Sherman Bennett hovers over his bushels and pecks, like a preschool teacher over her toddler brood, checking each one, straightening the rows and preparing to move along. Most of his life, Bennett has been in the bushel business - bushels of apricots, peaches and apples, picked and peddled from his Alpine location.
But Saturdays find the orchardman in the company of nearly 100 more vendors pushing their wares at the Downtown Farmers Market.Bennett finds the fall most profitable, the height of the harvest, with lugs of peaches one customer identified as, "just perfect, you can tell that because they drip down your chin." Five or six varieties of apples anchor the opposite end at Sherm's S&R Fruit stand, distinctive newcomers - the tart, Jonathan-like Akanes, or mellow Ginger or Early Golds or the crispy, sweet Redfrees.
A relative newcomer to the downtown spot is Schmidt's salt and pepper corn, according to proprietor Kendall Schmidt. "We have more of a name in West Jordan and Murray, but we're getting more popular here as the weeks go by," he explains. Schmidt pulls his tasty ears at sundown Friday, then hits the road by 5:30 a.m. to arrive at the park's perfect location. Despite the 48-hour hold until Sunday evening cooking, our sugary sweet salt and pepper ears left us wanting more, which, fortunately, we had. Schmidt counted out a very generous "farmer's dozen" bonus for us.
Orders from various vendors include lugs of tomatoes, peppers squash, potatoes and bunches of freshly picked herbs or assorted flowers, but the top draws for us were the surprising appearances of Volker's Bakery, from Heber Valley, and Rico's, a local Mexican catering market.
Volker's, familiar to some, creates a sturdy selection of heartily seasoned breads and even tows a trailer-style brick oven along. Bakers at the rear of the stand knead, roll and shape loaves, pizzas or empanadas for on-site baking. Just to watch the process is complete entertainment, but nibbling on the lemon sage, Jewish-rye, chiabatta or foccacio loaves provides a total sensory experience.
Tagging an 8-month-old business catering market, Rico's sets up shop regularly in a recycled building on the corner of 800 South and 500 East (hours: Tuesday and Thursday, 3-7 p.m.). For the time being, Rico's spends Wednesdays at the Farmers Market in Park City and Saturday mornings at the downtown site.
At any of the three locations, or by special order, the crew prepares the most authentic Mexican cuisine we've yet discovered. Heady tortillas, both corn and flour, are freshly baked, while fiery red salsa or inviting tomatillo sauce garnish the flats. Black or Pinto beans come prepared in two pound bags, while hand-stuffed tamales (cheese, chicken or pork) are generously filled and stand alone in flavor.
With four-star ratings for all of these carry-out items, we award a 41/2 to the overstuffed cheese or chicken Chile Rellenos, a baked, not fried, variety buried in tasty sauce and cheese.
No need to justify a driving adventure to downtown; the produce and freshly prepared foods offer ample reasons to attempt the exploration of the Downtown Alliance Farmers Market from now through the end of October.