Sunday, February 5th: There's Just Something Fishy About Ballard!

As I walked about Ballard this week, I found myself observing with pleasure the rustic look many of us wear here. Full disclosure, I grew up in New York, and after spending most of my adult life out here, I note, when I return there, that folks just plain look different. It's like we're from different countries, you know? But heck, you can experience that just going over to Bellevue. Ballard has its roots in the fishing and timber industries, and we still wear Carharrt, flannel shirts, have long hair, grow facial hair, and when the smell of the sea permeates the air in Ballard, our hearts still swell. So this week, let's pay tribute to the industry that calls Ballard home, too -- the industry we are so aligned with, we host a festival in its honor every July -- the fishing industry. We'll start with a hat's off to Fishing Vessel St. Jude, which works out of our own Fishermen's Terminal. They catch some of the finest sashimi grade albacore tuna on earth off the coast of Washington. This fish is low in mercury and high in beneficial omega fatty acids, because it is juvenile tuna, caught as it swims south from its spawning grounds in the North Pacific to spend its adult life in tropical waters. Cold water fish build up that healthful fat to keep them strong, and these guys are too young and have been in cleaner waters to have built up heavy metals in their flesh.

Wilson Fish catches spectacular king salmon off the Washington coast that, when it gets to market, is so fresh, they like to say it's from the future. Its rich flavor and generous fat content cause it to rival the best king salmon anywhere, and their smoked salmon is nothing short of a religious experience. And while they don't have the fresh king this time of year, just frozen, they do often have fresh true cod or fresh rockfish.

Any true connoisseur of oysters appreciates the merroir of the briny, delicious little puddles of snot. Merroir, you say? What's merroir? Well, you've heard of terroir, right? That's the concept that the wine you are drinking, or the cheese you are eating, tastes of the place -- of the earth -- it comes from. Well, the same is true of oysters, except they come from the sea (mer), not the earth (terra). Got it? See, around here, true oyster lovers don't ask what species an oyster is before they ask what bay the oysters are from. Each bay has its own distinct mix of salt and minerals in the water, and the oysters from that bay taste of it. Hama Hama Oyster Company raises their oysters on Hood Canal near Lilliwaup on the tidal flats created by the Hamma Hamma River, after which the company was named in 1922. Their oysters taste of that place, and that place tastes good!

Loki Fish bases its two boats at Ballard's Fishermen's Terminal, too. They fish in Alaska by summer and Puget Sound by fall. In Puget Sound, they participate in the still strong keta salmon fishery each October and November. Keta salmon, once looked down upon by some, has made a comeback of late, and its milder flavor that takes well to sauces and smoking, as well as the fact that it is a sustainably harvested wild fish at a competitive price, have made it an excellent alternative for that nasty, drug and food coloring fed farmed "Atlantic" salmon many of the unscrupulous Big Box stores try to foist upon you. Keta also offers up a wonderful byproduct -- ikura -- or fish eggs. These babies are little bombs of briny awesomeness just waiting to explode in your mouth as you eat them atop pasta, a salad or a cracker and some fresh goat cheese.

Today, we welcome a new vendor to your Ballard Farmers Market: Dolce Lou. Dolce Lou makes gluten-free goodies of all kinds -- especially great if you are gluten intolerant. But even if you're not, these are some of the most amazing cookies, cakes and pastries you will ever find anywhere. The point is, gluten-free does not have to mean it tastes like sawdust. Yes, I know it has been a while since we've had a vendor specializing in gluten-free products. That's because we didn't just wanna let any gluten-free products in. We wanted fabulous gluten-free products, made using local ingredients as much as possible, and produced in the same spirit you find from all our other marvelous vendors every Sunday. So welcome Dolce Lou today, and buy two of everything... one to eat here, and one to bring home!

And finally, today, we celebrate the return of Phocas Farms from Port Angeles. Jim is back with his extraordinary variety of succulents -- they grow over 200 -- some of which they even created! Now's a great time to get these bad boys into your garden or rockery, while its cool and damp, so they can lay down a footing and be ready to stand up against the driest weather summer has to throw at them. And come July, they will begin to explode in even more colors than your see at the Market today, and they will begin to bloom, like the ones above, and you will be so happy you planned ahead and got them now!

Hey, there is plenty of local deliciousness waiting for you today at your Ballard Farmers Market. Just check What’s Fresh Now! for a more complete accounting of what is in season right now.