Sarasota Farmers Market
7am – 1pm every Saturday
Corner of Lemon Street and State St.
Alpine Steakhouse: 4520 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; 941-921-3798; alpinesteak.com
Box Type: Empanadas By Stef / Peperonata Pasta: 4141 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; 941-870-2729; peperonatapasta.com
Fund Type: Browns Grove: brownsgrove.com
The Sarasota Farmers Market held every Saturday morning in downtown Sarasota is definitely the place to buy fresh produce, especially this time of year. The newly expanded Worden Farm section is excellent, and there is plenty of great locally grown produce from vendors such as Peter Burkard, My Mother’s Garden, Sweetgrass Farms and many more. There are also great baked goods, fresh pasta, interesting crafts, local shrimp, and even locally raised, oven-ready chicken from Grove Ladder Farm.
But when I go to the market, I’m hungry for something more urgent. As soon as I get to busy Lemon Avenue, I can smell the bacon cooking on the griddle. Fresh coffee. Cookies are still warm from the oven. It’s like a street fair, but with better food.
Below are the sites I visited on my last visit. It’s not comprehensive (for example, I didn’t eat the amazing brisket at Brick’s Barbecue), but that’s okay. You’ll need to go to your market to discover everything it has to offer.
With piles of sausages, bacon, sausages, and smoked turkey legs on hot plates at the front of the booth, and more cooking on the griddle to the side, it’s hard to pass an Alpine Steakhouse operation without the smell of all that meat grabbing your nose and pulling you in, cartoon style, to buy some Delicious tales. When I got there, there was a large hunk of roast beef being sliced on a cutting board, cooked medium with a bit of a pink glow in the middle and surrounded by a nicely charred crust. It’s a trifecta, and I order it on my breakfast sandwich with some eggs.
You can get almost anything meat-related on a bun at Alpine Steakhouse, from smoked pulled pork and brisket to the restaurant’s famous (infamous? turducken), plus all that stuff displayed on hot plates, slices of house bacon, and — relatively speaking — a plus. New – Seared Ahi Tuna with Wasabi Coleslaw. The sheer amount of protein is intoxicating.
After I took a bite of my breakfast sandwich, it was clear that I had made the wrong choice. I know from experience that egg, cheese and bacon is the right combination for huge fresh Alpine rolls – the gooey cheese is essential to enliven eggs that weren’t cooked to order – and my steak and egg duo was a bit disappointing. However, the tri-tip is amazingly good, the meat is crispy on the edges and tender in the middle, salty and juicy and worth ordering in a steak sandwich or even on its own.
Empanadas from Steve
My son was impressed by how many delicious things you can stuff into pastries at the Empanadas By Stef booth, so we scanned the list and started discussing the merits of each filling. The caramelized onions and cheese are a contender (sweet and delicious) as are the pepperoni (like Hot Pocket, but really good), meatballs, squash, and four cheese, but in the end we settle on something more representative of our Argentinian background. Of these pocket pastries – traditional beef.
As we nibble on the soft pastry in a filling that’s a symphony of flavors thanks to the rich ground beef, bright green olives and sweet raisins, Adrian Fucci — owner of neighboring Peperonata Pasta and father of Stefania Fucci (Stef in Empanadas by Stef) — tells us the origins of the empanada. Like many pocket pastries, it was created as an easy way to pack a lunch for hard-working people. In this case, the gauchos, the cowboys of Argentina.
“At midday, the wives would come to the fields with empanadas and wine and prepare a meal,” he says. “Wine was important.”
quickly! Crepe to go!
We’re feeling pretty good for now, strolling through the market, browsing and sampling as we go, until we’re closer to On The Go! Crepe to go! I asked my son if he wanted to warm up with a rich Nutella-filled crepe, but he instead opted for a heartier version containing mozzarella, bacon and eggs. Even through the mosquito netting surrounding the cabin, it’s clear that the three women inside are connected to each other, each three generations having their own mission – the youngest takes my money, the oldest sits and tells me how her mother is still alive (so it could be four generations) While the middle one uses a paddle to distribute the mixture thinly across a wide tray.
The crepes are cut into four pieces, making forks and knives unnecessary and us taking steamy bites from the packets. The crepe itself is wonderfully soft but with enough elasticity to give it a delicate chew. Each bite results in a string of cheese hanging from our lips as we happily munch on bits of crispy bacon and soft scrambled eggs. This calls for drinking…
With a mix of local citrus, some local produce and some sourced elsewhere, Brown’s Grove is a great place to shop, but we always stop first and foremost for a glass of juice at the small table set near the front of the pavilion. Even though it’s poured from the half-gallon jugs that Brown sells at some local stores, it’s still fresher than most juices you’ll find and is available in tart and sweet orange, bright and bitter grapefruit or — our personal favorite — a super-sweet blend of juice. Strawberry and orange.
You can buy a half gallon for about $5, or they will pour you a cup of your choice for $1. Along with a cup of Joe from nearby Java Dog, it’s the best way to wash down a meal at the Sarasota Farmers Market.