That Crazy Local Family

December 22, 2008 at 11:45 am

Rob Gardner

Dear reader, would you brave the blackest ice lurking beneath your tires for a mere farmer’s market?  Read on about a family probably crazier than yours.

Which part of the Local Family is more nuts.  Dad needs to get to the Dane County Farmer’s Market in Madison, Wisconsin “because this is the last week at this location.”  Mom needs to leave the Bungalow for nights in hotels, “as long as you can get a deal on Priceline.”  Like the worst in a Bukowski tale, they enable their addictions.  Is it simply a metaphor that it snows nearly every time they go. 

(It is not just snow either.  For whatever reason, the state of Wisconsin has a thing against salt.  I believe it is a source of pride like the Packers and summer sausage to tally up the cars off the lanes of I-90 each storm.  This non-cheesehead counted, I believe five on our trip back Saturday.)

 What did this awful journey produce?  Late night grilled poundcake at a restaurant Tim Burton invented.  A new African restaurant making us wonder was it African food we did not like, or African food produced here we did not like.  On the other hand, beer battered walleye and Jordandahl ham (amongst other things) was predictably good at Old Fashioned on the Square.  Still, we came for the market.  We left very stocked.

At a party a few weeks ago, I talked market shop with a Californian.  He said, “does yours have 15 kinds of citrus right now.”  Sigh, that would be nice, but does his have cheese?  We found it impossible to not buy cheeses from every cheesemaker at the market.  We went first to the one we knew we had to get, Fantome Farm.  We came for the freshest of fresh, but also left with a pungent goat cheese aged just past Federal regulations for raw milk cheese.  Capri also makes goat cheeses, their freshest is a good feta, but we really (also) go for their aged, raw milk cheeses.  The Munster (as in real Munster) had too strong of a microbial “schmeared” taste for some in this family; the washed rind St. Felix still tasted funky enough. 

Goat cheese, check.  Sheep cheese: Butler Farms is a bit less known these days, in Wisconsin sheep milk cheeses, but name is not everything.  More feta, some marscopone, to bring home.  Then on to the most normalist, so to speak of the market cheese vendors.  Tony and Julia Hook make good old blocks of cheddar, in ages from curd to 12 years (we’ve seen even older at some markets) as well as three styles of blue cheeses.  They just happen to make these standards very, very well.  More cheese.  We finish with a man not quite as conventional, Willi Lehner, who’s samples sold us his blue and his washed rind Irish Gem.  His reserve cheddar we know as about our favorite, favorite cheese period–if one could possibly pick a favorite.

It was not just cheese.  In the good thing we came category, we found the last of the year produce from Harmony Valley.  We easily hit the >$20 category for a free pound of radishes with horseradish, crosnes [ed. what?!?], rutabagas, carrots, chiogga beets, parsnips, sunchokes in two colors; carnival squash.  Or was some of that from Driftless Organics.   I do know that Driftless will be at the market in January.   Black Earth Valley sticks it out too, but we still stopped by to purchase some celery root.  We also know we could buy later in the winter, apples from Ela Orchards or potatoes from Butter Mountain, but why wait.  Ela enticed us with an heirloom called Black  Twig.  Butter Mountain argued that his Rose Finn for sale now were even better than his La Ratte he’ll bring later in the winter, and those are damn good. 

We’d knew we’d find apples.  Pears, that surprised us a bit.  Happy with pears we did not blink at the price, but the woman at the Future Fruits stand did say that many are often surprised at the prices for organic fruit.  Fiddle around on here to find some info on Future Fruit Farm.  Future Fruit expects a few more markets until they run out of stuff.

We are a mad Local Family.  Mad out Madtown.  And a local family nicely stocked for the cold months.