Spring signals the arrival of farmers' markets across the state, and the City Park Esplanade Fresh Market at East Colfax and Columbine Street officially opened for business yesterday at 9 a.m. with around thirty local growers and vendors peddling their wares in spite of the chilly, overcast weather.
There weren't a lot fresh vegetables just yet -- only one stand with local hothouse tomatoes -- but plenty of stops to buy pickled things, honey, salts and spices, plants, meat, poultry and eggs, cheeses, candies, cakes, baked goods, hummus and granola.
And the food vendors were hopping busy. Doimoi Dumplings was serving up its signature pot stickers; Nicky's Quickie Gourmet Greek Foods added the spicy scent of grilled gyro meat into the air; Tres Natural Latin Cuisine's stuffed pupusas were definitely a hit; and the folks from Spanish Sensations created some delicious buzz with their huge pans of fresh, saffron-laden paella and smooth, tangy gazpacho.
Some of the stand-out products for sale were the pastries, challah bread and fresh-baked apple strudel from Fresh Bread & Pastries, the organic sweet potato and avocado hummus from Hope Hummus, the delicate, frosted almond cookies made by the guys at Tasty Somethings, and the lavender-rosemary sea salt from Smith and Truslow.
The Truffle Cheese Shop's booth provided market-goers with a couple of interesting cheese selections: Rupert, an alpine-style raw cow's milk cheese with a piquant flavor and Memoire Truffle Cheese, a creamy Dutch Gouda copiously flecked with black Italian summer truffles.
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And the honey-jalapeno dill cucumber pickles from The Real Dill out of Denver were memorably scrumptious. So, too, were the spicy pickled green beans from the Bolder Beans booth, which are a bloody Mary lover's dream garnish, and H2Organic Farms had an impressive array of baby vegetable plants for sale, even some super-specialty plants like Chocolate Stripe and Aunt Ruby's German Green heirloom tomato seedlings.
The early morning chill had effectively dissipated by 11 a.m., and there was a decent-sized crowd of a 100 people or so, socializing, milling around making purchases, or sitting at the patio tables to eat in the sunshine. The vendors and products will change throughout the season; spring vegetables and fruits will be replaced by summer produce, while fall ushers in the luscious glut of ripe corn, peppers and pumpkins, which signifies the end of the market season.
The City Park Esplanade Fresh Market is now open on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and will run through October 28.