By Ramona Padovano
On Saturday, April 12, the Del Ray Farmers Market opened for the 2008 season, just in time to lift the ennui that can come from a long and indecisive winter.
Located in the parking lot at the corner of East Oxford and Mount Vernon Avenues, the market began its 15th season with sounds of the Irish Breakfast Band and the aroma of coffee provided by St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub. Dogs sat loyally along the perimeter of the market, while market goers, many of them with children in tow, greeted the farmers like old friends.
The 11 or so market stalls were staffed by familiar faces. There was Tom, the cheese guy, who sells fresh goat cheese, eggs and baked goods. To Tom’s right was Big’s Family Produce, where I am always sure to get green tomatoes for frying. On the other side of Tom’s stall: the mushroom lady. She and Evening Star Cafe Chef, Will Atley, were discussing her tasty honey mushrooms.
David Blair’s Three Way Farm Stall displayed asparagus, one of the first harbingers of spring. The several bundles of crimson-tipped asparagus which sat near the entrance of the stall were quickly bought. I asked if we could expect to see more asparagus available by next week’s market. “Plenty more”, Blair assured me. “We should also expect to see strawberries in a week or two, if the weather doesn’t get cold again. They want to do their thing.”
In between customers, I remarked that his business seemed to be brisk this morning. “I’m a teacher,” Blair explained. “This is a departure for me.”
Gracie’s Pastries and Bonaparte Breads each offered mouth-watering sweet and savory pastries as well as a wide variety of breads. D&S Farm had a panoply of colorful jams, vinegars and syrups. Smith Meadow Farm’s red-checkered table boasted handmade pastas and homemade sauces in addition to their selection of meats and sausages.
The excitement of the market was heightened by a red velvet-cloaked sign that was erected in the grass along the Mount Vernon Avenue sidewalk. One of seven new signs detailing the history of Del Ray, once the Town of Potomac ,Virginia, it was ceremoniously unveiled and dedicated by Alexandria Mayor William Euille. It marks the location of the Del Ray Farmers Market. Mayor Euille congratulated the Town of Potomac on its centennial and thanked the many people who worked so hard to bring these signs to fruition.
There was one more familiar sight before I left the market- salteñas from Marcela’s Bakery. Brought to the market hot and fresh out of the oven, these Bolivian “pot pies” are egg-washed pockets of dough sealed with a neat braid on top. Inside, chicken or beef is combined with peas, potatoes, raisins, olives and hard-boiled eggs in a chili-infused gravy. I highly recommend that you try one of these savory pastries and, if you dare, get the green salsa to go along with your salteña.
The Del Ray Farmers Market is open each Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon in season.