Blues, Brews and a Farmers’ Market ~ Euguene, OR

Nathan James & his ‘tri-tar’

You know how it is when you are waiting for a special day to arrive and the excitement you feel when it is finally here?  It may sound silly but for me that day was the Lane County Farmers’ Market as I’ve heard so many good things about it.   It lived up to its billing and then some, being one of the best we have ever attended.  We love coming to a new town and getting the flavor of the area.  Even though we are just passing through, alighting for a short time, we like the idea of supporting the locals and the best way we have found to do that is by attending the farmers’ markets.  Buying local and eating what is being harvested now is important to us and the colorful fruits and vegetables displayed so beautifully just make us smile!

Gorgeous beets & carrots
Berries, berries & more berries
Dazzling sunflowers

This was the start to our day and what was to be the cherry on top was the Willamette Valley Blues & Brews Festival.  During our RV travels too often we find that we are not in the right place at the right time for some of the local activities.  We were in luck on this stop as Eugene was bulls-eye on for great fun!

The performers at the Blues & Brews Fest got better as the day progressed and we don’t think it was because we had sampled a few of the brews, which were also quite tasty!  A fave performer for us was Miriams Well, a soulful singer from Portland, OR, whose sax player was superb.  You can sample some of her music here.

Miriams Well

Nathan James and the Rhythm Scratchers from Seattle, WA were pretty amazing and downright funky.  Nathan had three custom-made guitars, all with washboards incorporated into them so the sounds coming from these instruments were something we had never heard before.  His ‘tri-tar’ was a washboard, axe handle, and three strings, just unreal!  You can get a sense of his style here.

With our fridge full of wonderful fruits and veggies, our taste buds tantalized by great craft beers, and rockin’ to some amazing blues bands, our day from start to finish was pretty darn awesome!  Hope yours was too!

Eugene street scene

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The Vibe in Arcata, CA

Ukesperience

There is a vibe goin’ on in Arcata that should not be missed if you are ever around these parts.  This college town of 17,230 residents is home to Humboldt State University and some funky shops, restaurants and interesting little book stores.  Saturday mornings it is also home to a great farmers’ market, a feast for the senses.  Surrounding the perimeter of the town’s central plaza, farmers, beekeepers, flower and food vendors, etc. etc. come together to show off their local wares.

Amazing variety abounds and in the center of the square there is always entertainment.  Today it was to be Ukesperience, a great group of local guys, three playing killer ukulele, one playing percussion and another on drums. Young and old alike were tapping toes, clapping hands, or just outright jammin’ to their folksy tunes.  After shopping we joined the rest of the crowd to listen in, do a little people watching and nosh on some yummy corn and black bean tamales.

A visit to Wildberries, a great little organic market, is a must if for no other reason than to soak in the local hospitality.  On a previous day’s visit we noticed how friendly everyone was, particularly our cashier Janna.  She moved to Arcata from the Central Valley and has never looked back, preferring the cooler temps here.  Today we stopped by again for a few items not found at the farmers’ market and once again found Janna.  As she started to ring us up, she said “hi LuAnn and Terry”.  We were most impressed with the name recall.

Yep, there is a great vibe in this college town, one that will bring us back again before we leave, perhaps to get a little more Ukesperience.

Packin’ their greens

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Small Town/Big Flavor ~ Point Reyes Station, CA

It was love at first sight when we discovered this small town with such big flavors, Point Reyes Station. We have wondered how we missed this little jewel when we visited Point Reyes many years ago but are now making up for lost time, having been here three times since we arrived in San Francisco.  I doubt there are many other towns with ~850 residents (signs show 350 but they have grown) that offer so much.

I could write several posts on Toby’s Feed Barn alone. Oozing ambiance, it is difficult to pull yourself away from this general store and working feed barn.  Family owned and operated since 1942, this is just a sampling of what it has to offer:  local organic produce, working feed barn,  pet food for your smaller 4-legged friends, gifts and gourmet foods, organic coffee bar, yoga studio, community garden, small gallery displaying local artisans’ work, host for concerts, author talks, weddings and fundraisers, and a world-famous farmers’ market – all local, all organic.  I’m sure I have missed something but you get the idea.  This place is pretty sweet!

