Savoring the Farmers Market flavors

As Bellingham is making a sad attempt at summer, the downtown Bellingham Farmer’s Market is midway through its 20th season. Colorful rows of ripe local produce, the sweet smell of caramel corn, the warm feeling of community, and the sound of drums, laughter and song – this paints an accurate picture of what to expect Saturday mornings at the Depot Market Square.

The market, named Sunset Magazine’s #1 farmers market on the West Coast in 2011, is also home to a wide variety of food vendors that offer full meals, as well as inexpensive sides, snacks and treats. We decided to switch up our review this issue and instead explore the options at the market.

Kayser decided to first take his taste buds on a trip to Ethiopia. Ambo Ethiopian Cuisine serves a simple menu of either chicken ($7) or lentils ($6). He chose the chicken option, which came with a mix of tender chicken leg, cabbage, carrots and potatoes, served on top of an injera, or large flatbread, all smothered in sauce. The meal was filling, but lacked a spicy, bold flavor he was really hoping for.

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Apple’s first stop was Dashi for a steamed bun. Dashi Noodle Bar, a street side walk-up restaurant from Josh Silverman, the owner and chef of the beloved Nimbus (R.I.P. – we were big fans), is currently only open for lunch during the week, and offers custom bowls of hot noodle soup, steamed buns and salads. Excited by this rare chance to eat at Dashi, Apple ordered the braised pork shoulder steamed bun with coconut curry ($6.50). The pork, mixed with cabbage and green onions inside the fluffy steamed bun, was tender and flavorful, but the curry lacked a strong kick that would have made this even better. Fortunately, Dashi will be opening its doors to its actual restaurant on State Street in the next few months.

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Kayser’s next stop was Danielle’s Back East BBQ. With a large selection of items that all sounded delicious, he decided on the Carolina Pork Plate ($7.75). The plate included smoked pork, a green salad, two hushpuppies and a choice of side, such as macaroni, bean salad or potato salad, which his choice. They have a vast selection of BBQ sauces to pick from. Kayser’s succulent pork sandwich was perfectly cooked, and the choice of Kentucky bourbon peach sauce gave it a pleasant fruity jolt. The hushpuppies were moist with a crispy shell, and the potatoes paired perfectly. The amount of food for the price was staggering; it was twice as much food as the steamed bun from earlier.

Apple ended his meal at Ralf’s Bavarian Bakery. The ham and swiss pretzel ($4.14) is one of the best things in Bellingham. These German-style pretzels, found in many local establishments, are the most authentic you’ll find anywhere. This simple sandwich proves that when using high quality ingredients and traditional technique, less is more.

If none of the food we talked about sounds appealing, the market offers many other food options worth checking out, including Thai food, Indian food, local pasta, vegan baked goods, cupcakes, artisan chocolates and juice made by the customer who peddles a stationary bike to make the blender work.

The only complaint the two of us shared was the lack of seating at the market. We were there around 1 p.m. on a cloudy day, but it was still very crowded. We sat on the curb of the alley above the farmer’s market and both ended up spilling sauces all over our pants as we ate. With heaping plates of food and hand-held items like the steamed bun, it would be nice if the market provided double the seating than they offer.

The Bellingham Farmer’s Market is held at the Depot Market Square at the corner of Railroad and Chestnut every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. through mid-December. The Fairhaven Farmer’s Market takes place at the Village Green every Wednesday from noon to 5 p.m., through September.