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A Bounty to Behold at Farmers Markets

Tue, 07/05/2022 - 08:54
Mecox Bay Dairy, with Stuart Johnson running the booth, is one of the fixtures of the farmers market circuit on the South Fork.
Laura Donnelly

From Thursdays through Sundays there are five farmers markets out here -- in Montauk, Springs, East Hampton, Sag Harbor, and Southampton. Some are quite large, Montauk, East Hampton, and Southampton have over 40 vendors. The Springs and Sag Harbor farmers markets are a bit smaller but you will see a good deal of overlap among all of them.

I spent a recent weekend visiting every one and am so glad I did. As a creature of habit, I usually just waddle down to my neighborhood market in Sag Harbor. On this exploratory mission I discovered many locally made products that I had never tried before.

Le Fusion (East Hampton) is a company that makes a delicious variety of spring rolls, Dave's Best Baked Clams (also East Hampton) makes, you guessed it, baked clams. These were excellent, especially if you like the style of baked clams of yore. Think Spring Close House and Gordon's, finely minced clams, lots of breadcrumbs, super garlicky. Milla's Puffs (Southampton) are Brazilian "pao de quejo" made by Milla Benevides. These are crunchy on the outside, gooey, chewy on the inside, gluten-free cheese puffs. She uses Mecox Bay Dairy cheese and all local ingredients except for the tapioca, which she imports from Brazil. If you like things like mochi, red bean buns, and bubble tea, you will appreciate these puffs' chewy glutinous interior.

Rena's Dream Patties (Springs) are light and crisp Jamaican patties, yellow from turmeric and filled with beef, chicken, or greens and sweet potatoes. Heidi Riegler of Vienna Cookie Company makes delicate linzer cookies and tarts. Her husband, Joseph Bruno, mans his own booth next to her, Chowderhead, selling all manner of great chowders and clam sauces.

It would take up too much time and space to mention every vendor so I'm just going to go over some of my favorites. Peter Ambrose, chef and caterer, has come out with his own line of sauces and rubs called Endless Summer. He also sells fresh roasted salsa, wasabi sauce, and chimichurri. All of these are stupendous. Corey de Rosa's Tapovana (East Hampton and Sag Harbor) offers chutneys, drinks, rice mixes, and prepared Ayurvedic meals. He, too, uses Mecox Bay Dairy's milk to make his cheese for saag paneer, a spicy spinach puree with soft cheese cubes. This is the best saag paneer I have ever tasted. 

Susan Walsh of Clarkson Avenue Crumbcake Co. is a rock star! Her crumb cakes are even sold on HSN. They come in the classic cinnamon flavor, along with raspberry blackout, Brooklyn blackout, salted caramel, and more.

The Ferm, created by Brianna and Joseph Hernandez, sell the best kimchis in various flavors, as well as sauerkraut and kombuchas. Open Minded Organics is your best source for all manner of mushrooms, vegetables, C.B.D. tinctures, and pestos. Arlotta Food Studio has excellent olive oils, vinegars, and more. Try its hot chile oil on chicken or eggplant before you grill them. Springs Fireplace hot sauces are so good I gave them for Christmas presents last year. Newlight Breadworks makes a variety of sourdough breads, rolls, baguettes, and milk bread, all with local flour. Same goes for L'Isolina pastas, all made with local flour. Peck's of Maine may not be local but its jams and jellies are worth getting, especially the blueberry and peach.

Goodale Farm has every kind of dairy product: milk, cheeses, yogurt, eggs, and butter. Meats are also available if you order online beforehand. Try its Danchego cheese on a sliver of Newlight bread with a dab of Peck's jam. That's livin'!

Sylvester Manor sells beautiful produce, eggs, and meats. Its maple breakfast pork sausage links are the best I've tried. Finn's Smoked Fish has superb smoked bluefish dip along with mahi-mahi, salmon, and whitefish.

Now that we are semi-maybe-post-pandemic, many vendors are back to offering samples. Try some Shawondasee, Atlantic Mist, or Sigit while you're deciding what to buy from Mecox Bay Dairy. Hampton Grocer sells different flavors of crunchy nutty granola; lemon is my favorite.

There are pickles and honeys and baskets and nuts and flowers and dog treats and fish and wine and beer at some of our farmers markets, all good. For fruits and vegetables, Quail Hill, Sylvester Manor Educational Farm, Wesnofske, Regina's, Open Minded Organics, and Island End are all great. Just take a loop around, compare prices and quality for yourself. For instance, this time of year I am hunting for zucchini blossoms and just trying to find the biggest, freshest, and most reasonably priced to fry in a light batter.

In the category of non-food items Southampton Soap Company sells wonderfully scented soaps, another favorite gift that won't break the bank. Sweet orange and clove, woodland blend, and ylang ylang cedarwood are all over my house.

You can get your knives sharpened at a few market locations, and get the freshest, most stunning flowers from Pierpont Blossom Farm, also at various farmers markets.

If you spend a lot of time at these markets, as I do, you will pick up on the energy, the camaraderie, and the symbiosis between all of them. Mario Pecoraro of Arlotta olive oils will share a recipe, Steve from OMO will send you over to Kalypso for spiced feta cheese, Charley at Mecox Bay Dairy will recommend a certain bread for a certain cheese, Chris Scola of Slow Down Seafood will tell you to get the blackfish because who knows when you'll see it again.

Sometimes I will buy buckets of Sungold tomatoes, go home to make soup, and bring it back for my farmer friends to try. Last summer I turned Joe Hernandez of the Ferm on to pikliz, a fiery Haitian pickled cabbage and Scotch Bonnet condiment. Now he's considering making a version to sell.

We've heard the expression "know your farmer" and "know your fisherman." I say take it a step further. Befriend your farmer, learn from your fisherman. Ask questions, share recipes, let them keep the change. Nobody works harder, nobody provides a finer product, nobody knows more about what you are buying than these folks.

Many thanks to the various Chambers of Commerce and the peerless Kate Plumb for their volunteer work in organizing and supervising our farmers markets and keeping us all well fed!

Click here for recipes.

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