Monday, June 06, 2005

Blogging the Market
Oak Park Farmer's Market June 4, 2005 - Opening Day

Editor's Note: Three years ago (and I cannot believe it was really 3 years ago), I attempted to report weekly of the Oak Park Farmer's Market, capturing why I wanted to go each week (as well as what was there each week, which was not always the same thing). Here's an example of a weekly report. I had a lot of fun doing it, but it also became a bit of a chore. By the end of the season, I actually felt that I was not doin' the market justice. The next year, I started bloggin' the market again, but for a variety of reasons, my heart was not into it, and by last year, I was not doing it at all. I am gonna try, however, to do it this year. On one hand, I want to try to invigorate some of the things that made the summer of 2002 special for me. On the other hand, I am not gonna sit down and try and write a essay each week. I'm aiming for the something is better than nothing approach. Also, the VI family is planning a few summer excursions, including, hopefully, to Indianapolis, so I do not expect to get to every market.

On to the market:

The first few weeks of the Oak Park Farmer's Market always have a slight feeling of incompleteness to them because several vendors do not yet appear. Especially glaring, is a big space in the middle of the market where The Farm will later park their corn truck. Still, this seemed the biggest opening day I remember. The market was full of stuff already: early strawberries, the first sugar snap peas, bags of baby lettuce, turnips, mustard greens, left over keeper potatoes, asparagus, smaller beets, hot house tomatoes. One Michigan fruit vendor supplemented their meager offerings with dried fruit and another Michigan vendor brough along a full range of canned goods. Nicholls was selling tomato plants. Oak Park now has Heartland Beef. The is the local, ultra-light Beeline Honey instead of Oak Park's own Avedon famous beekeper. So, all in all, it did not seem vacant at all. One could spend a lot of money on Saturday. We did.

We pulled in three versions of the strawberries. I would say poor, OK and darn good without revealing all the vendors. Well, I will say that Mr. Skibbes near the donuts had some darn good strawberries. We picked up lettuce and argula from Farmer Vicki and Japanese turnips from Sandhill Organics. At Stovers, we got some asparagus they assured us was picked just the day before. And to show support, we got a chunk of meat, sirloin roast, from Heartland. Oh, and some cheese from the cheese people.

Local lore has it that the famed donuts need a few weeks running to get out the kinks, to perfect the recipe, but this week's donuts were plenty fine if not quite as close to the grease (i.e., had been sitting a bit too long) than ideal.

One more thing to add, the market police seem to have finally nipped the faux vendors, the vendors whose merchandise never quite seemed to match the seasonality of the other vendors and whose produce looked a bit more uniform than the other vendors. There will be no bargains this year.

See you there next week.
Scafuri Bakery

Scafuri is an Italian bakery in the heart of the old neighborhood on Taylor Street. And for something this old, it has recieved scant attention on LTHForum. I put it into the search engine here and only a few mentions, and really nothing of the fare--as if people *knew* about the place, but no one knew about the place. Perhaps, I can correct that.

There are two impressions one gets upon entering Scafuri. One, what, the pessimist impression, might be put off by the enormous spaces between offerings. And the Italian bread does look a bit sad. They might not get anything at Scafuri. On the other hand, the bright-siders, will notice that there are two or three pastries that are so intensely hand made, so real looking. And the Italian woman, house dress and all running the show, straight from a cameo in a Scorsee flick, makes you feel quite at home. Be an optimist.

I've only tried a few things so far, but they are all as special as they look. Scafuri makes a bunch of pastries with a very short dough, do not tell the trans fat police, but this stuff is highly delicious. As I note above, it tastes like Momma made it, not a professional baker. Inside this dough comes various packages including a light sweet cheese. I've found the "strudel" highly addictive. I note this strudel is shaped long like a strudel, but the package is not a true strudel (i.e., from filo type layers). Still good.

Scafuri is a long way from being the best (surely not the best stocked) bakery in Chicago, but should be on your short list of places to try.

Scafuri Bakery
1337 W. Taylor St.
Chicago, IL