The Market: Saturday's Camelback Market behind Vincent on Camelback is one of a kind. Surely, no other restaurant sets up shop with a series of tents offering freshly prepared breakfast and lunches -- wood-fired pizzas, barbecue, crepes, omelets, pastries, pin-inis, and farm produce -- like ducks in a row.
If you're not familiar with Vincent Guerithault, the man has been in the business of cooking elegant Southwestern cuisine out of this location for more than 25 years. He has expanded the operation to include his Vincent Market Bistro (which the farmers market huddles around weekly), a catering business called Vincent Van Go, and a bar, Bleu, inside the restaurant.
The Parking: Parking on the south side of the market will cost you $5, but know there's free parking at a surface lot on 3900 East Camelback Road, and a shopping center with a Fresh and Easy just across the road on the southwest corner of Camelback and North 40th Street.
The Vendors: On the whole, non-Vincent fueled vendors make up for what they lack in numbers with unique and quality products. Approaching the market from the east side, you'll meet your two new favorite vendors -- the man behind Dromgold Mustard and the woman behind Carolyn's Classics. The Irishman does mustard better than anyone, winning prizes for a selection that starts with his stone-ground, full-strength mustard or Irish pub mustard, and moves on to flavors like honey, onion, habanero, and horseradish. You'll notice his excellent "Old World" bottling and labeling, and you may be tempted to ask: "What makes a mustard Irish?" To which he'll respond, "I make it Irish." Good answer.
Carolyn is right next door, and you'd be wise to ask about how she started making jams. A nursing Ph.D in a past life, Carolyn started whipping up her own orange marmalade from Arizona citrus for her family, and the rest is history. She makes jams in flavors you know; strawberry, blueberry, and peach -- but she's also no stranger to jalapeño variations on most of her flavors. They're still sweet, as Carolyn manages to capture the pepper's flavor without its heat (try the peach jalapeño and you'll see for yourself). Part of her charm is delivered in the presentation - each bottle of jam, butter, and preserves is topped with lids draped in colorful fabrics Carolyn stitched on with her own two hands -- bless her Southern soul.
Vincent's booths aren't just sustenance for a hungry market crowd who've bought too many vegetables -- for many they're the main attraction. You can look at it as a more financially accessible way to eat and explore the cuisine at Vincent, because his 12-inch pizzas -- whether it's a simple margherita (basil, mozzarella, tomato sauce), tart flambe (cream, bacon, thyme), smoked salmon (with chives), or the avocado pizza (pesto, sun-dried tomato, avocado, gruyere) -- cost $8 across the board. For similar pricing, omelets can be filled with chicken, black beans, and peppers, or paninis can be pressed choose-your-toppings style with shrimp, chicken, tomato, pesto, mushrooms, buffalo mozzarella; the works for just $7 (accompanied by a side salad made from greens at the produce stand down the way).
The People: The crowd couldn't be more diverse -- doesn't everyone love good, inexpensive food prepared fresh? Some folks have been visiting booths like Carolyn's for years now and have seen the food options and newer vendors grow over time, and they're all letting younger generations in on the secret. It could be a market that you're in and out of in 10 minutes (once you grab the necessities), but most people stick around in market-side seating for what is probably 100 people at any given time sipping on mimosas and enjoying their food.
Best Taste: On the non-Vincent side, Carolyn's takes the cake for some true Southern hospitality served up in a product that's been years in the making. Exploring the treats at both Twinkle Toes toffee and Twist Gluten-Free Bakery will satisfy your yearning for sweets, and the self-service Queen Creek Olive Mill station is a walk in the park.
What We'd Like To See: Not that there's physically room for any more vendors, but we think some bread stations would really round out the selections, and some fruit vendors would be more than welcome as well. This hybrid restaurant/market is a breath of fresh air, and quite frankly a lot a fun, but you may need to stop by a different farmers market beforehand or on the way home if there are some staple items you can't do a week without.
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