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Vendor Profile: Kristof of Solaz

If you have visited the Ithaca Farmers' Market during the past 25 years, you have probably eaten a burrito (probably more than one) from Solaz. You probably also recognize Kristof, the founder and proprietor of this iconic IFM business.  If you're not sure whether a Solaz Frijoles Negros or Breakfast Burrito has graced your tastebuds, we can jog your memory with some related imagery: IMG_3458 (2)IMG_3459 (2) Kristof has a pretty simple recipe for success: "I cook what I want to eat." It just so happens that what Kristof wants to eat, most of the rest of us want to eat too, judging by the long lines that form in front of Solaz on any given day. Kristof moved to Ithaca in 1988 from Sonora, Tuolumne County, California, deep in the Gold Rush country of the Sierra Nevadas (where they really know their way around some Mexican food). He started Solaz at the Farmers' Market in 1989, with the original plan being to sell his salsas. After a little while, he decided it would be easy enough to make burritos on a camp stove... and serendipitously enough, he came upon a free kitchen stove on the side of the road. After removing the range from the top and making a few adjustments, he was in the burrito business! Kristof has a knack for finding useful equipment, and the know-how to repair and customize it. He takes pride in the fact that most of his equipment was salvaged.
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Long-time Solaz employee April prepares a burrito at the Dewitt Park Market

Kristof has between 1 and 3 employees working at a time, and he credits them with keeping his business afloat when he was recovering from a leg injury a few years ago. April, who went to high school with one of his daughters, has been working with him for 4 years. For many years, his two daughters worked at Solaz, but at the moment they are both busy with their own business ventures. All of Solaz's salsas and fillings are, of course, made from scratch. Their ingredients are locally sourced whenever they are seasonally available. They often uses produce from Mandeville Farm in Spencer, which was their neighbor booth at IFM for many years. Solaz will be making calabacitas with their summer squash next week. Kristof often shares food with farmer Janet Mandeville, and has witnessed the evolution of her taste in salsa: she used to only like the mild varieties, but has since become a fan of Solaz' hot salsa.
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Kristof's Havanese, Zephyr, can often be found at Dewitt Park Market on Tuesdays. He's even cuter in person.

One more interesting fact about Kristof: He has personally sorted hundreds of tons of dried beans during the course of his career. Every single bean in a Solaz burrito has been personally looked at by Kristof 3 times during the sorting process, in search of any trace of grit or gravel that may have ended up in the beans when whey were harvested. This task is so crucial that he insists on doing it himself rather than assigning it to a member of his trusted staff. It takes him 25 minutes to clean 25 pounds of beans. He knows that even a tiny bit of sand in a burrito would be enough to make you not want another bite. Rest assured that the beans in your Solaz burrito will be pristine!
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Another satisfied customer!

If you want to learn more about Kristof and Solaz delicous burritos, you can find them at Steamboat Landing on Saturdays and Sundays, and at the Dewitt Park Market on Tuesdays. Buen provecho!

Vendor Profile: Bob of Nook & Cranny Farm

We would like to introduce you to another one of our wonderful vendors, Bob of Nook & Cranny Farm in Brooktondale. Here he is at the Thursday evening Hancock Street market with his farm intern, Tori.
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Their booth's hand-made sign captures the hand-on spirit of the farm

The Brussels sprout is the icon of Nook & Cranny Farm, as it is one of Bob's favorite vegetables to grow. This is quite an honor for the Brussels sprout, as Nook & Cranny grows pretty much every kind of vegetable that can be grown in our climate. Nook & Cranny Farm has been a regular vendor at Ithaca Farmers' Markets since 2005, mostly at the Wednesday and Thursday evening markets. This year, they can be found at East Hill Plaza on Wednesdays from 4 to 7, and at Hancock Street on Thursdays from 4 to 7.  They are occasionally found at the Tuesday market at Dewitt Park from 9 to 2 as well. Along with vegetables, they sell eggs from their flock of chickens.
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Some of the current offerings...

