Friday, January 9, 2009

Providence Wintertime Farmers Market

If you haven't yet been to the Providence Wintertime Farmers Market, you've been missing a fantastic event. Not to worry, though, it continues every Saturday from 11am until 2pm at the Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket from now through April 25, but you should make a habit of shopping there. Don't wait until it's too late, you'll regret it. It's an impressive market, and one for which the farmers and food artisans, and Farm Fresh Rhode Island deserve a lot of credit for keeping the local food system flourishing throughout the winter.

There is a fantastic selection of locally produced foods at the market, and the market itself is abuzz with activity and an upbeat vibe. Last Saturday, the market was jam-packed with shoppers and vendors alike. A line had formed at the Naragansett Creamery stand, shoppers eagerly awaiting their turn to select locally-crafted cheeses like Atwell's Gold, Renaissance Ricotta, and Queso Blanco, among others.

Grass-fed pork and beef is available from a few farms, as are eggs and whole pastured chickens. If you're looking for obscure cuts of meat, the market is a great resource. I picked up some leaf lard and guanciale from Pat's Pastured, and plan to buy pig's trotters and beef tongue in the coming weeks. Of course, the farmers do have all of your "normal" cuts of meat, so by no means do you have to be planning to experiment with eating "everything but the squeal," as farmer Pat McNiff put it to me as he handed me my package of lard.

There is plenty of locally grown produce available, including apples, apple cider, greens, squashes, and root vegetables, and this was clearly well-appreciated, as the produce stands had many customers lined up with goods in-hand.

This being the Ocean State, there is also shellfish and lobster on offer from Matunuck Oyster Farm. I'm thinking any time is a good time for oysters - especially oysters from the waters off of our state - but maybe you want to make a plan for oysters on Valentine's Day? Or for a birthday celebration? Or simply to break up the monotony the winter brings? Your choice. Any reason is a good one.

There are plenty of gift-type items at the market, including soaps and infused oils, as well as homemade dog treats at Jack's Snacks, of which my dog was the happy recipient. She seemed to like the Squirrel Nut treat quite a bit, in fact.

And there are treats for humans as well - chocolates, pies, chutneys, jams, and freshly baked breads. Not to mention the treat that is the space itself. The mill building is beautifully restored and has floor to ceiling windows on the interior walls, so along with the meat, produce, cheese, bread, dog treats, and shellfish, there are permanent shops as well, including a book store and children's store, among others. You'll be amazed. And you'll go back again and again, for the great local food as well as the ambiance.

Take it Slow, and get yourself down to the market!

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