Saturday, January 5, 2008

My Love: the Your DeKalb Farmer's Market

Any of my friends will tell you that I cannot talk briefly about the Your DeKalb Farmer’s Market, or YDFM for short; instead, I launch into a long description of the place, why I’ve grown to love it so much and which items are “must buys.”

If I were to recall it correctly, my description usually starts something like this:

“The farmer’s market isn’t your typical farmer’s market where walk up to a vendor with fruit and ask ‘how much for a box of tomatoes?’ It’s a cooperative and subsidized market, meaning you check out the same way you would at your neighborhood Kroger or Publix (a cashier rings you up and tells you your total). The place is nearly the size of a Sam’s or Costco with plenty of fresh produce, meat and other international items of interest to boot. Each and every time I go to the farmer’s market, I can’t help but to smile, get excited about cooking and feel overall invigorated about life. It’s just that kind of place. Sort of like a less expensive Whole Foods but on steroids.”

So you might be wondering what all the YDFM carries within its large and slightly fishy-smelling corridor. Well, almost anything food-related you can imagine with the exception of some sundries (I am yet to see toilet paper, shampoo, trash bags, etc.). From cheeses and veggies to exotic seafood and hot teas, they really seem to have it all.

In my opinion, there are a handful of “must buys.”

Ravioli. One sound sums up my thoughts: “mmmmmmmm.” Made and packaged on-site like so many other YDFM items, this stuff is not only inexpensive, it’s delicious! My favorite is butternut squash with a hint of citrus; Dan goes for the wild mushroom. All options taste great, especially when topped with the YDFM’s own “tomato sage sauce,” also shelved in the refrigerated pasta area. Other fresh pastas are also worth a try (suggestion: spinach fettuccine).

Cheeses. I think I read on farmer’s market’s web site that they carry nearly 150 varieties. Two I usually pick up are buffalo mozzarella and crumbled goat cheese. I will never be able to by either from my favorite Kroger again, given that the price comparison makes me nauseous (YDFM prices are about half of those from your local grocer). Beyond these cheeses, be sure to sift through aged asiagos, matured bleus, grated romano varieties and other delicacies.

Meats. It is my firm belief that YDFM meats taste fresher and healthier than any I’ve picked up elsewhere. Additionally, it’s pretty cool that you can say to a butcher-area employee, “Three-fourths of a pound of tilapia, please” versus buying a less (or more)-than optimal-sized prepackaged amount. I am yet to be disappointed with any of the lamb, ground sirloin ($3.69/pound – incredible!), breakfast sauce links, scallops, shrimp, steak, ground turkey or deli meat selections I’ve picked up over the last two years. I haven’t been brave enough to try any for myself, but you can order up some goat if your tastebuds are so brave. (The farmer’s market is an “international” market, catering to and employing people from all around the world. For this reason, and because the facilities are capable, the food choices cater to the international.)

Spices. Kick your spice cabinet up several notches with the low-cost dried spices offered at the farmer’s market (don’t miss them – they’re along the far right wall, near the wine and beer area). Consider getting a few of the basics to start your collection (bay leaves, mixed Italian seasoning, oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil, parsley, cracked black pepper and the like). Warning: picking up these spices at an average of $0.75/ounce will make you curse under your breath at those McCormick’s people.

Vegetables. Where else can you choose from eight varieties of eggplant? Very few, I would imagine, at least in Atlanta. Take your pick from the freshest veggies from miles around, all at much less per pound than at your local grocer. Plus, as I mentioned, the variety of produce (both traditional and exotic) will leave you breathless. I usually stock up on broccoli crowns, mushrooms, tomatoes on the vine, several types of squash, peppers and onions. When you look down at your cart full of colorful and nutritious produce, you’re destined to feel more excited about the way you eat. I know I do.

Soy products. I’ve noticed that the pricing and variety of frozen and refrigerated soy products is better than many other places. Pick up a bag of edamame (shelled or in shells—price per ounce is the same) or some extra firm tofu for an Asian-inspired stirfy noodle bowl.

Coffee. Fresh, delicious and just the way you like it. I used to be a big Starbucks brew-at-home fan, that is, until I realized I was paying $8.62 for 12 ounces of coffee. I have been pleasantly surprised and pleased with the YDFM’s coffee. I usually opt for having the coffee/tea area employees grind the coffee for me (you pick the level of grinding you would like) instead of buying the preground stuff. My addiction of choice: Columbian medium roasted with automatic drip grind, sometimes with vanilla syrup flavoring roasted in. At an average of $6/pound and very tasty, I am one happy customer. While you’re waiting for your coffee to be ground, go ahead and order some peanut butter (crunchy, creamy or crunchy creamy), almond butter or cashew butter—also ground before your eyes.

Fresh flowers at great prices, a fantastic beer and wine selection, an extra-large dessert case and a hot food/salad bar line also beef up the farmer’s market’s offerings.

While the salad dressings, canned soups, yogurts and salsas are definitely more interesting and organically-based than what you can grab at Kroger, I usually pass on these since they’re not as good of a buy.

This entry wouldn’t be complete without including a moderate amount of YDFM shopping strategy best utilized on a crowded day. When it comes to shopping in the produce aisles and nearby dried and canned foods aisles, I suggest finding a secure spot to leave your cart and heading in with open arms only. This way, you can dodge around other farmer’s market clientele and swiftly deposit new treasures into the stationary cart.

Moral of the story: it’s worth your time to make a trip to the Your DeKalb Farmer’s Market. It’s become a weekly routine for me. Just be forewarned that beautiful weather outside and visiting between noon and 5pm make for rather crowded conditions. Also, only cash, debit and check are accepted (no credit cards).

3000 East Ponce de Leon Avenue
Decatur, Georgia 30030

p.s. Thank you, Paul McKellar, for bringing me to the farmer’s market for the first time.


Anonymous said...

and now your love is actually expressed in words. i knew you loved that place...


Megan said...

it is a beautiful ode to YDFM.