Portland's biggest market, held at Portland State University on Saturdays, is bursting with flavorful produce, friendly faces, live music and local delights. Visiting the market over seven years ago is what fully lured me and my husband into moving to Portland in the first place. It's one of the most spectacular, seasonal, fresh and enjoyable places on Earth!
Portland has several seasonal markets, located all over town. The big grand daddy of them all however, is at the university downtown; I always thought of it as a cool partnership of academia and community. Each year the market grows a little more in scope and variety of vendors. Throughout the month of July, the produce is really peaking and vendors are proudly serving up prepared foods featuring neighboring farm's fruits and vegetables. The energy here is infectious. It's a love fest for food.
But this market offers more than just shopping. Every Saturday, there's a free live chef demo as well as monthly cooking classes for kids. Live music sets the tone for shopping, lounging and picnicking. The atmosphere of fun and community enhances an already outstanding selection of organic items. Whole grain pancake mix? Biggest whole green garlic plants? Local honey? Juicy raspberries? I could go on and on. The Portland farmer's market truly has it all and then some!
Shopping List of My Favorite Local Specialties
• Freddy Guys Hazelnuts
These hazelnuts are the best roasted variety I've ever tasted. Grown in an orchard near Portland, they are a must-visit every week for the distinct flavor and crispy texture. They make a wonderful gift that represents Oregon so well.
• Two Tarts Bakery
Two Tarts got their start at this market with tiny cookies at affordable prices. This company now has a brick and mortar shop in NW Portland so their legions of fans can get their fix every day of the week. Their Lil Mamas (chocolate cookie with cream filling) are like Oreos but about a million times tastier. And their mini rhubarb pies are not to be missed!
• Delphina's Cream Scones
There are scones and then there is THIS scone. It is the baked good that wows with simplicity and perfection. It would make the perfect vessel for macerated strawberries and a pillow of whipped cream. I love it all by itself, dunked into my Americano as I size up vegetables.
• Persephone Farm: Kale/Greens
Persephone is my favorite organic farm vendor. Their produce is consistently flavorful and abundant, picked at peak season and just delicious. They sell everything at an affordable rate and the quality and flavor is so much higher than store-bought organic food. I really feel I'm getting the best of the best here. Especially in terms of my beloved weekly purchase of chard and kale.
• Alma Chocolate: Lavender Caramel Sauce
Alma needs no introduction to locals; she's one of the most celebrated chocolatiers in the city. She sells seasonal, artistic chocolates at the market, but it is her lavender caramel sauce that does me in each week. Sprinkled with a little flaky salt, it is outrageous. Vanilla ice cream will become the stuff of legend with the addition of a bit of Alma's caramel sauce.
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)