The staccato tock-tock-tock of the high school marching band’s practice and the buzzing of cicadas are two of the surest sounds heralding the end of summer. They pinch me with a feeling of sadness. Summer is a lush and generous season with long hours of daylight and an abundance of fruits, vegetables, and shellfish. But it’s so short, especially in New England, and I’m reluctant to see it end.
This summer has been particularly pleasurable. I’ve been working on a new book project, though I managed to squeeze in numerous trips and market explorations. I reconnected with friends and relatives whom I hadn’t seen in a while and missed very much. I met new people, discovered new places, and returned to some favorites.
Early in the summer I explored Le District, a market filled with French-style delicacies and eateries that make it feel like you’re in France even though you’re near the Freedom Tower and 9-11 Memorial in the Battery Park neighborhood of New York City. (For more about this market, see this post.)
Across the river, I visited farms and markets in New Jersey, which is one of my favorite states for fresh produce. The Princeton farmers’ market, for example, teems with produce and flowers.
At Jammin’ Crêpes, owned by two women who use farm-fresh ingredients in their recipes, I enjoyed a goat cheese crêpe with roasted veggies and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. It’s near the Thursday farmers’ market and the Princeton University campus.
My next trip was to the West Coast. Greens Restaurant at Fort Mason in San Francisco never disappoints. There’s something about the zen-like atmosphere combined with well-prepared, beautifully presented vegetarian food that make a heady elixir.
A friend and I fueled up there before going to the American Craft Council Show, a major crafts fair, held at Fort Mason this year. We were impressed by the handcrafted ceramics, jewelry, furniture, and clothing. By a lucky stroke of timing, we also hit Off the Grid, a Friday evening grazing extravaganza at Fort Mason. Food trucks park nose to tail, serving Korean, Japanese, French, Californian, and other specialties.
California has many exceptional markets. Despite the drought (or some say as a result), fruits and wines are packed with intense flavor. The Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market in San Francisco is an exceptional opportunity to discover local and organic producers, prepared foods, and specialty items.
Point Reyes Farmstead, Yerba Santa Goat Dairy, and Tomales Farmstead Creamery stand out among the amazing cheese stands. I sampled many varieties, and my favorite was the soft-ripened Teleeka cheese. Inside the Ferry Marketplace Building are more stalls with specialty items: chocolates, olive oils, and ceramic tableware. This market also offers “veggie valet” services: They’ll hold onto your purchases in a shaded area until you’re able to swing back to pick them up. It’s a swell idea, and I wish more markets would offer this service.
My husband and I toured Napa and Sonoma with friends who know the area well. We celebrated our friend’s birthday with visits to wineries. The grounds and views were almost as outstanding as the wines. Silver Oak’s cabernet sauvignon was the birthday boy’s favorite. We hiked in redwood forests carpeted with fallen needles and fragrant with a musty but refreshingly clean scent. We had dinner at a residence overlooking the Alexander Valley which was one of the high points, literally and figuratively. Also memorable, a meal at restaurant Valette in Healdsburg validated the chef’s rising reputation.
Next stop on the journey was Orcas Island, a rustic and idyllic spot among the San Juan islands off the coast of Washington state. The locals have done an impressive job of preserving the natural beauty by prohibiting billboards and other blight. We stayed with friends and quickly understood why they’ve fallen in love with Orcas, so far from the madding crowd and close to coastal views, kayaking opportunities, and fresh shellfish.
Vancouver was the final stop in our trip to the Pacific Northwest. Again, the area’s natural beauty made a deep impression. (I tried not to think about recent articles warning about the possibility of a gigantic earthquake along the Cascadia fault line.) Views of the mountains gave me a peaceful, settled feeling each morning as I spread open the curtains. Scenic walks along the sea wall and a bicycle ride through Stanley Park added to the serenity.
Vancouver’s Granville Island Public Market throbs with customers. Okanagan cherries abounded at produce stands. The market is hectic and noisy. The Kids Only Market has almost nothing local except for clothing emblazoned with Canaadian sports team names. Make no mistake, the daily covered market caters to tourists. The best day to visit is on Thursday, from May to September, when the farmers’ market on Granville Island goes full tilt and attracts local residents. Granville Island is also where you can find a concentration of artists and craft galleries. Walk through the covered market and continue in the direction of the Railspur District to see artist studios, shops, and a local brewery.
Now I’m back in New England where my garden is overflowing with tomatoes. I’m roasting them in big batches, making soup, and creating salads with generous thick slices…and still the garden is producing more than I can consume or freeze.
One of my essential summertime pleasures is seafood: particularly clams and lobster. I got my fill (temporarily) of clams at the Allen’s Neck Clambake. This “Quaker Bake” is the largest and oldest traditional clambake in New England (see the Friends Journal article for historical background). Wooden crates with clams, dressing (similar to stuffing), and corn are steamed under tarps that wrap around hot rocks. The food becomes moist and infused with the salty scent of sea grass that was harvested from the Westport River and laid around the rocks.
After an hour or so of steaming, the bake master tastes a clam and pronounces them ready. A loud cheer erupts. The pastor says a prayer of gratitude, and the crowd scrambles to long picnic tables in a grove in the woods. This clambake takes place the third Thursday in August. Five hundred people attend (plus over a hundred volunteers)—most of whom have been coming to this event for years and plan their vacations around it if they’ve moved away from the area. It is a fundraiser for the Allen’s Neck Friends Meetinghouse, but it binds ties within the entire community. It also helps take the sting out of the end of summer: For one afternoon in late August, summertime seems to stretch endlessly with melted butter, steamed clams, and fruit pies. The new season will, of course, bring its own rewards. But I’m in no hurry.
The Princeton (New Jersey) Farmers’ Market is located in Hinds Plaza and open Thursday from 11 am-4 pm, from mid-May until mid-November.
The Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market in San Francisco is located in the Ferry Building and at stands in front of and behind it. The market is biggest on Saturday (8 am-2 pm) but also open Tuesday and Thursday (10 am-2 pm), rain or shine. Also see this guest post by Dharma Cortés.