Sunday, September 6, 2009

Lake Bluff Farmers Market

Every Friday, the sleepy, little community on the lake that we lovingly call “Mayberry” comes to life. Lake Bluff’s weekly Farmer’s Market is one of the best on the North Shore. Started in 1979, the market has been thriving for 16 years.

Much like the mercados all over Mexico, growers gather to sell their fruits and vegetables directly to the public in what is one of the oldest forms of direct marketing. The reward is that we get fresher and healthier produce and farmers get a much better price than they do selling to the local grocery chain.

Merchants sell everything from fresh cheese and bread to flowers and homemade granola. I love the wide variety of produce that is available at these markets and hardly ever have to go to the grocery store during the season anymore.

Several weeks ago, I did a side-by-side test for my neighbor who insisted that she could buy the same quality of green beans at the local supermarket. She could not believe the difference in taste. The beans at your local grocery have to go through the “distribution system”. The ones at your local farmers market were probably just picked fresh yesterday.

About a month ago, I was waiting to take the train downtown Chicago and was talking to a young girl who is now baking bread with her Aunt and selling it at the Farmer’s Market. She told me the short history of The Necessity Baking Company – they are getting ready to move into a new kitchen - and was so excited, in this economy, to have a new career. I visited with them last Friday and their breads were fantastic. Using fresh herbs, cheese and fruits to create products that not only looked great, they were also in high demand and this is the type of product you just can’t find in your local grocery store. I bought the Dolce Asiago and it was amazing. Bread is one of my favorite indulgence foods along with cheese.

I never had an ounce of respect for cheese until I took a taste of the Gouda and Mindoro Bleu offered by The Cheese People. My friend recently told me that she does not eat cheese because it is artery-clogging and bad for you. You would never know it by the number of people who are waiting at the cheese stall each week. Whatever the discussion, good or bad, I consume cheese responsibly. A little cheating once in awhile makes healthy eating not quite so boring.

The Lake Bluff Farmers Market is on the Village Green, at Sheridan Road and Scranton Avenue, June 12th through October 9th, from 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Chicago Notes:

Perhaps no one appreciates the local growers more than Rick Bayless. He established The Frontera Farmer Foundation in 2003 out of concern for struggling farmers and the importance of local produce to influence Chicago’s cooking traditions. We are awaiting the opening of XOCO this week to enjoy some of the Mexican street food that will put a new twist on local ingredients. Stay tuned.

Chicago’s Green City Market is Chicago’s only market promoting local farmers, producers and chefs by linking them to the community through educational programs and special events.

The Chicago Green City Market outdoor season runs May 6 through October 31, 2009, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is located at the south end of Lincoln Park between Clark and Stockton Drive (approximately 1750 N. Clark).

The Chicago Green City Market indoor season runs from November 7, 2009, through April 2010, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is located in the south gallery of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum at at 2430 N. Cannon Drive in Lincoln Park, just north of the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Look for a blog this November inside the Green City Market and catch one of your local celebrity chefs putting on a demonstration showing how to make meals using local ingredients.