Notes From Swan's Nest


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Fresh from Colorado's Farms to Our Table

My mouth is already watering for tomorrow morning’s trip to the Dillon farmers market, twenty minutes down the road and around the lake from our Breckenridge, Colorado home.
Last week, I made my first farmers market visit of the summer. It was a perfectly blue-sky mountain day, and as I drove along the lakeside and over the dam toward the little town of Dillon, the fresh, deep green of early-summer’s mountain vegetation as it reached toward the sky nearly took my breath away. I knew if I hiked up those mountains, I would find multitudes of dainty wild flowers in pinks, blues, yellows, and white; stands of tall aspen trees all aflutter with tiny new leaves, and soft mosses providing a downy carpet along creek beds – all white and foamy as the water tumbled down the mountain, icy cold with winter’s snowmelt.
But I was on a mission to discover locally-produced culinary treasures for our family table, and so I turned my attention from the quiet mountains to the hubbub of our bustling farmers market. What I discovered was well worth the trip.
My favorite organic farmer who has provided me with salad greens, fresh herbs and squash blossoms for the past several years wasn’t there – I heard she has moved on to Vail – but in her place I discovered Pastures of Plenty out of Longmont, Colorado. Their gorgeous display of home-grown organic baby lettuces, an heirloom variety of speckled salad greens called “Flash Trout Back”, deep purple-red baby beet greens, and rainbow Swiss chard – all beautifully displayed in giant woven baskets – was all it took to send my creative culinary juices into overdrive. As I filled my canvas bags with some of each variety, I could already envision the pretty-as-a-picture salads Randy and I would enjoy for the next several nights, and as I’m still preparing occasional meals for our next door neighbor recovering from a broken ankle, I knew I’d have the joy of sharing the wealth.
My next stop was Pastamoré – one of my favorite purveyors of flavored balsamic vinegars. To date, this Denver-area manufacturer still makes the best fig balsamic I’ve ever had the pleasure of cooking with, and their blackberry balsamic vinegar is pretty terrific, too. This year, they added several new flavors to their expansive lineup, so with thoughts of tender baby greens in my canvas bag and a carton of sweet, juicy organic strawberries at home in my fridge, I purchased a bottle of dark sweet cherry balsamic vinegar to try that night. All I can say is “wow”.
On to the next table….this time operated by a lovely young woman from Sunny Breeze Farm in Craig, Colorado. She was outfitted in a handmade, soft blue cotton dress and sheer, white bonnet customarily worn by Amish women, and she had a lovely display of goat cheeses, milk-based soaps, and Colorado lamb. I purchased a small tub of feta cheese with a pleasant peppery flavor, admired the embossed soaps, and made a note to return next time for the lamb. I continued on to other tables, admiring Bavarian sausages, artisan breads, luxurious flower bouquets,  packages of organic dried fruits and jars of preserves, a booth teeming with pottery from Poland, another with linens from Provence, and a crepe maker creating a chicken cordon bleu sandwich for another shopper that made my mouth water.  Note to self: Try the chicken cordon bleu crepe this week!
At last, I discovered Jumpin’ Good Goat Dairy from Buena Vista, Colorado. This small dairy is reportedly one of the nation’s fastest-growing commercial cheese makers, and I love that they are dedicated to sustainable farming. With forty varieties of farm-made goat cheese, this one-year old dairy knocked my socks off with their award-winning, soft “Lemon Dill” cheese and their firmer “First Snow” goat cheese marbled with vegetable ash. Jumpin’ Good’s Don Kanagy explained the vegetable ash adds no flavor to the cheese, but mellows it by modifying the cheese’s acidity. I purchased a portion of each, and Don tucked an extra wedge of “First Snow” into my bag, probably because I had tasted several samples and kept telling him how fabulous it was.
Tomorrow, I’ll return to the Dillon Farmers Market – canvas bags in hand – ready to discover new purveyors even as I return to those I fell in love with last week. On my list are ripe, juicy tomatoes from Forté Farms in Palisade on Colorado’s Western Slope, organic salad greens and herbs from Pastures of Plenty, goat cheese from Jumpin’ Good, and lamb from Sunny Breeze Farm. I can hardly wait, because when it comes to cooking meals in my kitchen, nothing gives me greater pleasure than knowing I’m serving fresh, flavorful menus to my family and friends, while supporting sustainable local farmers and producers who are dedicated to providing the very best.