  This week, the broccoli looked particularly spectacular!
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Nook & Cranny Farm's early broccoli, looking succulent in June

  Bob originally came from Syracuse and has been growing vegetables his whole life, but got really serious about it 15 years ago when he bought the land in Brooktondale which became Nook & Cranny Farm. These days, three full-time workers (along with an assortment of part-time CSA work-share members) produce vegetables for the farm's 60-something CSA holders, the Ithaca Farmers' Markets, local restaurants, and Brookton's Market in Brooktondale. The produce includes several thousand pounds of potatoes, another one of Bob's favorite foods.   As much success as the farm has enjoyed, Bob has made an intentional effort to keep the farm from expanding too rapidly. Nook & Cranny keeps the focus on operating on a human scale, growing healthy food for local people, and being a part of the community. Tori, one of the full-season interns, reports that working on the farm can be hard, but it is always satisfying, rather than stressful.
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Selling fresh veggies at market makes for a satisfying day's work at Nook & Cranny

Stop by their booth on Wednesday or Thursday and say hello to Bob or one of the other friendly Nook & Cranny farmers. While you're there, pick out some fresh, local produce to bring home!

Vendor Profile: Walter of Shannon Brook Farm

We would like to introduce you to Walter of Shannon Brook Farm in Watkins Glen, one of our many fabulous Ithaca Farmers' Market vendors.   Here he is:
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Walter of Shannon Brook Farm with some of his localicious eggs

Ithaca-area purveyors of fine local foods can find Shannon Brook Farm's booth on Wednesdays at East Hill Plaza and on Thursdays at the brand-new Hancock Street Market, from 4 to 7 pm.
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Shannon Brook Farm at the Hancock Street Market on opening day, June 4th, 2015!

  As you can see, the list of localicous, pasture-raised, Certified Organic foods produced at Shannon Brook Farm goes on for quite some time: eggs (chicken and duck), sausage (breakfast, mild, zesty, and hot), lamb, duck, chicken, pork (including bacon, ground pork, butt roast, lard, ham hocks, and more), and, new this year, forest-grown shiitake mushrooms.
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Certified organic forest-grown shiitake mushrooms, grown on logs at Shannon Brook Farm

It can be hard to get a good visual of all of the goods for sale with meat vendors, since the frozen meat is all packed safely in coolers, but Walter keeps his booth looking picturesque with a collection of stuffed animals, all of which were gifts from his happy customers.
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Stuffed animal collection

At East Hill Plaza Farmers' Market, the first day of the 2015 season brought a new sheep to the table (the one Walter is holding, with the curly horns). It traveled all the way from China to be a part of our own local foods community.
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Walter and a loyal customer at the East Hill Plaza Market

It is worth making a special trip to one of the weekday neighborhood markets to meet unique vendors like Walter, who are not at the weekend markets at Steamboat Landing. If you are lucky, Walter might have time to chat with you, and you would be amazed at what you may learn! We won't give away all of his secrets, but it was fascinating to hear about the way he jumped into farming with both feet! He and his partner Shannon moved from Manhattan (it's downstate somewhere) to Watkins Glen in April 2011, and started out with 10 lambs and 1 ewe on their 127 acre property. It was a farm which had been abandoned for 30 years, a fact which allowed them to be Certified Organic right off the bat. By the end of the year, they were raising over a thousands chickens, and in 2012, they became regular Ithaca Farmers' Market vendors! This year, Shannon Brook Farm has 110 ewes, and 80 lambs were born this year. Walter wishes that he had started farming sooner, perhaps while he was still in his 40s, but that is one of his only regrets. The other one is that he wishes he had taken more science courses when he was younger! He trained as an economist, in his previous life. Stop by the Shannon Brook Farm booth at the Farmers' Market, pick up some eggs and bacon for the next day's breakfast, and say hi to Walter, in English or Gaelic!  

Asparagus and Bacon Strata: A Recipe For Crafty, Resourceful Bacon Enthusiasts

Last week I treated my family to Just Desserts' baguettes.
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These Just Desserts baguettes look too good to eat! Well, almost.

  We ate half and ended up with a second half of a day old baguette. As a mosaic artist and up-cycle sweater mitten maker, I put my creative skills to work and made a fresh asparagus and bacon strata. Strata is the perfect solution for day old bread combined with fresh ingredients. It's magical. Recipe: 1 lb bacon I lb fresh asparagus 8 oz sharp cheddar 8 eggs 1 cup half and half 1 cup milk 1 tsp salt 1/4 tsp pepper
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Here are some of the delicious ingredients, in their original state.

