Since its opening last month, there has been some honest criticism about the shortage of vegetable vendors and the lengthy lines to purchase fresh produce from some of those who are there.
Yet Saturday morning, I may have stood for 40 minutes in line to purchase corn, leeks and pickling cucumbers from the Oak Hill Farms people, but I didn’t mind. I enjoyed meeting my neighbors in line and discussing what we were going to do with all those treats once we were served.
A few mentioned grilling corn, a true summertime favorite . Others were hankering for the taste of vine-ripened tomatoes, bursting with a flavor and an acidity that you just don’t get from those in the store.
I brought up a recipe I tried several weeks ago in which you baked leeks in a mint-flavored cream (check our recipe file).
Squash, so prevalent at many of the booths, would be perfect in anything from salads to sautés. And their blossoms can be eaten, too, as Zocca chef Chip McMullin demonstrated at the cooking booth. He removed the hairs from the outside and the stem from inside before filling it with a seasoned goat cheese mixture.
Johnny Hernandez of the chef’s table, MesaLegre, and the catering company, True Flavors, spoke of his new restaurant, set for a spot near the River Walk extension. It will be called La Gloria and will offer his take on Mexican street foods, which we can’t find too often in San Antonio. He hopes to have it open before the end of the year.
This was my third visit to the market, and I have been surprised to see how it has grown from its first preview.
Organizers have said they want the weekly market to be about more than luscious freestone peaches that dripped juice down your chin or bunches of beets with fresh greens still attached. It should be about more than the natural meat vendors, the honey farmer, the bread bakers and the seasoned nut sellers.
It’s meant to be a community center, a place where people congregate on a Saturday morning to celebrate what the San Antonio area has to offer, whether it be bunches of fresh dill, live music or the gorgeous new extension of the River Walk.
Many of the people there Saturday seemed to get that. They had dropped by after their morning run or they were taking their dogs for a walk. For some it was merely a place to enjoy a cup of coffee and a breakfast taco.
I heard a number of comparisons, good and bad, to farmers markets in places like San Francisco and Santa Fe. The difference, we should remember, is that those markets have been open for years, whereas the Pearl’s has been open for four weeks. Yet it also shows that the people of San Antonio are not the food hicks the national media would have use believe. We have standards, and we long for the day when our farmers market reaches that level.
The thermometer started climbing early and showed no signs of going in the opposite direction, so tables in the shade were at a premium. That’s where my colleague Nick Mistry and I encountered 2-year-old Isabella Gilliam and her brother, Tristan, 4, enjoying cheese danishes with blueberries in the filling.
A even cooler spot is the walkway of the Full Goods building that leads to the market. Giant fans — Big Ass Fans, actually, if you want the maker’s name — kept the air moving. It was there, we met Tessa Bodnar, who was visiting the market for the first time. She had with her two granddaughters, Sydnie Bodnar, 11, and Amelia Meissner, 7, with their dog, Murphy. All three enjoyed themselves.
“It’s wonderful, isn’t it,” Tessa Bodnar said.
Short trips to Melissa Guerra’s culinary shop and a slammed Texas Farm to Table, with great music outside and air conditioning at a high crank inside, rounded out a full and flavorful morning.