From Our Beet Reporters – What I like about Congress (Logan Square Winter Market)
What I like about Congress
Yesterday’s weather was deceiving. It was sunny, but not the least bit warm. We live pretty close to the Green City Market but didn’t get over there on Saturday. Then, in my new fangled attempt to never hear “Honey, what’s for dinner?”, I’d actually taken some of my old cooking magazines and planned out a week’s worth of good-looking and good- for-you food for dinner. Those menus were then entered into a table showing meal-by-day, and a grocery list made. I knew we wouldn’t be able to get everything at the Farmer’s Market (I love Coke Zero for goodness sake), but the menu was heavy on produce.
I bundled up in my arctic wear, we hopped in the car, and headed west to the Indoor Logan Square Farmer’s Market after I confirmed its location on their Facebook page. I also made certain I signed up for their email list.
Once we arrived near the Congress Theater we found a side street and parked. It was only after we started walking away from the car that I realized a striking similarity to Green City Market – we had parked on an innocuous appearing street that was permit parking always. We moved the car into a visitor-friendly space, and headed to the market, cutting through a large alleyway that provided us with some shelter from the wind as we made our way over.
As we approached the building, a big sign greeted us indicating that the market would run every Sunday at the Congress through March. “Sweet”, I thought to myself. I adore farmers markets and I’ve felt this way about them for years. Unfortunately for the vendors, I’ve gotten way better than I used to be about restraining my shopping to food that we’ll actually eat prior to visiting the next market. These days I like to make sure others are aware of the markets, and I have had surprising conversations about them just by posting my whereabouts on Facebook, Foursquare, and Twitter. No, I’ve never bartered with a vendor at any farmers market. Something about bartering in that environment is a complete and utter turn off for me.
Once we found the right door we were immediately facing a sign that indicated if we went to our left there was cheese, produce and meat, but if we went to our right there was produce and baked goods. It made me think there was a lot of vendors inside and also that there were a lot of shoppers who wanted to get to their respective vendor, make their purchases, and get out. This stands in stark contrast to how I like to meander around an entire market first, looking at produce, talking to vendors, and making my decisions as to what I will purchase. Heck, I was shopping in stark contrast to that anyhow, because I had with me a typed grocery list and a table of planned dinners for the upcoming week. So I did my usual walking about first, but the number of vendors was small. My husband began wondering if/how anyone was going to make a living there (yep, he was immediately comparing it to the Wednesday market at Green City). I told him there were some vendors I recognized from Green City, most notably Tiny Greens (they were the ones who told me about Logan Square in the first place) and River Valley, a big boy at many of the neighborhood Farmers Markets throughout the city, and a veteran of Green City (hat-tip to the mycophiles). It was cold inside the Congress, which didn’t encourage me to linger, and the setup had the vendors and aisles pretty close together – not terribly inviting. Still, the vendors had done their job and their wares were going to do the talking. There were apples, but no one seemed to have Honeycrisps, even though it was before eleven am. I didn’t notice any cut apples offered by vendors to allow prospective customers to sample the goods – I’ve become accustomed to sampling apples at Green City. Tiny Greens was offering samples of their homemade tofu (it was one of the reasons I was shopping at Logan Square anyhow). I purchased a block and on impulse an ounce each of sunflower sprouts and pea sprouts. Alistair laughed because he thought he watched me take the bait when the vendor asked what else she could interest me in. He had missed that I was already eyeing the sunflower sprouts after bagging my tofu and before the vendor said anything to me about what else she could get me to purchase. That was the only impulse shopping I did at the market. I then went to Temple Farm Organics and purchased baby heads of cauliflower, some onions and lovely lettuces. There was some beautiful baby bok choy, but alas that wasn’t on my list (although I’ve just realized they would have been pretty nice along with the Quick Thai tofu curry on this week’s menu), and I was ruthless and unbending in not straying from that document. I needed carrots and Yukon gold potatoes but Temple Farm didn’t have any, and pointed me in the direction of another vendor. I can’t recall the name of this vendor but if you enter the market and wander along the left side past River Valley, and just opposite of Mint Creek Farms, you will find more vegetable produce. Here I picked up a few lovely carrots and just over a pound and a half of fist-sized Yukon Golds. Alistair managed to discover where the chocolate croissants were, and bought a couple. Our shopping bag was heavy and we were ready to leave. We were walking down the street when I remembered I’d forgotten to get mushrooms from River Valley so back in we marched so I could purposely buy a very precise 9 oz. of crimini mushrooms.
We’ll definitely be back, and as we left Alistair recalled our visits to Abby’s fledgling Green City Market, when it was as small as the indoor Logan Square Market we’d just left. Based on what we saw of the variety and quality of the vendors and their produce and wares, the future looks bright for Logan Square Farmer’s Market. I hope consumer sentiment values and supports this Market’s locavore approach to high quality offerings at non-Whole Paycheck prices.