The Inaugural Evanston Winter Market – 12/3/2011
The first session of this new off-season market was held on December 3, on a chilly, rainy day, the sort of day that made both buyers and sellers deeply appreciate being indoors! Several of the downtown farmers market stalwarts are participating, including Nichols Farm & Orchard (with many late-season apples for holiday baking), Brunkow Cheese, River Valley Ranch mushrooms, and Henry’s Farm. There are several surprising new additions, such as Pasta Puttana and Salted Caramel, making the market a timely addition for the holiday shopper (a combo of a pack of Salted Caramel’s stout-infused marshmallows and a bag of salted caramel cocoa mix would make a clever and tasty stocking stuffer or office gift). In addition to these vendors, all kinds of wares are being offered: meat, eggs & poultry by C&D Family farms, Michigan blueberries, baked goods and pastries, honey, jams and preserves, coffee, and even ice cream, plus a handy knife sharpening service, just in time for holiday dinner roast-carving.
Do try and stop by the Crust & Crumb booth, run by market manager and driving force Dennis Clarkson, who needs to be commended for his tenacity, as the market’s first location, the long-vacant former site of Evanston’s late, lamented Oak Street Market, fell through in a last-minute legal tangle over estate probate issues regarding the ownership of the property. At the proverbial 11th hour, the City of Evanston stepped in and provided the current site, at the city-owned Evanston Ecology Center, located at 2024 McCormick Boulevard, in the Ladd Arboretum. While the property is very picturesque and leafy, and provides a decent-sized parking lot for shoppers, be aware that the building in which the market is being held is small for the number of vendors, and it can be challenging to move around during the market’s peak time – Henry’s Farm’s organic produce was actually being sold outside, on the small, chilly (but thankfully covered) back patio of the building. Several sellers are actually located in the hallway leading to the larger great room, which unfortunately creates a bottleneck of shoppers; hopefully, the layout and traffic flow issues will work themselves out in the coming weeks.
Keep in mind that this market begins later than the spring/summer morning markets – the hours are 9:00 am til 1:00 PM, so plan accordingly. The market will run until April 28, 2012, with no market being held on December 24 or December 31. Even with the small-space issues, the Winter Market is worth a visit, particularly for north side/North Shore lovers of good food.