WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Arepas sizzle on a hot griddle, freshly made crepes are folded around your choice of savory or sweet fillings, Pumphouse nitro cold-brew coffee shoots from a tap, and a man yielding a machete hacks away at green coconuts to extract fresh coconut water. Welcome to the West Palm Beach GreenMarket, which offers a diverse and exciting array of fresh and prepared foods, baked goods, and plenty of family fun on Saturday mornings.
New Englanders love their farmers’ markets, but this one in southern Florida is something else to behold. If you’re heading this way for vacation make sure to stop here — the market runs Saturdays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. through April 21 — for any combination of breakfast, snack, lunch, and shopping.
Sure, you can buy beets, cauliflower, peppers, and all sorts of greens, but you’ll also find mangoes, papaya, strawberries, star fruit, and kiwi. Fresh-pressed juices and smoothies, fair trade coffee, coconut water, and pressed sugar cane juice will satisfy your thirst after nibbles of Peruvian ceviche, Indian samosas, and Cuban empanadas. There are also stands selling fresh fish, eggs, olive oils, local honey, cheeses, bagels, and pasta.
The weekly market, located on a large patio between the eastern end of Clematis Street and Flagler Drive on the Intracoastal Waterway, boasts 90 vendors. At most of them, you can walk away with something delicious to eat right then and there. If you begin at the top of the market, you’ll notice — and smell — cider doughnuts. The New England-style chubby little rings are fried, tossed in cinnamon sugar, and scooped into white paper cones for easy eating while strolling. Chef John Carlino from Connecticut conceived of the idea over 10 years ago and staffs the stand with some of his former culinary students.
Just a few steps away is Importico’s Bakery Cafe, started by Joe Importico from New Jersey, who retired, moved to Florida, grew bored, bought a bakery, and, with his team, produces made-from-scratch breads, scones, croissants, danish, and muffins. The selection will make your mouth water and your shopping bag a little heavier. Ditto for the Le Petit Pain tent where lines wrap around tables of French fruit tarts, quiches, baguettes, and croissants.
The Hadaya Spice guy is Moroccan native Driss Balou, who sells more than 100 different spices, herbs, and mixes. He’s got ras el hanout and dried rose petals from Morocco, Aleppo pepper from Syria, zhug from Yemen, Persian sumac, Saigon cinnamon, Hungarian paprika, and over 25 varieties of curry.
At Bushdogs Real Maryland Crabcakes, Santonio Holmes Sr. cooks dozens and dozens of fat crab cakes on a griddle for people to eat at the market or take home for dinner. They’re made from blue crab, mayonnaise, seasonings, and a tiny bit of breadcrumbs to bind them, says business owner George Bushwaller.
Get in line at TocToc Arepas for husband-and-wife team Gaby Carrillo and Luis Sosa’s popular Venezuelan sandwiches: two rounds of cornbread cooked on a griddle until golden, stuffed with savory fillings, such as chorizo and egg; bacon, egg, and cheese; and pulled pork, beans, and plantain. Standard fare in both Colombia and Venezuela, Sosa says, “They’re like hamburgers in the US and tacos in Mexico.”
For Bostonians looking for a taste of New England flavor, you’ll not only find cider doughnuts, but creamy chowder from Boston Chowda Co., originally of Faneuil Hall. Its stand here sells clam chowder, lobster bisque, chili, and lobster rolls. You won’t see bluefish spread at Macy’s Smoked Fish & Dip, but Dennis Macy makes two other kinds, one with smoked salmon and one from a local mix, including mahi mahi, wahoo, swordfish, and, he says, “whatever else I’m smoking at the time.” Spread it on crackers or a bagel, drizzled with his tasty Smack Daddy’s Smokin’ Hot Sauce (which is not too hot) made with three kinds of peppers, mustard, and guava for a touch of sweetness.
For one of the purest tasting fruit jams you’ll ever spoon onto toast or scone or into yogurt, try Pascale’s a.k.a. the Delray Beach Jam Co. Pascale, a French woman who lives in the area, has been making jams (with more fruit than sugar, and no pectin), shrubs, and chutneys for about eight years. Her products are well represented at the market by her Australian husband and No. 1 fan. The flavorful preserves (and his accent) are hard to resist.
Laurie Landgrebe, of Laurie’s Pantry, is the cheery granola maker who offers over 30 flavors including Health Nut, Morning Glory, and Tropical Surprise, the latter a local favorite made with macadamia nuts, coconut, dried pineapple, mango, papaya, and banana. English Breakfast with brandy soaked currants and candied orange peel is quite good too, as is Keep It Moving (with wheat bran, flax seed, and prunes, you get the idea even without the tiny icon of a toilet on the label). Tasting is encouraged. Landgrebe sells her cereal — and ships to Boston — in 16-ounce glass mason jars; bring back the (empty) jar and you’ll get a 50-cent rebate.
Try the beautiful hydroponic lettuces and other greens from Swank Specialty Produce of Loxahatchee and exotic mushrooms from Gratitude Garden. Swing by the tropical fruit seller and pick up a few containers of chopped mango, papaya, pineapple, dragon fruit, and kiwi. (How quickly you can forget that it’s not summer elsewhere.) Want avocados? They’re everywhere. Next to the pineapple, baby bananas, and red grapefruit. A woman under the Jerry’s Here tent makes guacamole in huge batches; the dip flies out of the market along with the fresh tomato salsa and homemade tortilla chips.
Dogs are welcome — you’ll see them in strollers or on leashes — and they can get treats of their own at a few stands and quench their thirst at the low-to-the-ground water fountain just for canines. At the northern edge of the market, musicians entertain passersby. When you’ve exhausted the food options, check out the flea market a block away, where vendors sell all kinds and all ages of clothing, jewelry, crafts, and knickknacks. You’ll no doubt have in mind the old saying that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
Bought your airline ticket yet?
The West Palm Beach GreenMarket is at 101 South Flagler Drive, www.wpb.org/greenmarket.
Lisa Zwirn can be reached at email@example.com