Personal Food Favorites at the Issaquah Farmers Market


As the season for the Issaquah Farmers Market draws to a close in two weeks, I wanted to write about my favorite food vendors. These are businesses that I consider to be first among equals, so to speak, businesses that sell uncompromisingly good food that I look forward to every time I’m visiting the market. Summertime would not be the same without these Saturday visits.

Kallstrom Sweet Corn sells corn, and only corn. Grown in fields between George and Ephrata (in eastern Washington), they are the best, very sweet and tender and—almost unheard of in this day and age—non-GMO. Their familiar covered trailer is always found at the northwest corner of the market. When they didn’t show up one week, loyal customers (including my wife and I) were alarmed, making worried inquiries at the market’s information booth, going to their Facebook page or website for clues about their absence. Even if my family doesn’t eat corn much during the rest of the year, we eat it weekly during the season, and we get it only here. Kallstrom has a devoted following. The corn is as good as it gets. Candy on a cob.

Uriah Kallstrom, Kallstrom Sweet Corn

Kallstrom Farm trailer

I don’t know how Michael Pinckney does it, but all his cookies (Pinckney Cookie Cafe) are out-of-this-world. I prefer chewy cookies, and he obliges. None of them is crispy. He also doesn’t use artificial ingredients. The line-up includes at least eight kinds. Every week, he features a cookie-of-the-day. I am partial to the Bing Bling!, an alchemical mix of coconut, chocolate and dried Bing cherries. The Double Chocolate Espresso is another home-run, as deep a spiritual chocolate-espresso experience as I will ever get. And this year, he added a cookie made with Woodinville Whiskey Company’s bourbon. The cookie is tasty and surprisingly non-boozy, clearly on its way to becoming one of the best sellers. I buy only 2-3 cookies per visit to hold the lust in check during the week.

Michael Pinckney, Pinckney Cookie Café

Bing Bling! and Double Chocolate Espresso cookies

Next door to Pinckney’s (this year, anyway) is WiseGuy Italian Street Food that sells the best Italian meatball sandwich that I’ve eaten in a long time. And equally delicious is the sausage and bell pepper hero. It took us until this year to ‘discover’ them after they’d been doing business at the market for years. What makes the sandwiches so irresistible are the light, crispy bread that WiseGuy sources from Le Panier and an outstanding, zesty marinara. The cauldrons of simmering meatball and sausages-pepper fillings are like siren calls. Resistance is futile.

WiseGuy Italian Street Food

Sausage and pepper hero

Italian meatball hero

I’ve been motivated to buy farm fresh eggs whenever possible ever since stories emerged that what you buy at the supermarket might have been in storage for months and can come from anywhere in the world. Even organic eggs. At the market, I buy fresh eggs from Ode to Joy Farm. The hens are pasture-raised in Enumclaw and eat grass, bugs and organic feed. Every now and then, a lovely pastel green egg will appear among the otherwise brown dozen. The stall also sells duck eggs and poultry.

Joyce Behrendt, Ode to Joy Farm

odetojoy

Mouth-watering treats that showed up at the market this year are popsicles made by Seattle Pops (Facebook page). They’re made with the freshest ingredients, including fruits in season. The fruit pop line-up includes strawberry, lime, blueberry and watermelon. Their cream-based pops use chocolate, raspberry, peach and banana. In the latter category, the two that my wife and I had to have without hesitation were Coconut Cream (☆☆☆☆) and Kona Coffee (☆☆☆☆). Holy moly! We have never had popsicles this good, inspired by Mexican canelas. The dairy cream is ridiculously rich. The addition of toasted, shredded dried coconuts elevate the coconut pop to another level. The Kona pop has an incredibly deep coffee flavor. Unfortunately, we haven’t tried any of the other flavors, so enamored are we with those two. Several of their pops are seasonal; upcoming are Pumpkin Pie and Cranberry.

Dave, Seattle Pops

I described Gobble Express in my previous post, but the vendor apparently has to alternate appearances with other food trucks. In that sense, it doesn’t qualify as a purveyor I can even look forward to every week. But, oh, that smoked turkey leg is enough for me to be on the lookout whenever I go marketing.

Though this has nothing to do with food, I had to put in a plug for the Hmong flower stalls. They sell beautifully arranged bouquets throughout the market season at very reasonable prices. My favorite times are late spring (when peonies are abundant) and late summer (for the spectacular variety of dahlias).

Peonies

Peonies

Dahlias

Dahlia bouquet ($15)

Dahlias

Dahlias

One vendor we dearly miss is Westover Farm. Darrell Westover sold uncommon produce, like lemon cucumbers, corno di toro bell peppers, kamo eggplants, Ailsa Craig onions, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and shishito peppers. Not only were they freshly picked but were a great value. For health reasons, Darrell no longer drives out to Issaquah on Saturdays but still continues to sell his hydroponically grown produce at his farm in Maple Valley. I was very disappointed (but understanding) that he didn’t show up this season.

Darrell Westover, Westover Farm

Shishito peppers

Farmers markets are reminders of the plenty we have available locally. It takes dedication and lots of hard work by the people who grow and make things. A few of them travel long distances to sell at the market. Though it lasts five months, the season is all too short.

Signs of Spring at the Farmers’ Market


It won’t be soon enough for summer produce, which will begin to appear in earnest next month. Still, the Issaquah Farmers’ Market is drawing customers with spring flowers and vegetables.

Porcus Maximus


If there is one sure sign that the Issaquah Farmers Market has started in earnest for the season, it’s the silhouette of a familiar food truck when driving past Pickering Farm. Maximus/Minimus has been feeding the faithful for several years running. It draws many customers not only because of the good pulled pork sandwiches but also the whimsically designed truck that looks like an armored pig. I don’t always eat from the truck, but when I do, I enjoy the Maximus pulled pork sandwich, the spicier of the two versions, the other being the Minimus, which is sweeter. One big reason why I like their sandwich is that the sauce is not cloyingly sweet as is often the case with pulled pork. The Maximus (☆☆☆) is essentially a savory sandwich with sweetness derived from fruit juices. The spiciness level is definitely tingly, but if you want to raise the Scoville level, order the Maximus “with some hurt,” basically a sprinkling of ground chile peppers for extra heat.

Maximus Minimus

Maximus/Minimus food truck

Pulled pork sandwich, The Maximus

Pulled pork sandwich, The Maximus with some hurt

Peony Season


A sure sign of impending summer is the long-awaited appearance of the peony. It is greatly admired and revered in China and has unofficially been regarded as its national flower. More than ever, peonies have been popping up for sale here in the Seattle area (and I imagine elsewhere). When Costco and Trader Joe’s begin to sell it, you know that it has gone mainstream. We have four plants in our yard that have yet to flower in four seasons, doubtless a problem of not enough sun exposure and improper soil amendment, though the plants have gotten taller and the root balls bigger. So we have to rely on enjoying these beauties at gardens and purchasing them from sellers.

At the many Hmong flower stalls at farmers markets here, peonies are currently the centerpiece of most arrangements. Today at the Issaquah Farmers Market, there were peonies in all the flower stalls and one astonishing variety (pictured above) sold exclusively at a vegetable stand. The pictures below illustrate some of the many arrangements we saw today.