The story goes that in 1942 Toby Giacomini traded in the family car for a pickup truck and embarked on an amazing adventure.  Announcing that he was “going into trucking” set the wheels in motion for a family business that spans three generations and is still going strong 70 years later.  Tony’s tiny family business began with the delivery of milk and cream from West Marin to the East San Francisco Bay.  Thirty years later his drivers were picking up milk from 50 dairies and he was supplying feed and grain to many of those farmers.

His sons all came into the business with him but it was son Chris who wanted to open a general store (Toby’s), “to create a space where the community could come together and share information and celebrate with each other”.  Toby’s was an instant success, so much so that monthly the Marin farmers gathered here to discuss ways to grow organic.  It wasn’t long before the Marin Organic came to be and two years later Toby’s was hosting the first Point Reyes organic farmers’ market.  In 2001 Chris’s son Nick and wife (3rd generation) came on board and opened the yoga studio Yoga Toes.  The family also collaborates with Point Reyes Books to host some well-known authors.

As their website says, “where else can you go listen to a Pulitzer Prize winning author and go home with fresh strawberries, summer bedding plants, the perfect gift for a friend and a bale of hay?”  Where else indeed?!

Toby passed away in July 2007 at the age of 88 and man, what a legacy he has left!  Although I believe most would agree that Toby’s Feed Barn is the anchor of this charming little town, there are many other stores and boutique shops that call for further investigation.

Station House Cafe is a great choice for a wonderful lunch.

Bovine Bakery is the place to go for organic coffee, great-looking pastries and yummy vegetable focaccia.

For organic linens and jammies, head to Coyuchi.

The Cowgirl Creamery Cantina, where everything looks fabulous (and they make their own cheese), has everything you could want for a superb picnic lunch.  We treated ourselves to a lunch of smoked salmon crostini with fromage blanc.  I am still dreaming about it!

The farmers’ market, although not one of the largest we had been to, was certainly one of the finest.  Just shop here and it wouldn’t be difficult to eat a balanced color palette of vegetables to get all the nutrients and antioxidants you would ever need for a healthy diet.

Time to leave this little gem of a town as we had planned to travel a bit up Coast Highway 1.  Terry had scouted out a place for some barbecued oysters and if you blink, you are likely to miss the Marshall Store on the northeast shore of Tomales Bay.    Their garlic and barbecue oysters are lip-smackin’ good!

The coastline along Highway 1 is like no other, with jaw-dropping views from just about every little turn in the road, and there are many.

Mussel Point at Bodega Bay
Near Gleason Beach further north

Maybe small, but big on flavor, the town of Point Reyes Station will not soon be forgotten by us.

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One of My Weekly Pleasures

Farmers’ markets are a pleasure that we just cannot deny ourselves.  It feels wonderful to know that we are eating healthy and supporting the local economy.  The farmer’s market in Encinitas is a colorful display of organic fruits and vegetables just beckoning us to “come taste and take me home”, which we do and always walk away spending more than we had intended.

I am always on the hunt for nutritional finds and it was to be the jujube fruit on this trip.  Also called the Chinese date, it is a small fruit with red skin, whose inside is similar to an apple.  It tastes best when dried; is an excellent source of vitamin C; and has long been considered a sleep aid according to Chinese alternative medicine.  A bag of them finds their way into my cart.

Being a great lover of artisanal cheeses, farmers’ markets are a great place to find these local delicacies.  Spring Hill Cheese, in Sonoma County, provided some creamy, pungent samples of their cheddar.  What sets them apart is their certified organic designation; use of Jersey cows instead of Holstein, producing richer, higher nutritional cheeses; and creation of “truly raw” cheeses, never bringing the milk over 100º during the cheese making process.  This cheddar will pair perfectly with a spinach quinoa salad recipe that we love.  My taste buds are already singing!

Terry and I have become hooked on Lära Bars, discovered some time ago while searching for healthy hiking snacks.  When I stumbled upon recipes for homemade Lära Bars, I was in heaven.  They are unbaked treats that come in many, many flavors, with typically only 4 or 5 ingredients, allowing for a quick sweet-tooth fix.  The sweetener base is dates instead of other processed sugars, and ground nuts instead of white or wheat flours.  Finding dates at the farmer’s market, I knew what I would be whipping up later in the day.

Here are a few of our favorites:

NOTE:  I use twice the amount of lime juice as called for and unsweetened organic coconut.  I also just roll the batter into bite-size balls, place in a container, and pop into the frig.  Quick, tasty little decadent treats!

I am already looking forward to next weekend and new discoveries.

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