When Franco Ruiz, the chef de cuisine at Fruition, visits the Union Station Farmers' Market on Saturdays, he always brings his daughter, Luna, along with him. After all, he says, why bother with the museum or zoo when there's so much fun to be had among the candy-colored stands of the farmers' market? While Luna remains a fixture at his side (or in the arms of one of his cooks who like to pop by), the chef's approach to shopping proves a little more sporadic.
"I like to take one trip around to see what's available and then stop at the Mercantile stand and have a treat," he says. "Then I go buy what I need for the restaurant and the weekly vegetarian entree."
This week, squash was on the chef's mind — namely, delicata, which he purchased from Toohey & Sons Organic. But as we wandered from stall to stall, he found ripe strawberries and curly kale at Cure Organic Farm; sweet corn from Munson Farms; tasty apricot jam from Morton's Orchards; Italian sausage from Corner Post Meats; and lipstick peppers from Berry Patch Farms. Although he didn't buy any on this round, Ruiz was surprised to see beans grown right in Brighton from Berry Patch Farms. "Beans are hard to cook in elevation unless they are grown in elevation," he says, vowing to do more research on getting local options.
"As a chef, you have to guide our farms in the right direction," says Ruiz about making sure local growers know what is needed. "Then you have to keep supporting them. If you don't, [the supply chain] is going to die."
The haul proved bountiful and colorful, perfect for the two dishes he had planned. We headed back to Fruition along with sous-chef Nick Pissari, who was there to help prep the meal as well as entertain and watch Luna while Ruiz cooked for us. We also left with cups of luscious strawberry-rose agua fresca made by chef Sharif Villa Cruz of Lola Coastal Mexican. He was at the market this weekend along with chef Dana Rodriguez from Work & Class to help raise money for the victims of the earthquakes in Mexico.
Lucky us: Between the drink, posole from Rodriguez and the strawberries, which were unexpected, the day proved full of treats. Then, to make Saturday even better, we also got to sample Ruiz's homemade egg fettuccine with mushrooms, kale, corn, peppers and Fruition Farms' cheese, as well as the delicata soup with edible flowers, apricot jam and fresh ricotta.
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For more photos, see the complete slideshow of our visit to the Union Station Farmers' Market with Franco Ruiz.