One of my favorite places to go on a lazy day is a farmer’s market.
It’s really like the best of everything that is good in the world — it features freshly grown or raised food, it’s populated by friendly people, it takes place outdoors, and perhaps best of all, you can get free samples of almost everything.
When you head to the Englewood Farmer’s Market, if you don’t remember anything else about this column, don’t forget to go there hungry. Seriously, there are 60 vendors and 73 booths, and probably more than 95 percent of them are selling food items. And what better way to get you interested in purchasing what they’re selling than to let you taste it?
Take it from me, that tactic works. But as you’re eating your way through the market, just know that it’s actually food that is good for you. Take Mr. Pesto, for instance. His given name is Bob Garbowicz, but I tend to call people by whatever name they have printed on the front of their apron.
Anyway, Mr. Pesto sells sauces and yes, pestos, all made with fresh basil. And let me tell you, the man is serious about his basil.
“I grow my own basil for my tomato sauces, but my homegrown basil is not worthy of my pestos,” he said. “If you’re going to say you have the world’s greatest pesto, you start with the world’s greatest basil. All basil is not created equal.”
That’s why he gets the basil he uses in his pesto from an organic, hydroponic grower.
Fresh ingredients are also important to Richard Harmon, who owns Paradise Peanut Butter. He uses all kinds of different nuts and comes up with some incredibly creative nut butters, of which I tried a few, of course. The White Chocolate Raspberry tasted like you could put it on a sandwich and forgo the jelly, but my favorite was the Coconut, which smelled so good I didn’t know if I wanted to eat it or drink it.
All of the vendors at this nonprofit farmer’s market are distinctively unique — for instance, there are several bakers, but they all specialize in something different. The market manager, Lee Perron, said that because everything sold there has to be fresh, bakers are required tohave baked their goods the day before market, at the latest.
“That’s the type of market this is,” he said. “We have 11 growers in our market, but they have to be a local grower. The rule here is diversity, not duplication.”
All I can say is that as I left the Englewood Farmer’s Market, I took a lot of food with me, both in bags and in my belly. I asked Perron how hecould spend so much time at this market and the Venice Farmer’s Market, which he also manages, and still manage to stay so thin.
“I also spend a lot of time at the gym,” he said.
Debbie Flessner writes the Live Like a Tourist column for the Sun newspapers. You may contact her at dj@ flessner.net.
The Englewood Farmer’s Market is open every Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., October through May.
Bob Garbowicz, also known as “Mr. Pesto,” gives out samples to some customers who are obviously ready to buy.
One of the hallmarks of the Englewood Farmer’s Market is its large selection of various types of produce.
“Big Daddy,” of Perry’s Barbecue, is a well-loved staple at many area farmer’s markets.
You’ve never seen a pot of paella as big as this one at the booth of al-Andaluz Paellas and Tapas.
SUN PHOTOS BY DEBBIE FLESSNER
Providing classic rock musical accompaniment for my taste-testing was the talented Andre’ Lemiuex.
by Claudia Castillo
Serves 8, 1 cup per serving