  Cut the bread into 1/4 inch thick slices and line in a 9x13" buttered pan.
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Sliced to perfection

Cook and drain the bacon and break into pieces and sprinkle over the bread.
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Mmmm... let's just admire the view. And imagine the mouth-watering aroma and accompanying sound effects!

  Coat the asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast it at 400 degrees for 12 minutes on a cookie sheet. Chop up the asparagus and sprinkle over the bread and bacon. (You can also add any left over vegetables at this point--recycle!) Sprinkle on the grated cheddar. Whip the eggs with the milk and cream, salt and pepper. Pour over the layers of bread, bacon, asparagus and cheese.
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Getting whisk-y

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Doing a really pour job! (sorry)

Cover and place in the refrigerator over night. In the morning, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove strata from the refrigerator while the oven heats. Bake, uncovered, 40-45 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting. Makes 8 servings.
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The (almost) finished product! It tastes much more exciting than a photograph can possibly capture

Happy eating, and happy Farmers' Market shopping!

THIS SPECTACULAR SPROUT-FILLED SALAD BRINGS THE VITALITY OF SPRING STRAIGHT TO YOUR PLATE!

This is not so much a recipe as it is a reminder of how simple it is to enjoy the fresh, delicious produce the market has to offer this time of year! Walking though the pavilion this afternoon, after an already-long day of shopping for plants at the CCE Spring Garden Fair and Plant Sale, I was overcome by an overpowering craving for a vital crispy green salad. It was the perfect time and place to make my dream a reality... I started out at Dancing Turtle, where I picked up a bag of Micro Mix and Everything Mix, which had the perfect variety of sprouts. The Everything Mix is a nutritional powerhouse, containing clover, broccoli, radish, fenugreek, and garlic. They were an inspiring beginning to the dream salad; so alive and packed with flavors. DSC_6989   The next stop was Bright Raven Farm & Apiary (formerly known as Red Tail Farm), where I picked up a bag of clean, ready-to-eat baby salad mix. The mild, tender leaves would clearly be a major component of my dish. DSC_6993 While I was at the Bright Raven stall, I impulsively picked up a bunch of beautiful and intriguing breakfast radishes, which turned out to be mild and exceptionally crunchy. DSC_6996     The next stop on my salad tour was the Six Circles Farm stall, where I was delighted to find pea shoots for sale. They were irresistible! DSC_6994   The salad seemed like it could use a bit of dimension in its flavor, which drew my eye to the pickled garlic scapes. Pickled in apple cider vinegar with sea salt and dill seeds, they were bound to be an exciting treat among all the leaves and shoots. DSC_6998 When all of these ingredients were added to my salad bowl, the meal was complete. But a splash of dressing can really bring out the best in an already-great salad. No store-bought dressing would be fresh enough for this delicacy. To make a simple dressing, I combined: 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 1 spoon full tahini (not any particular size spoon...) 1 splash red wine vinegar 1 nice amount local honey 1 dollop mustard This is a highly improvisational dressing that tastes better than it looks, hence the lack of photographic evidence. But I recommend trying your hand at a home-made salad dressing, if you haven't tried it yet! The mustard acts as an emulsifier (so the oil doesn't separate out) and the sweetness of the honey does a nice job of counterbalancing the astringency of the vinegar and the slight bitterness of the tahini.   Bon appetit! DSC_7004   The purple asparagus from Blue Heron was originally going to be part of the salad, but was so magnificent that it was set aside to be eaten on its own at dinnertime. DSC_7013   One more thing: While enjoying such a fresh, nutritious, and flavorful meal may make a person feel like a million bucks, it was actually surprisingly affordable! Here's a breakdown of the cost of my salad: Dancing Turtle sprout mix: $3 (a whole pound is $5) Bright Raven salad greens: $3 ($4/bag; I didn't use the whole thing) Bright Raven radishes: $2 ($4/bunch; only used half in salad) Six Circles pea shoots: $2 ($4/bag; also only used half) Six Circles garlic scape pickles: $2 ($8/jar; only used a little bit) Home-made salad dressing: hard to calculate, but definitely much less than the kind from the store! So, the whole bowl cost $12, and it was easily enough to provide 8 people an abundant serving. That's $1.50/person, for an incredible salad, straight from the market. The Ithaca Farmers' Market is happy to accept EBT/Food Stamps for your produce purchases. Just stop by the market office on your way in to get your tokens!