The Farmers of Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market has been a shopping destination for me since I moved to Seattle in 1981. I was lucky enough to work downtown for several years so the Market was just a short lunch time stroll away during that period. But even as my work location has changed over the years, the Market has remained a key part of my shopping plan. I have access to farmers and producers; it’s just a short stroll away from the waterfront; there’s often entertainment – whether it’s a street side busker or the antics of the crowd; and numerous dining options, from quick takeout to fine dining, abound. With all that it offers it is the heart of Seattle.
It’s easy to lump Pike Place Market into the general category of “tourist attraction”, especially during the summer when it becomes jam-packed with cruise ship adventurers and other out-of-towners. But summer is when the number of local farmers and producers increases, especially on the Farmers Market on Pike Place days (Friday through Sunday) from late June until the end of September. Without local support the Market would not be the healthy, vibrant place that it is. Tourists are nice but they basically shop once, take home a few items and then move on. It’s the locals who come to the market on a regular basis who provide the income, establish relationships with the vendors, and keep the doors open.
And, good news…. now there is more than one way to avoid the summer crowds! My plan is to arrive early – generally around 8:00 am, sometimes sooner. The earlier you come, the easier it is to move through the market and purchase things but the trade-off is that not all stalls will be open that early. However, over the last several years Pike Place Market has introduced three satellite markets around Seattle. They call them Express Markets. They are smaller, focused on fresh fruits and vegetables but also include a few other specialty items. Check the link for locations and days – you may find that Pike Place is closer than you think. And here’s a third option: I noticed that Pike Place Market is staffing booths at the Seattle Out to Lunch concert series this summer, too! They’ve filled Pike Place Market totes (I just received one of these and they are really great!) with fruits, veggies and herbs. For $15 you can take one home – sort of like a mini-CSA box without a long-term obligation.
Last week I was a guest at a dinner hosted by Pike Place to remind people that what keeps the Market going is the dedication of locals who visit year round. The dinner was held at Steelhead Diner, where chef Kevin Davis and general manager Terresa Davis (yes, they are married) produced a feast based on a shopping trip through the Market. Take a look at this menu!
- Crispy little Smelt with Hot Sweet Mustard Vinaigrette SH/BA
- Hand Made Burrata with Heirloom Tomatoes BA
- Kumamoto Oysters on the Half Shell with a Lemon Cucumber Salsa SH/BA
- Crab Stuffed Alvarez Farm’s Anaheim Chilies with Avocado Sublime, Aji Amarillo & Aji Rojo
- Watermelon, Cucumber and Mint Salad
- A Slice of Caviar Pie SH/BA
- Broccoli Rabe Ravioli with heritage zucchini, blistered tomatoes
- Basil Grilled Lamb Rack with Eggplant Caponata and Sauce Vierge
- Wild Neah Bay King Salmon with Holmquist Hazelnuts, Martin Family Orchards Nectarines SH/BA
- Alaskan Halibut with Butter Poached Grey Morels and Wapato Green Beans SH/BA
- Softshell Crabs with Sweet Corn Salad Sautéed Zucchini Vines Watermelon & Cucumber Salad SH
- Flourless Chocolate Cake w/ Hayton Farms Berries SH
- Martin Family Orchard Peach Tart with Whisky Praline Ice Cream BA
The SH and/or BA after the item indicates the item is currently on the menu at either Steelhead Diner (SH) or Blueacre Seafood (BA), Chef Davis’ other location. You may or may not see these items on the menu when you visit since menus at both locations are seasonally driven.
The dinner was truly inspiring. While professional chefs can create amazing dishes, fresh ingredients upgrade everyone’s meals no matter how much or little kitchen experience you have.
My favorite part of the event was talking with Angelica Hayton of Hayton Farms. She’s a fifth generation farmer and runs the berry operations & farmers’ market program, while her dad concentrates on wholesale activities for crops like potatoes, cauliflower, cucumbers and wheat. Angelica manages 200 acres of berries, has booths at over 50 farmers’ markets and employees over 30 people at the markets. So, not only is she bringing us gorgeous ingredients but she’s supporting the economy, as all farmers do.
When was the last time you shopped at Pike Place Market? Maybe it’s time to plan an outing with your family or friends!
Pike Place Market
1st and Pike St.