the best table grapes I've had this year.
There's still time to sign up for the Ninth Annual Chowing with the Hounds Picnic! October 3rd, 2009, details and registration info here.
Summaries of last year's event:
Chowing with the Hounds Picnic, 2008 Report.
Recipes from the 2008 Chowing with the Hounds Picnic!