Winter Farmers Market Bounty

carrots

Holly’s dad and step-mom were in town last weekend, and we took them to the next-to-last Portland Farmers Market of the season on Saturday. I took the camera and I got a little shutter-happy. The light was good and clear, we were there early, and despite, or perhaps due to, the cold, people seemed to be in a good mood. We had made two rounds, one to check everything out, and one to shop, and then I took another pass and tried to get a shot of everyone we bought something from. You can see all the photos here.

I am not very good at remembering business names at the market; I tend to think of people as “the mushroom guy” and “the hot cider lady,” so I apologize to all the folks who have doubtless put a lot of thought into what to call their operation . . . but I do like the interpersonal nature of the farmers market, and I treasure the fact that I can talk to the producers.

I did not get an adequate photo of two of the most important (to us) purveyors this week: a fellow selling elk and buffalo meat, and a fellow selling Willamette Valley Jersey-milk single-herd cheese.

We purchased a 3-pound chuck roast of elk from the elk/buffalo guy, and several items from the Jersey Cheese guy. We prepared the chuck roast last night as a braise with a sauce/accompaniment of caramelized onions and sauteed maitake mushrooms. The mushroom guy said that maitake went well with elk, and he wasn’t kidding. In fact, maitake mushrooms are perhaps the most wonderfully flavored mushrooms I have ever tasted. They are also beautiful to behold.

This was our first experience in cooking and eating elk, and we enjoyed it quite a bit. Elk does not taste that much different from beef, I was surprised to find, but since it is much lower in fat (and since these elk in particular are raised and finished on grass, no corn or grain at all), it is a denser meat, even in the chuck roast, and so the chuck tasted a bit like a drier brisket in places. In places where there was a nice sinew, it fell apart into gel much like a flatiron would, given the same treatment.

I am going to post the recipe we used; it turned out very well and I would like to use it again. So keep an eye out for that.

The cheese guy supplied us with a beguiling savory blue-cheese cheesecake made with his fromage blanc and Rogue River blue, and, naturally, a hazelnut crust. He said that he had been working on it for a while and felt that it was finally good enough to present. It is not like any cheesecake you’ve ever tasted, I will guarantee that. Holly and I both found it delicious. Cheese guy said that the Rogue folks were expecting something sweeter and actually didn’t like it when they tasted it! I can see where it could use some refinement, but even so, I’m a fan.

[addendum: OK, I found some real names for some of these folks, secreted away in various spots in the kitchen. The Cheese Guy is from Oregon Gourmet Cheese, as Jen surmised in her comment. The Elk/Buffalo Guy is of Pine Mountain Ranch, in Bend.]

I think that my favorite market treat this week had to be the little buttermilk-chocolate-cake ho-hos I tried. They are twinkie shaped! But dense and rich and o so delicious with a squirt of sweet cream icing on top. While I was, er, purchasing my second one, I overheard the purveyor talking to another fellow who turned out to be the guy rumored to be preparing his fabulous bagels for next week’s final market! He said he’s going to be there, and naturally we will too.

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4 Responses to Winter Farmers Market Bounty

  1. jen says:

    The Portland Farmer’s Market is officially one of my favorite farmers’ markets ever. (Top 5 — I see a new post coming!) I was there about a month ago and had been warned by my friends that “it’s not what it is in the summertime.” Well, of course it isn’t, but it is really a great market.

    There is a cheese guy there … Oregon Gourmet Cheese … his is really great, and he is the nicest guy. And the “mushroom guy” has a fantastic porcini mushroom powder. Re-reading your post, maybe you and I are talking about the same cheese guy. His logo is like a cartoon-y jersey cow.

    That market makes me want to move there (well that, and hot lips pizza and new seasons).

  2. Patrick says:

    Hi Jen!

    I think the Oregon Gourmet Cheese guy is our guy. I need to take better notes. His main cheese, which is called Sublimity, is an aged cheese that is a bit like a mild cheddar (though I don’t think it’s actually cheddared) or a bloomy aged goat cheese. He has it in several varieties, including plain, cumin, peppercorn, and an absolutely amazing herbes de provence. And yes, he is a great guy, happy to answer my numerous questions.

    I think the mushroom guy you mention is a different mushroom guy, but I know who you’re talking about…he also sells propagation kits, one of which we want.

    I await your top 5 farmers markets with bated camembert breath. (Eww!)

    Next time you visit, try Apizza Scholls, which will make you want to move here even more than Hot Lips.

  3. mary mcguire says:

    thanks for so many gorgeous pictures and the easy way you’ve set up to view them. on these dark mornings in michigan, looking at the stunning maple tree and the farm market and your internal house layout is just the best activity with coffee. glad to hear about the chickens coming to this back yard-I surely liked your others. any word on how they are doing in Oakland? i look forward to a future visit to Portland. Mary

  4. jen maiser says:

    Ever since I read this comment, Patrick, I have been hearing about Apizza Scholls all over the place. Will have to be a destination on my next trip.

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