Three local chefs take us on a tour through their favorite farmers markets and share tips on how to get the most out of your experience.
Written By Lennie Omalza
Farmers markets offer access to locally grown and produced goods, providing consumers with an opportunity to purchase the tastiest and freshest fruits, veggies, and more while supporting their communities. Louisville’s farmers markets are so good, top restaurants often feature their wares. Three farmers market pros from local eateries share their favorite finds and a few tips. Gather your baskets and start shopping!
Dallas McGarity, executive chef and owner of The Fat Lamb, frequents the Douglass Loop Farmers Market. An early bird, Dallas typically arrives at the market around 9:30 a.m. as the vendors are setting up. He makes his rounds quickly, gathering produce and other items for the restaurant. His recommendation for the average person, however, is to take your time and make an event out of the trip.
“A lot of the farmers markets nowadays are geared toward getting families to come out,” he says. “They have omelet and crepe stations, and people selling coffee and stuff like that in the morning. My suggestion is [to] kind of make it like a brunch thing. Go and get a couple of pastries and a couple coffees and hang out. Enjoy the atmosphere while you’re looking for produce, or meat, or eggs from a local farmer.”
When he isn’t in a hurry to gather ingredients for the restaurant, Dallas likes to pick up coffee himself from the vendor currently on site — typically Red Hot Roasters or Heine Bros. — and browse for other goods. “And flowers are always beautiful there,” he adds.
In addition to being a great place to pick up meat and produce, Dallas says Douglass Loop is also his go-to for bread, honey, and pickles. “The quality [at farmers markets] is better,” he says. “You can’t get [items] that are as fresh or as tasty … from other places.”
Susan Hershberg, founder and owner of Wiltshire Pantry, also makes regular visits to the Douglass Loop Farmers Market. “I am definitely a farmers market fanatic,” she exclaims, adding that her business had a booth there for 10 years. “One of the things that I really love about it is that … it’s in a really beautiful, wooded area. It’s a park-like setting, and I just think that it’s a really great atmosphere.” She adds that it is also one of the few farmers markets around town that is dog friendly, making it a great place to take four-legged family members for a Saturday morning walk.
Rather than making purchases immediately upon arrival, Susan takes a lap around the market first; this allows her to get a feel for and draw inspiration from what’s available. “I really like to kind of share the wealth,” she says. “I like to be sure that I shop from a lot of different vendors, as opposed to just buying everything all at one stop.”
Her frequently visited booths include La Minga for squash blossoms and unique Mexican herbs and spices; In Cheese’s Name for fresh burrata and mozzarella; and Pavel’s Garden. “Pavel is one of my absolute favorite farmers,” Susan says. “He has these beautiful, Italian chicory lettuces — and I just go crazy for them.”
She adds that most farmers markets are great places to pick up handmade goods with local flare; she has a collection of farmers markets bags from all over the country. “I [also] found my favorite ceramic artist at a farmers market in Portsmouth, New Hampshire,” she says. “We became dear friends and all of our dishes at Wiltshire are made by her.”
Bruce Ucan, a partner at Mayan Café, is also a fan of fresh flowers and locally made goods. He sometimes searches farmers markets for handmade soaps or flowers from Foxhollow Farm. He also recommends the unique wooden tables from Happy Jack’s Farm, which has booths at the Westport Road Baptist Church Farmers Market, the Bardstown Road Farmers Market, and the Franklin County Farmers Market in Frankfort.
Like Susan, Bruce often visits the Pavel’s Garden booth, too. “He grows the best radishes [and] baby kale,” he says. While at Douglass Loop, Bruce also likes to pick up jicama from Gary’s Farm, as well as pork and other meat products from various vendors. For tomatoes, he makes a stop at the St. Matthews Farmers Market; and for the best greens, he goes to the Bardstown Road Farmers Market for Field Day Family Farm’s booth, a vendor he has patronized for 30 years.
A farmers market veteran, Bruce says that over the years, he has noticed customers are sometimes hesitant to purchase produce simply because they aren’t sure how to prepare it. In an ideal world, he says, vendors would offer recipes and tips to encourage people to try new vegetables and dishes. Farmers, however, are focused on farming and producing the best possible products. The solution? Ask questions.
“Sometimes [farmers] don’t know how to push their products,” he says. “Ask questions so you can … keep supporting local.” He adds that over the past two years, grocery store prices have risen 20 to 30 %, while farmers market rates have stayed about the same. “People should consider shopping for more produce at farmers markets. It’s grown here … it’s fresher, and it has more nutrients.”
Farmers Market Inspired Recipes
Take lunch or dinner to the next level using fresh produce that will make your summer meals delightfully delicious. Susan Hershberg, founder and owner of Wilshire Pantry, and Bruce Ucan, a partner at Mayan Café, share some summer recipes which feature ingredients they often buy from their favorite farmers markets.
What’s In My Basket?
Today’s Woman Art Director Branden Barker recently stopped by the Douglass Loop Farmers Market. Here are three of his favorite finds.
Farmers market staples like fresh eggs, produce and meats are a given, but I never leave without some artisan bread. On this visit, I hit up Garey Farms for a delicious loaf of rosemary garlic bread ($7). And to top it off, I couldn’t resist some freshly churned garlic butter ($8) from Boone Creek Creamery. And yes, that’s double the garlic … why not?!
Nothing works up my appetite quite like shopping for food I’m going to eat later, so I always make sure I grab some lunch about halfway through my trip to the market. This time I went with beef samosas (two for $6) from SaSa Samosa Kitchen. And they didn’t disappoint. The samosas were light and flaky, filled with layers of flavors and topped with a mild sauce. Oh, and they can even deliver to your home on Thursdays (sasasamosakitchen.com for info).
I finished my visit by picking up a beautiful bouquet of flowers from Bellaire Blooms. I went with the large custom bouquet ($25). The chemical-free flowers grown in Shelby County can be arranged in a number of price points. Who doesn’t love fresh flowers?