By Charlie Colasurdo
Golden Tilefish. Romanesco Broccoli. Guay Teow Gai (Thai Chicken Soup). Sound familiar? Not unless you’re a regular at Westport's Winter Farmers' Market, an indoor farmers’ market filled to the brim with a dazzling array of fresh produce, seafood, prepared foods, ethnic specialty foods, and artisanal products. Even in the coldest days of winter, Westport boasts a bustling market that carries over from the summer as a place to meet, eat, and catch up with neighbors and friends in the warmth of a sunny greenhouse.
If nothing else, the Westport Winter Farmers’ Market, held every Saturday at Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens at 7 Sylvan Lane, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. is an antidote to the winter blues — and a great escape from cabin fever.
You might be surprised to learn just how much fresh, locally grown bounty is still available in the winter, from greenhouse-grown microgreens from Two Guys from Woodbridge, to locally raised beef from Aradia Farm and Ox Hollow Farm right here in Connecticut, to an array of local cheeses from Beltane Farm in Lebanon, Connecticut.
Renee Sivinski, a Westport resident with two students at Staples, is a frequent shopper at the Market. She says, “It’s all about taste. Everything at the Farmers’ Market tastes amazing — the produce is fresh, and the prepared foods are delicious. I also enjoy spending time there talking to the vendors and socializing with fellow shoppers.”
Apart from the typical farmers’ market fare, you’d be elated to find the variety of specialty fall and winter produce for sale at the Winter Farmers’ Market. Potatoes are trucked in by Fort Hill Farm in a vibrant rainbow of colors, along with crisp heirloom apples and pears from Woodland Farm’s orchards, Harder-to-find items include rutabagas, a root crop with bright purple stems, and Romanesco, a lime-green cauliflower relative with florets in spiraling fractal patterns.
Nestled in the back corner of the market’s greenhouse, The Local Catch, a Rhode Island- based sustainable seafood company, is a star of the weekly event. Touting everything from whole bluefish to scallops, the winter months don’t seem to slow down the influx of fresh fish and shellfish from the Long Island Sound that overflow their coolers. Whole Golden Tilefish, at $14.00, is a fan favorite, as it’s low in fat and has a delicate, sweet flavor similar to lobster or crab. The fish immediately catches the eye with striations of golden flecks, and brings a taste of summer to the dreary winter months.
Aside from the wonderful food items for sale, a few vendors offer a delicious hot lunch, prepared right on the premises. Try the tamales and tortilla soup at Boxcar Cantina or a customized pizza with local cheeses and toppings by Skinny Pines’ pizza truck or a steaming bowl of broth from Nit Noi Provisions.
For Isabelle Amlicke ’17, the Winter Market is more than just a shopping destination. She says, “It gives Westporters another place to not only buy amazing local products, but also to connect with each other. In most public spaces in our town, you wouldn't just go up to a stranger and strike up a conversation, but at the Farmers' Market, that's a common phenomenon. The whole market just has a friendly, inclusive atmosphere that I think we all need to experience every once in awhile
Market Master Lori Cochran, who oversees the Market and hand picks the vendors with an eye towards keeping the choices local, organic, sustainable, and GMO-free, said, "The Winter Market will surprise you. From the lunch options of food trucks, pizza, Boxcar, noodles and more to the warmth of the greenhouse it is fun to watch the smiles broaden as shoppers enjoy over 20 vendors each week. Not many winter markets have the strict guidelines WFM upholds and this much variety."