Farmers' Market Update, Both Coasts



Last year, I wrote about the happy surprise of finding a farmers' market on one of the service plazas of the Mass Pike—a really good idea for people on road trips, or commuters who don't otherwise have time to go to one and who would otherwise never think of stopping for expensive gas and convenience-store oddments. Last year the program was limited to a few stops on the route between Boston and the Berkshires, but this year, a piece in the Globe says, the state Department of Transportation plans to expand the markets to 18 stops on highways all over the state, not just on the Pike. Good news for people going to Cape Cod and points south—and good news for drivers, period, which I'm hoping other departments of transportation copy.

And yesterday I got to visit the farmers' market in Napa at the Oxbow Public Market, an ambitious concept that's still alive, unlike the neighboring culinary-education center Copia, which is still closed after millions of dollars and years of planning. My favorite shops at the market include my Boston-transplant friend Lassa Skinner's Oxbow Cheese Merchant, part of a wine-and-cheese complex that will soon move to the main building; The Fatted Calf, with an abundant selection of well-made charcuterie and salumi and fresh meats; a location of San Francisco new-wave roaster Ritual Coffee; and a place that was new to me, C Casa Taqueria, which has really interesting combinations like spiced lamb with mint and goat cheese with avocado tomatillo salsa, and a standby chile-rubbed rotisserie chicken that's great for dinner if you're staying anyplace with even a minimal kitchen.

There was a farmers' market, too—filled, as is often the case at farmers' markets including the ones on Massachusetts highways, with seasonless tchotchkes like scented soaps and honey spreads. But also Rainier cherries, apricots (fleshy and underflavored, but still better than what we get on the east coast except in late August), navel oranges so sweet we wondered where they came from (the stand didn't say), and fantastically sweet white peaches, rivaled only by Vermont in September. Twelve more hours of Napa idyll! Next time to the county's premier farmer's market, in St. Helena.