It's a combination of fun house, jungle and social club. Around every corner, a new ecstasy: a gallon of raw honey, chic feather barrettes, bison jerky and purple potatoes. To navigate this carnival of the senses, a few tools are required: cloth bags, a wad of cash and extra hands. And if you come more than once, you're bound to see familiar faces: like the cool chick selling handmade truffles, or the gorgeous guy who grew the gorgeous brussels sprouts.
The Indy Winter Farmers Market (IWFM) is a powerful phenomenon. Started by Laura Henderson and friends in 2008 to connect urbanites with regional growers and purveyors of local foods and products, the Market has just moved to its third location in three years: a yet-larger space on the lower level of a new building called The Maxwell, on Ohio St. between East and Park.
IWFM is not only a dandy grocery store and source for holiday gifts (note to family: please stuff my stocking with flavored marshmallows from 240 Sweet)...it's also a place to have an eclectic brunch. And thanks to the addition of a space with tables, you can take a load off and ingest your gathered goodies on the spot.
My friend started with a cup of jo from Harvest Café Coffee Roasters. She pronounced it perfectly smooth, and promptly bought a bag of beans. I decided to kick-start my weekend with a specialty drink blended on the spot by Corey and Laura at Natural Born Juicers: the Habanero Social Club ($5 for 10 oz.), a frenzy of mango, habanero, orange and lime. My clock was cleaned. If you're not a daredevil, try the aromatic, tarty tingle of The Happy Heart ($5), with apple, carrot, celery, beet and ginger.
After a healthful drink, it's time for a decadent pastry at the Rene's Bakery booth. Here, my pal and I selected the walnut croissant ($3) and a chocolate chip brioche ($3). The brioche was a bit dry, but the croissant was like baklava times two: a sweet nutty filling encased in at least six layers of flakiness.
Moving on to the savory course, we hit up Circle City Soups for an 8 oz. container of Pork and White Bean Stew ($4). Rife with both, the soup begged for some salt and pepper, but otherwise proved filling and fulfilling. At least two soups are available each Saturday from Roger, whose wife Cindy is the force behind Circle City Sweets, where you can stock up on madeleines.
Feast Catering plied us with a spanokopita slice ($3). We could taste the sweet ricotta-feta mixture enveloped in a nice phyllo. I wolfed down a roasted vegetable tamale ($5), a pleasing combo of butternut squash and green beans encased in plush masa dough, with a dollop of salsa verde.
Only time kept us from other goodies. And I was sad that my favorite hot food vendor, 3 Days in Paris, with their spectacular crepes, didn't make it to opening day (due to a family emergency).
That's the thrill of the Indy Winter Farmers Market. Pining for your favorite vendors, whom you will soon know by name. Basking in the bustle. And starting the weekend right with a bellyful of locally-made delights.