Please Frequent Your Local Farmer’s Market

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Image courtesy of the Fulton Street Farmer’s Market website.

Mother Nature has finally released the winter death grip on the state of Michigan (watch me jinx us.) Last night while walking the dog I realized how ridiculously green the lawns and buds on trees were, how everything looked soft and glowed with life. This of course is before the heat of summer will regulate things back to yellow/brown (we’ll deal with that in due course.)

Right now we relish warmer weather, cool breezes and a rebirth of Michigan. This is also one of my favorite seasons, spring you ask? Nay, Farmer’s Market season. Living in Grand Rapids has spoiled my family and I with great restaurants, many of which have a bold claim of farm to plate fresh. I love this concept and I love how the Fulton Street Farmer’s Market makes this happen.

The Farmer’s Market provides some very important contributions to our community. The following I wish to share with you.

1. This magical veggie/fruit/plant/dairy/meat-filled oasis is right in the heart of the city. I don’t have to drive all over West Michigan to get my local fresh foods, I need only to pack up my canvas bags (oh how earthy!), my mini man and the stroller to get to my foodie haven.

2. I can actually talk to the people who raise the farm animals, create the cheeses, tend to the land & plant our food. I can ask them questions regarding what they use to keep away pests, how I can use my food in a new recipe, what the best times are to plant the flowers I buy, or even what the difference is between the lemon basil versus the spicy basil plants I am considering.

3. It’s also a unique blend of humanity. If you did nothing else at the Farmer’s Market but sit and people-watch for an hour (while sipping your eco-friendly locally roasted coffee), you’d have spent your time well. Few places can bring along so many different individuals so many unique folks from different walks of life. All congregating in the same space, buying the same foods that they will take back to their respective homes.

4. The Farmer’s Market is a great place for families. I can keep the mini man entertained here for a long time. There is so much to explore for kids of all ages. Babies love seeing all the colors and life moving around them. Toddlers, like mini man, love asking questions about the different plants and veggies they are seeing. Meanwhile older kids can learn about how the foods for sale are planted, harvested and then prepped for us.

5. It’s a tradition. I’ve been going to the Farmer’s Market for almost 10 years now, hardly a lifetime, but it’s part of my spring/summer/fall tradition. I love looking forward to my trip. Hoping I will find something to inspire a new meal or help me create the perfect herb garden.

Another fabulous image from the Fulton Street Farmer's Market Website.

Another fabulous image from the Fulton Street Farmer’s Market Website.

6. The food! There are some foods I only enjoy during Farmer’s Market season. The best example is the veggie foccacia from the bread lady down in Kalamazoo. Without fail, her family is at the Farmer’s Market each week selling delicious breads and pizza crusts. Each time I am there I make sure to pick up some goodies from her stand. I know it’s fresh-made and we hardly wait longer than afternoon to bake some bread to enjoy.

Above all else, I love the Farmer’s Market because I know my food is grown with care, I know it’s fresh, I know it’s delicious and it rivals the prices at the supermarket.

So join your community at your local Farmer’s Market and enjoy some fresh foods as part of your diet and some cultural exposure to the folks you call neighbors.

 

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Food Gems and Other Unexpected Gourmet Finds in Grand Rapids – Part 2

Oh Maru how I love you!

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 11.53.10 PMA couple weeks ago my Evil Twin Jacqui and I had a mommy night out, a night to reset and find balance away from the usual set of responsibilities. It started with a card for Valentine’s day, actually. Evil Twin found a card just for me that spoke to my core, my stomach. We realized the last time we saw each other sans kiddos was when she was still the parent of 1 child expecting her baby girl (her darling daughter will be 1 in July…. so if we use both hands and carry the 1 then divide by… yes, it’s been too long.)

It would only seem fair that when we finally agreed on a date and found ourselves on our own, we would need to enjoy some sushi! Cue the trip to Maru. We stepped into the quaint and inviting restaurant, filled to the brim with trendy  folk from all corners of our side of the Mitten. Huddled over in deep conversation while warm infused tea and saki was enjoyed.

One thing I wish I had realized is that Maru, unlike most of the restaurants in town, takes reservations. We were gifted with a 45 minute wait, but having waited for almost a year since this place opened, and 10 months since Evil Twin and I were out and about by ourselves, we chose the path of patience. Not easy when you are up against this team of Onlies. We passed the time window shopping on Cherry and popping into the few places still open. We didn’t last long and decided to stare down people while we waited for our table.

Pleasant surprise #1 – our wait went from 45 minutes to about 20. (Much more tolerable for an Only.)
Pleasant surprise #2 – you can get a drink while you wait (that’s nothing new), but you can also have them fresh brew some steamy fruit-infused tea (we chose one with strawberry, blueberry and a hint of pineapple.) What’s so special about tea? The experience made me feel like I was enjoying the Farmer’s Market. I was breathing in warm air, letting the sun hit my face. Like magic.Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 12.58.43 AM

Pleasant surprise #3 – we were seated right at the bar. We watched the sushi masters construct the most perfect rolls I have ever seen. Some were as colorful and artistic as stained glass. We found a happy place.  I couldn’t help but feel like I was in a scene of The Holiday, sitting in the sushi bar. I would vote for being Kate Winslett but that would leave Jacqui being Jack Black, I don’t think she’d be okay with that.Screen shot 2014-03-09 at 11.25.05 PM

Anyway, we ended up ordering two different rolls, one was called crunchy shrimp and the other was lollipop. They were delicious, we could tell because our conversation disappeared and was replaced with yummy noises. And that’s okay sometimes you just need to appreciate what is right in front of you.

Though I will never be quite trendy enough to fit in with the perfect Maru regulars, I still embraced the whole experience and will make it a point to return. The atmosphere was inviting, yet intimate. The food was fresh and perfectly assembled, the flavors of our rolls were unique and original but familiar and perfectly balanced, just like our mommy night out.

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P.s. No leftovers survived the evening. Which only gives us reason to return.