Thank you for your enthusiastic welcome last week for Arka of Kustomcoffee and his wonderful coffee and also for showing up to buy BBQ from Blue Dog. Mike and Deborah really do a great job, don’t they? Both of these vendors will accept special orders over the Web, so feel free to let them know ahead of time if you are planning to feed a crowd. You can do so through the Kustomcoffee and Blue Dog websites. Blue Dog will come every other week, and I will remind you each week when they will be on site. Arka should be with us every week once he has everything he needs to roast and grind on site. He is working on perfecting his operation this week — we will tweet if he has any problems making the market this Saturday.
Cakes by Shelby will send cake pops with the breast-cancer ribbon on them for the next few weeks because Shelby is raising money for a friend who will participate in the Komen walk later this spring. She is generously contributing everything she makes from these pops to her friend’s effort. And she is now accepting credit cards.
At the El Ceibo chocolate tent, you will love all of the chocolate bars, and I recommend the ground chocolate for hot chocolate. This is not a cocoa mix with added sugar; it is pure chocolate that can be used in place of cocoa in any recipe unless the recipe calls for Dutch-process chocolate. But whatever you make with it will be light but rich and smoothly chocolaty -- the best words I can conjure to describe its contribution to my favorite chocolate pound cake recipe and to hot milk.
Even if you are not on a special diet that limits you to Uncle Roger’s “specialty” baked goods, you are welcome to try his regular-recipe cookies and tea breads. He is always working to bring you something new and good.
Our new baker will join us this week. Lynn Vargas operates under the name Madelynn’s Cakery and will bring us elegant and scrumptious cakes and other delights.
And here’s a great idea with all kinds of those win-win rewards; this comes from Diane Blust, your very own market manager. She was inspired by one of our shoppers who bought apples from Max Tyson to take to the Occupy protestors in D.C. Now she buys apples to donate to the food bank run by Reston Interfaith. She regularly contributes to Reston Interfaith anyway, and she feels that this way she can guarantee that the food bank has good local fruit to share. You may have another food bank or kitchen that you support, so please consider this now when fresh fruit is scarce at the food banks as a doubly rewarding way to support your local farmers and your community’s efforts to feed the hungry this year.
Also, our very own master organic gardener, Joe Belsan, will be offering a class at the Unity Church in March for those of you who want to learn more about organic gardening at home. We encourage you to sign up. Joe has given many classes in the area and has worked with individuals and organizations to promote gardening that enhances rather than undermines our environment.
From the Market Master
This is always an exciting time for Smart Markets and me — when the inquiries and application from new vendors are coming in and I can see in my mind’s eye the markets filling out and, in some cases, filling up with them. We cannot grow indiscriminately at all of our markets; those are the ones that challenge me to select only the best and brightest vendors. I also have to try to discern who understands the commitment involved. The demand for spaces is greater than our ability to include. Some vendors are not prepared to make the commitment, follow the rules and stick with us until you, the shoppers, “find” them and learn to love them as I know you will.
Thankfully, at some markets we can grow to fill a bigger space, and at those markets I can experiment a little with vendors whom I know are just coming to test the waters or make a little mad money and with nascent entrepreneurs who need our assistance with everything from labeling and display to design and marketing. At the roomier sites, we can give them a chance to grow, develop, and maybe even move on — but that is part of our reason for being here. The challenge for me, of course, is figuring out who’s who.
This year we have several new sustainable farmers and our first certified-organic farmer. We have a gentleman who wants to bring his own fresh and dried herbs and infused oils and vinegars — and beautiful blown glass bottles and utensils for the use and care of his products. We have interest from a woman who mixes spices for all kinds of creative cooking. I am sure you will see her products showing up in the demos that we hope to schedule every month at each market.
We have a wonderful new cake baker who will start very soon. She will be bringing lovely heirloom and avant-garde cakes and tortes — European-influenced and classic American. And, as always, several new vendors from our culturally rich and diverse population of home cooks. We will also have a new grower of fresh flowers.
Not all of these new vendors will come to all of the markets, of course — but we will build upon our fantastic core of loyal and top-rate vendors who have been with us for years.
This has been a teaser of sorts — a peek at the markets of the future, but the future is nearly now. Several of our farmers expect to come in April this year — this mild winter has already made that possible no matter what happens in the next couple of months. I hope that you can get as excited as I am. Think strawberries and asparagus, our own harbingers of spring in this area.
And don’t forget that your local year-round market has goodies to hold you over until spring. In addition to the meats, dairy, healthy eggs, baked goods, and prepared foods, we have had greens almost every week all winter long, and the spring arugula is already appearing. Can English peas be far behind?