Our farmers’ markets have been back in swing for a few weeks now. To celebrate our growers and producers, we’re sharing five favorite farm stands, places you would be thrilled to add to your market rotation. These five great vendors provide products for you to enjoy during or after getting the goods from local farmers. They’re vendors that can be the tasty cornerstone of weekday or weekend mornings, and are even worthy of trips across town.
When thinking about five favorites to share, we decided to exclude farms. There are simply too many great ones, run by farmers who work long hours to will ethereal Anasazi beans, graffiti eggplants, and I’itoi onions to their tables — for us to pick up for just a few dollars. You can find outstanding produce and close-to-the-land food products from the likes of McClendon Selects, Crooked Sky Farms, Blue Sky Farms, smaller vendors like Wong Farms, and many others.
There are plenty of other farmers’ market vendors on the same tier as these five — these are just some of the five rocking the hardest right now.
La Belle VieMarkets: Gilbert, Uptown*
Even among culinary professionals whose trades are fueled by flour, self-taught Swiss-French baker Nathas Kraus of La Belle Vie has won a cult following. This one-man show produces hundreds of pastries a week, all in his home, all channeling memories from his life overseas. Kraus flawlessly checks the big boxes, like an almond croissant with perfume and shatter, and a long, thin loaf made in the Parisian style. His more specialty offerings, though, are the ones without any real duplicate in the Valley: macarons basques (soft-but-chewy cookies made from almond flour and almond paste he crafts by hand), butter-saturated kouign-amann, and raisin-brown caneles de Bordeaux. Don’t miss his signature creation, the horn-shaped “rhino croissant” stuffed with sweet cream that veers into flavors like Irish coffee.
Community ExchangeMarkets: Uptown, Open Air, High Street, Chandler
At this stand, dozens of hobbyist growers pool to sell produce. Some come from gardens, some from fruit trees, some from bees and animals. The beauty of the community exchange table is that you never quite know what you’re going to get. Maybe peaches, beets, and onions. Maybe dates, pomegranates, citrus, or mulberries. Offerings track the seasons, sure, but within this constant runs the variable of surprise. The best thing about Community Exchange is how growers, because they’re hobbyists, offer rare produce that would be nearly impossible for professional farmers to grow profitably. For this reason, you’ll often score great finds, including the likes of uncommon date varieties, passionfruit, and fan palm fruit syrup.
Sonoran Pasta Co.Markets: Gilbert, Mesa, Old Town, Open Air, Uptown, Red Mountain, Roadrunner, Peoria, Anthem, High Street
There are many pasta vendors spread across the Valley’s farmers’ markets, and even a few good ones. The new kid on the block is Sonoran Pasta, the summer 2019-born noodle purveyor helmed by Brent Kille and Jasmine Brown. Using bronze dyes and a mechanical extruder, the duo cut pastas in luxurious shapes like trecce (short braids), creste di gallo (rooster’s crest), and bucatini (hollow spaghetti with ample chew). These pastas aren’t composed of your cardboard white flour or even elite flours imported from Italy, but from grains grown down the road. Hayden Flour Mills supplies Sonoran Pasta its blue beard durum, bronze barley, purple barley, semolina, farro, and more. Flours and shapes are always changing. The pastas aren’t neutral in flavor like standard pastas tend to be, but rather carry the fragrance and character of their local grains.
Chef LoungeMarkets: Old Town
If you’re the kind of market-goer who likes to follow the free samples of your purchases, this stand is your Super Bowl. Chef Josh Hebert is engaged in many projects these days, most notable the great ramen shop Hot Noodles, Cold Sake, but at Chef Lounge, some of his more European-rooted skills surface. At his stand, impaled with toothpicks ready to be plucked by your hungry hands, you will see charcuterie the likes of chicken liver mousse, torchon, and white truffles foie gras pate. The high notes of Jerry Garcia and wandering tunes by The Grateful Dead warble under the sun. There is fresh mozzarella, still warm from being made. There is also a mean porchetta sandwich heaped with meat, carved from the heavily herb-and-spice barked mass of rolled pork belly. The flavor of its fennel seeds and soft Noble Bread ciabatta will follow you for the rest of your day.
Sonoran ScavengersMarkets: Old Town, Estrella, Peoria
Amazingly, you can walk through whole farmers’ markets without seeing a single product with deep roots in the Sonoran Desert. But then again, you may come to the tables of Sonoran Scavengers, where an impressive array of products culled from the land await. Here, you can find blue corn flour, palo verde flour, and flour that lists which of the three Arizona species of mesquite furnished the milled pods. You can find jam made from the likes of prickly pear and wolfberry, the latter a seedy, fiery red cool, and thick with flavor, seeds, and skins, virtually absent of sugar and tang. You can find syrups like mesquite, bags of seeds from plants like the prickly pear, and crackers that incorporate desert seeds. And there are also provisions with roots beyond the desert: sun-dried tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and so on. This newer stand is a great find.
*Note: Market locations are subject to frequent changes. For regular days and irregular happenings, check with each vendor on social media or its website to see where it'll be.