I had a day off, and the bride was away for the weekend. I usually do not like to cook for myself. It seems like a lot of work for little result; maybe it’s a chef thing.
I had decided to drive to Philadelphia, as I was craving oysters and was willing to make the trip to satisfy the yearning. Luckily a friend got in touch and, after hearing my plea, suggested I go to the . He was there and they had oysters.
Sounded like a good idea to me.
Walking in, I heard “two dozen oysters…pick uuuuuup” and knew I was in the right place. My friend had ordered ahead and found a table in the communal dining area.
Long Island oysters at $1.50 each, shucked and ready as I walked in the door: I liked the Newtown Farmers Market and wondered why I didn't come here more often.
My friend had two other guests at his table. One was eating ribs and the other a fish sandwich and fried calamari. A bag of cheese-stuffed pigs in a blanket was on offer to any takers -- how could I resist?
The oysters and cheesy sausages disappeared way too quickly and I was on to the next course. By now my tablemates had finished and bragged about their choices, each trying to persuade me to try what they had. My friend suggested a tour of the market before making a decision.
The first stop was Madara’s seafood, the source of the oysters. The staff was making fried fish, crab cake, and grilled tuna sandwiches to order and filling containers of New England clam chowder, Maryland crab soup, and lobster bisque to a line of customers that seemed to be regulars.
Reasonably priced fresh cod, three types of salmon, whole bronzino, tuna, tilapia, and swordfish were being wrapped for home cooking. My appetite was starting to grow.
Zook’s BBQ Barn, the place where one of my buddies got the ribs, was next on the tour. Racks of chickens cooked in a large rotisserie, their smell attracting a crowd and my attention.
Ribs and turkey were available on platters and by the pound, to eat there or to take out. Again, a crowd of regulars lined up. The same family also had a fresh poultry market at the next stand, with all-natural Lancaster County chickens sold whole or cut into whatever parts requested.
One item that caught my eye was ground chicken, available in either breast or thigh meat freshly ground with no fillers or extenders. Fully dressed rabbits made me take note for a return trip, as fresh rabbit is hard to find on the fly. Now I have a source the next time I have the urge.
At the produce stand, the owner tempted me with grapes that seemed too perfect to eat. Fennel, in-season leeks, winter squash, eight varieties of potatoes, onions, and garlic all made my list of things I needed, but the fresh-squeezed tangerine and orange juice made me open my wallet and start to buy.
My stomach told me it still needed another course, and I focused on feeding it. Dos Amore’s Mexican cuisine could not be resisted. There they offer handmade empanadas in four varieties -- beef, cheese, chicken, and (my choice) pork.
A small container of homemade (and delicious) guacamole and pico de gallo filled out my order, but I could not leave without buying a handmade chile rellenos (poblano pepper stuffed with cheese), upsetting the person behind me who thought I had purchased the last one.
Burritos, tacos, enchiladas, tamales, quesadillas, and a whole slew of various salsas satisfied the line of people behind me. The empanada was delicious, full of braised spiced pork with a crispy fried shell. It was perfect with the accompanying guacamole and spicy tomato in the pico.
I bought some spices: mace, cumin and coriander seeds for a sausage and bean dish I am working on.
I was close to buying freshly rolled pretzels, plus more of those cheesy pigs in a blanket from Barbie’s soft pretzels, when I came across the King of Falafel. I stopped in my tracks. I love Middle Eastern food, especially falafel (vegetarian patties made with garbanzo beans).
Good Middle Eastern fare is rarely seen in the Philadelphia suburbs, so I was excited that King of Falafel had it all -- tabouli salad, babaganoush (eggplant salad), spinach pie, cous cous, mejadara (rice and lentil), greek salad, gyro, hummus, spinach pie and even Indian-style samosa and Jewish knish.
This place had quite the crowd. Again, faithful patrons seemed to know what they wanted as soon as they got to the counter. Two people made sandwiches, one took orders, and the owner and an assistant delivered food and worked the pre-made salad counter very efficiently.
I had just eaten my pork empanada and the oysters had satisfied the rest of my appetite, but I had to get a falafel. I told myself it would be great for dinner, and it was -- along with the chile rellenos and tangerine juice.
I now have a place to go when I need small amounts of hard-to-find ingredients. All of the stands at the Newtown Farmer's Market are privately owned, all of the food freshly made and reasonably priced.
I am glad my friend talked me out of a trip to Philadelphia. My sausage and bean dish came out perfectly thanks to the spices, and next week I will go back for ground chicken and maybe a rabbit for a terrine I plan to make.
I heard that in the summer they do a pig roast. That, plus another falafel, will make me a regular.
The Newtown Farmers Market is located at 2150 South Eagle Road. Hours: Thursday 9-6, Friday 9-7, Saturday 9-4. For more information, visit www.newtownfarmersmarket.com.