Food & DrinkThe Locavore

More Than Produce: Athens Farmers Markets Offer Prepared Food, Too

Walking among us are culinary unicorns who can look upon a farmers market and its artfully arranged fruits and vegetables, fluffy bouquets of herbs and icy blocks of frozen meats and imagine all the toothsome, nutritious meals they will make for their families and friends.  

The rest of us rely on foods prepared by a subset of these gifted souls who also make the farmers market their home, where they bestow upon us skillfully made pastas, juices, breads, sandwiches and other treats to keep us happily munching and slurping without lifting a finger, except to conduct a search for ready cash. 

“These producers of yummy treats contribute to making [the farmers market] more than just a grocery store. People come to enjoy hot coffee and a crepe or a biscuit, and hang out and relax with friends,” says Sarah Thurman, manager of the Athens Farmers Market. “They help make us a hub for the community.” These producers also adhere to the market’s “hierarchy of priorities” of selecting organic and locally grown ingredients such as flour, vegetables and fruits, Thurman says. 

When hungry market-goers first arrive at the Athens Farmers Market at Bishop Park on Saturday mornings, they are greeted with rich, buttery aromas wafting from nearby food trucks. At Holy Crepe, French-born Saphir Grici creates original savory and sweet combinations, drawing from global culinary influences, to tuck inside the luscious thin pancakes made either of white flour for his sweet crepes or gluten-free buckwheat flour for his savory “galettes de sarrasin.”

At Farm Cart, dedicated breakfast artists concoct biscuit treats that combine supple cheese and eggs with crispy bacon and an ethereal biscuit that has a crunchy crust and a cloud-like, soft interior. Farm Cart serves these and other creations at the market and at its Baxter Street location.  

Athens is lucky to have world-class bakers, including The Comerian, named for the nearby town of Comer, where the bakers perform their magic. (Though the bakery no longer sells at the Saturday market, it remains a fixture at the Wednesday afternoon AFM at Creature Comforts.) Using strictly organic and mostly locally grown grains that he mills fresh on site, Uwe Hoppek and company bake rustic breads and fine pastries alike, with his scones and country French breads the most popular.

For a healthy break, try a few stimulating beverages from Amy Lawrence’s Journey Juice, a maker of freshly extracted vegetable and fruit juices. Lawrence exudes the energy of a dynamo powered by all those locally-grown vegetables, and her story of rejuvenation has inspired hundreds of steady customers to purchase regular juice subscriptions and pop in to grab juices as they need them at its Prince Avenue storefront as well as the Athens Farmers Market.  

Antonio’s Fresh Pasta is a staple at the AFM for good reason. Italian-born Antonio Zenere makes pasta the rigorous, old-fashioned way, and according to his website, he stays fit from repeatedly flattening his pasta dough, made with eggs from his own hens and locally milled organic flour. The flattened dough is then teased into his tagliatelle, angel hair, ravioli and other pastas. He fills his ravioli with fresh, locally grown ingredients, including butternut squash, spinach and sweet potatoes.  

The West Broad Farmers Market also has a number of purveyors of freshly made foods.   Abrahim’s Parlor serves up the classic Trinidad and Tobago spicy street food known as doubles. Cushioning a seasoned, dense chickpea stew with pillowy, aromatic fried flatbread, the sandwich evokes the cross-section of cultures of its homeland. Customers reach for the customary mango juice to accompany their doubles.  

Miss Ethel’s Soul Food With a Twist, named for her healthy takes on traditional recipes, recently returned to the kitchen after Ethel Collins recovered from surgery. Collins’ journey into cooking began when she was inspired to trade in gravies and biscuits for vegetables as a way to recover from leukemia, and she has been in remission since. 

The Sultan is on hiatus for the next few weeks as owner Zouheir Abouharb recovers from surgery, but he promises to be back soon with more delicious baba ganouj, tabbouleh and stuffed grape leaves. 

Market-goers back at the Athens Farmers Market wrap up their visits with icy, fruity Honeypops from Steve and Mandy O’Shea at 3 Porch Farm, made from their own ripe fruit and honey from local beehives.