Portlanders have roughly 20 metro-area farmers markets to shop at and feel warm and fuzzy about. All those fruits and veggies in our baskets certainly are lovely, but let's face it: They're hours away from being dinner and our tummies are already a-rumblin' by the time we get to the market.
Blessed be the markets' food vendors, for they provide a huge array of instant-gratification chow that feeds us in our time of need, so that we may be sustained as we fill our baskets with goods for later meals.
From the elegant Lake Oswego farmers market to the tiny but happenin' Interstate market, there's some seriously good food out there, and we've got a list of our favorites. Go forth and feed.
Saturday Portland Farmers Market
8:30 am-2 pm Saturdays, South Park Blocks at Portland State University between Montgomery and Harrison streets.
The creamy hazelnut-cocoa spread ($5) at Freddy Guys Hazelnuts will be instantly familiar to anyone who's schlepped their way around Europe with a backpack. It's homegrown Nutella—only with a lot less sugar and no evil trans-fats. We used it as a dip for a pint of strawberries and it felt like Madrid or Paris all over again.
Get a real hearty breakfast at Pine State Biscuits, a venture born of three homesick cooks from North Carolina who missed the warm cream-top biscuits and rich, breakfast sausage-studded gravy ($7, with an over-easy egg) of their home state. Get your lazy butt out of bed before 11:30 am or they'll likely be sold out before you're even out of your jammies.
The curry pastes ($4.25) and creamy peanut sauce ($5) made by Bangkok natives Pon and Susie Kasem at Thai and True aren't exactly instant gratification, but they're one of the quickest ways to get dinner on the table when you do get home. Seasonal vegetables + lemongrass-rich green curry paste + coconut milk = yum.
Eastbank Portland Farmers Market
3:30-7:30 pm Thursdays, Hinson Memorial Church parking lot, Southeast 20th Avenue and Salmon Street.
Christopher Gumke and Teresa Atkins started New Cascadia Traditional because, in his words, "We bake the gluten-free stuff we couldn't find anywhere else." They've managed to make a number of impressive g.f. goodies, like a bona-fide crisp baguette ($3.50) and choco-chunk peanut-butter cookies ($1), that even a wheat-eater could love.
Todbott's Triangles gets the prize for most unique nosh of all the markets. Onigiri—portable triangles of sushi rice wrapped in nori and stuffed with salty-tart pickled plum, kelp or salmon ($2)—are "the peanut butter and jelly of Japan," according to Japanophile/Todbott owner Todd Gillies. They taste way more delicious than Skippy to us.
Wednesday Portland Farmers Market
10 am-2 pm Wednesdays, South Park Blocks between Salmon and Main streets.
The unusual combo of artichoke and tangy cotija cheese in Salvador Molly's tamales ($4.75) are a stroke of genius. Add a bag of their crunchy, halitosis-inducing garlic injera chips ($2.50, something like a sourdough bagel chip), and you've got one interesting lunch.
We had no idea that the cookies-'n'-cream cupcakes ($2) we were stuffing into our gaping maws were vegan until Lisa Higgins, owner-chef of Sweetpea Baking, pointed it out. With that moist, chocolaty cake and creamy Newman-O's-studded frosting, you'd never know. Your secret is safe with us, Lisa.
Beaverton Farmers Market
8 am-1:30 pm Saturdays and 10 am-2 pm Wednesdays, Southwest Hall Boulevard between 3rd and 5th streets.
Perhaps more famous for their seriously good mustards with silly names like "Devoutly Dill" and "Heavenly Honey" ($5), the Benedictine Sisters of Mt. Angel have a secret weapon at their stand: Sister Immaculata's coffee cake ($5). Her moist cake with streusel topping is the kind of thing you remember from bake sales of days gone by—cinnamony-sweet, unapologetically rich and impossible to stop eating.
What happens when two seasoned food professionals (Fred Best and Jeff Ridabock) dream big and buy an $18,000, tricked-out barbecue/smoking trailer pit? Smokin' Rose Barbecue rolls into the Beaverton market and offers slow-cooked St. Louis pork ribs ($2 per rib, $18 full rack) with fall-off-the-bone smoky goodness to an adoring crowd, that's what. Get there before noon or you'll be 'cueless.
The Fry Bread Man makes up crisp-'n'-puffy Native American fry bread tacos filled with buffalo or ground beef, cheese and sour cream for an astounding $5. Buyer beware, these suckers are messy—park it or you'll end up wearing it.
Lake Oswego Farmers Market
8:30 am-1:30 pm Saturdays, at 1st and Evergreen streets.
The eggplant-and-tomato caponata tartlets ($4) and flaky asparagus-stuffed croissants ($4.50) from Lili are as posh as the shoppers here. Don't neglect to inhale a moist piece of their caramel-covered pumpkin spice bread ($3.25) while you're at it.
Never mind the rather ridiculous name, Juice-a-licious furnishes parched shoppers with icy cups of fresh-squeezed orange juice and raspberry lemonade (both $4) as fast as the sweet, high-school-aged staff can juice.
Hollywood Farmers Market
8 am-1 pm Saturdays, Northeast 44th Avenue and Hancock Street.
Micro Mercantes (a pilot program of Hacienda CDC, an organization that offers assistance to Latino families) does a brisk business selling light and airy tamales stuffed with moist shredded pork, chicken or squash-tomato filling ($2.50). The optional jalapeño salsa they ladle over the top looks mild enough, but it'll kick your ass.
When you need just a little something to sustain you before you round the next corner, Fleur de Lis can hold you up with market-inspired fruit crostatas ($3). A recent visit yielded a ruby-red rhubarb tidbit with an unbelievably flaky crust that kept us going for several paces.
Hillsdale Farmers Market
10 am-2 pm Sundays, Wilson High School parking lot, Southwest Sunset Boulevard and Southwest Capitol Highway.
From tubs of muhammara—a Mediterranean dip made with roasted peppers and pomegranate molasses ($4) to handmade crackers sprinkled with tangy za'atar ($2.50), the heart-healthy nibbles at Salubrious are about as sophisticated as you can get anywhere, let alone at a farmers market.
Interstate Farmers Market
3-7 pm Wednesdays, Overlook Park at North Fremont Street and Interstate Avenue.
The Brownie Farm offers a seemingly endless array of brownies ($2.25-$2.50), from the fudgy "neo classic" to the exotic coconut-lime. Sadly, we were told that brownies do not grow on trees, despite the stand's name. We had to ask....
There's nothing cooler than hanging out at ¿Por Qué No? on Mississippi Avenue, eating tacos and downing pitchers of margaritas. That is, until you get salsa all down the front of your new Diesel T-shirt. Pig out in relative anonymity at their stand at the Interstate market, where you can get a couple of bean-and-cheese tacos with a side of guacamole for $5 and no one will ever know about your boarding-house manners.
Most metro-area farmers markets start up around April or May and run through late September or early October. Visit portlandfarmersmarket.org or oregonfarmersmarkets.org for specific market seasons and special-event schedules.