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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Thing 44: The Dupont Circle Farmers' Market

You may have noticed that I've kind of stopped going out to eat.

Fresh squash, fresh zucchini
You see, I've fallen in love with my little Sunday morning ritual. Wake up at 8:00, make coffee, fry an egg. Check the Post. Grab my canvas tote bag, and then stroll the five blocks down to the north side of Dupont Circle to do my shopping for the week at my lively, friendly and colorful farmers' market.

My grandparents, who live in Oregon and grow nearly all their own produce, were surprised to hear that DC even has a farmers' market. In fact, there are a whole bunch of them to choose from, to suit your schedule and neighborhood. They had an idea that DC was a cruel concrete jungle, when in fact, just a short distance out in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania there are sustainable and organic farms aplenty. They come into the District to sell their bounty and everything looks, smells and tastes so good, I may never go out to eat again.

There is the stand where I buy my basil, which is so fragrant that you can smell it from two feet away. The guys at the stand are used to seeing me there, and we chat about what I made in the last week with their basil (ice cream), their garlic scapes (pesto), their escarole (this salad). When I told them about the incredible basil ice cream I'd churned, they told me that if I bring them some in the future, they will barter with me for more fresh herbs.

Napa cabbage makes amazing fresh slaw with black beans and cumin
There is the stand that sells the freshest, juiciest and brightest red tomatoes, still on the vine, and we chat about pickling techniques.

There is the stand where I buy any kind of salad greens imaginable -- arugula, spinach, a mescalin mix with brightly colored edible flowers sprinkled throughout. They sell dark red beets as big as your fist, and spearmint that makes the most extraordinary mint chip ice cream (buy this book. Do it now). They also sell four colors of radish -- red, purple, pink, and a half red-half white variety --which, along with the fresh local feta from the cheese stand, prompted me to eat this salad for an entire week earlier in the season. (I adore Molly's simple, seasonal recipes over at Orangette, if you couldn't already tell).

We are well familiar with my strawberry obsession (see Thing 39)
The women all speak French at the stand that sells croissants and fresh baguettes, and there is another bread stand that sells a variety of whole grain breads, with flax seeds or sunflower seeds, walnuts or olives, whole wheat country boules. I am partial to the flax seed loaf, which is a little sour and full of flax, sunflower and poppy seeds.

I make my own jam, but in case you don't, they have all kinds

There is fresh dairy and local meats. Your choice of lamb, pork, beef or chickens, all raised organically and sustainably. The Boyfriend and I feasted on sweet Italian sausages one week, with a side of organic broccoli. There is a seafood stand selling live soft shell crabs, and last week there was a live eel for sale, named "Buddy." The sign said he bites. (I passed on the eel.)

The hot item the past couple weeks have been the local cherries, which I buy and then can't help but start eating on my walk home, spitting the pits out in the gutter on Q Street. And then there is the ritual of coming home, putting everything away, perusing cookbooks for recipes to make during the week to use whatever strange or familiar vegetables I've brought back. Preparing an ice cream base if I've bought something sweet. Readying the jars if I plan on doing any canning. And making a big farmers' market salad with whatever I bought that day, eating food that was growing in the ground only a few hours before.

So that's where the restaurant reviews have disappeared to. Can you blame me?

Fresh flowers and herbs


DC Sarah said...

I just discovered your blog via Orangette and as a fellow DC food lover, cook, and general bon vivant, I am so glad I've found your site! This post was the last final kick in the pants I needed to get out of bed early on Sunday and head down CT Ave for the market! Can't believe I haven't been in a year! It's tragic, really. THANK YOU!

dc365 said...

Thanks DC Sarah, and welcome to the blog!

I really adore the Sunday morning ritual and I'll be there this weekend; if you see me, introduce yourself! But if you're not into that whole wake up early on the weekends thing, I've heard good things about the market in Penn Quarter on Thursday afternoons.

Also, I really love getting suggestions, so if you have any suggestions on places to eat that tear me away from my organic veggies, please chime in!

bg said...

For a while now I, too, have been enjoying buying nearly all my produce at local farmers' markets. It all started when I heard a talk by Barbara Kingsolver about her latest book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, written with family members about a year they spent eating only locally grown and homegrown food. I think you would love this book, which includes menus and recipes as well as some wonderful stories.

Molly said...

I love the sound of your Sunday morning ritual, and those photographs from the market are gorgeous! Thanks for the sweet shout-outs, too. So glad my salads have been a hit in your kitchen!


dc365 said...

bg - I think you are my mom, which is funny, because the other person who recommended this book to me is the Boyfriend's mom. I will pick it up next time I'm at the library.

Molly - Thanks for checking in! As a big fan of your blog and photography, a compliment from you is extra special nice. Keep the wedding and food related updates coming! I love 'em.

DC Sarah said...

It's going to be a late night tonight most likely, but I am going to try my hardest to get there tomorrow am-hope to see you! I will be the one wandering around with my canvas Trader Joe's bag, leaving a trail of drool in my wake. The sad thing is that I have actually lost my ability to sleep late on weekends. Remember college-when no one would arise before noon on a Saturday? Those days are long gone...

As far as restaurants go, my favorites right now are 2 Amys and the Palena Cafe-cheap, AMAZINGLY GOOD, and close to me. What more could a gal want? And have you stopped by Cowgirl Creamery yet downtown??


dc365 said...

DC Sarah - Did you make it to market yesterday? What did you think?

It's funny you should mention 2 Amys. The Boyfriend and I walked by it on Saturday, and resolved to go to it in the very near future. Your recommendation has sealed it!