July 10 2009, 9:09 AM
Disclosure: I love farmers' markets---the food and the strolling, the free samples of decadent pastries and cheeses. I am encouraged to eat on site, to listen to music, and to purchase food for future eating. What's not to love? I also know that sometimes a farmers' market can serve more as a County Fair of fried food and slushy drinks than as a means of buying good, cheap, local produce. So, for the benefit of Denver's cheap thrill seekers, I am hitting up the various farmers' markets around town to rate them on their scene, offerings, and prices. First stop: Old South Pearl Street. (1500 block of Old South Pearl Street, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Sunday June 7 to Oct 25.) The scene: They nearly didn't let me onto Old South Pearl Street without a stroller. This is the place for cute kids and adorable puppies. No one is in a hurry. People treat a walk down to the farmers' market like a Sunday-morning outing. The vendors: This is definitely a lifestyle market---with chair caning, handmade soaps, a winery, massage chairs, and stands of children's clothing. It's harder to find locally grown veggies and meats amidst the waffle stands, quesadilla grills, and Biker Jim's gourmet dogs, but there are a few: two farm stands with produce, a stand selling only local eggs, and a table of Colorado lamb and bison. The prices: Both farm stands offer incredible deals. I pick out peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, and plums and watch as they are tossed in a plastic bag, eyeballed, and proclaimed, "Eh, $10." I stop to look at the pasture-grown eggs, however, and I'm surprised to see they were $4 for a dozen. I can buy local, cage-free eggs at Sunflower Market for 89 cents, thank you very much. The stand-out splurge: Though I'm a rampant carnivore, I dig a stand called "The Beet Box," which features local vegan food. The cucumber-apple sandwich is fantastic and a cool alternative to the fried offerings on a hot summer morning.