Marketing this weekend was a double header. First to the Ann Arbor market to pick up the farm share and the last of the Frog Holler (perfect) strawberries. And finally finding the Jennings Bros. heritage grain vendor from dear old Nashville, MI. I will soon be making cornbread with Bloody Butcher cornmeal!
The main story, though, was getting a wonderful tour of newly renovated portions of Detroit's Eastern Market with my fabulous cousin Kara and her family. Kara goes often to the Eastern Market and shops with her favorite vendors, called, in her family "The Grain Guy," "The Apple Guy," and "The Honey Guy," etc.
It turns out The Grain Guy is Randy Hampshire of Hampshire Farm who grows certified organic grains, beans, and seeds and brings his woodfired-brick-oven-baked un-yeasted breads to the market from Kingston, MI, up in the thumb. From Randy I bought 2 lbs. each of organic oats, lentils, and sunflower seeds along with a loaf of his dense, curling-stone-worthy bread. Total cost: $11. Randy builds wood-fired brick ovens as a sideline, for the right customers.
Other fabulous finds at the Eastern Market were trefoil honey with a slight minty taste, from Pat Brady. And a jar of wonderfully floral basswood honey from another vendor. Pat had other excellent honeys and was giving away tastes of them. A favorite is orange blossom honey. I asked how he got orange blossom honey in Michigan and he said he takes his bees with him to Florida in the winter.
From Holtz farm in Ida I bought a 10 lb. bag of white sweet potatoes for $2. Mr. Holtz says he grows about 10 different kinds of regular potatoes (including Kara's favorite French fingerlings, which won't be ready for another 3 weeks or so) and 5 or 6 different sweet potatoes. These white sweets were last year's taters, still with the dirt clinging to them but firm and not a sprout on them.
My last stop at Eastern Market was at Bert's Marketplace where there was a block long grill set up in front with more ribs, chicken, burgers, and sausages than you've ever seen assembled in one place and a line about 12 deep. In addition to the BBQ, people were enjoying Bert's open mic and open air karaoake. A stocky gray-haired guy named Rayone, in shorts, suspenders and a trucker's hat, brought the house down with a smoking torch version of "Always and Forever." Unbelievable.
Of the Eastern Market, Kara said "this market needs more farmers!" and it did seem like there are somehow more farmers coming to the (much smaller) Ann Arbor farmer's market. That seemed a little odd to me. Why so few? And why from so far away?
I also noticed that things definitely seem cheaper at the Eastern Market. $1 for a bag of asian greens? $1 for a big bunch of lemon verbena? $2 for 10 pounds of sweet potatoes? With prices like that, why isn't everyone sold out by 10am?
I was also impressed with the wide range of the clientele - from women in full hijab to Mennonite men to teenagers in tiny shiny t-shirts to couples who have probably been coming to the market since it opened in the 1800s. Every age, ethnicity and income level seemed represented.
There's a lot to explore at the Eastern Market. There's an incredible renovation and revitalization plan that's being implemented, which will eventually include a CSA drop-off point and an education facility. The newly renovated Shed 2 with all the vendors is spacious, airy, and beautiful. If you become a Friend of the Eastern Market for $50, you get one of the prettiest bags I've seen (from the Eat Local Food people of course).
I didn't even get to go into R. Hirt, or the Spice Shop - Rafals, or look for my friend's pastry business. I think I'll be going back to the Eastern Market again soon. That BBQ sauce at Bert's was amazing and the friendly girl who handed me my sandwich said her grampa is the owner of Bert's Marketplace and her dad was the guy in the middle of the smoke at the enormous grill.
Become a Friend of the Eastern Market
Contact: 313-833-9300, Randall Fogelman
Hours: Saturday 6am-5pm
Project FRESH, Bridge Card and Food Stamps accepted
Check out the cool renovation plan.