The Cotati farmers market, one of several seasonal markets throughout the county, opened on June 2 and continues through September 15. It takes place on Thursdays from 4:30 to 7:30 p. m. in La Plaza Park.
The market is organized, roughly, into three groupings. Produce vendors line La Plaza between West Cotati and West Sierra Ave., with food trucks flanking them on either end. Crafts line the edge of the park, parallel with the food vendors, with a ring of community groups and a few additional crafts vendors part way across the lawn from the craft stalls, many of them situated to take advantage of the shade provided by the park’s trees.
Like many afternoon/evening markets, the Cotati market is nearly as much a street fair as it is a farmers market. As such, it’s a good idea to arrive early to do your shopping and then tuck your purchases into a thermal bag or cooler while you enjoy the evening.
On the last Thursday in June, summer’s harvest was in full swing, with familiar and unfamiliar vendors offering everything from tiny radishes and tender lettuces to squash blossoms, zucchini and some of the season’s first tomatoes.
Among the familiar vendors is Ortiz Brothers Farm, with carrots, onions, round red beats, pickling cucumbers, yellow summer squash, leeks, radishes, zucchini, cilantro, Italian parsley, chard and other greens, potatoes, leeks, broccoli, strawberries and their always gorgeous gladiolas and mixed bouquets.
The French Garden Restaurant Farm is in the midst of a diverse harvest as well, with yellow and green zucchini, gold, red and purple potatoes, kale, chard, spinach, delicate yellow carrots, small–not tiny–fennel, medium Chioggia beets, small red beets, red hardneck garlic, leeks, arugula, wild amaranth, salad mix, several varieties of lettuce, fresh herbs and mixed bouquets, all beautifully arranged and displayed by Lilia Viramontes, who must be one of the hardest working vendors around. Wherever you see a French Garden farm stall, she is running it.
Although I know Split Rail Farms because of the rabbit they produce, I had not seen them at a market before Cotati’s, where they offer eggs, rabbit, lamb shoulder and beautiful wool yarn in a booth shared with another vendor, Red H Farm of Sebastopol, which specializes in heirloom produce, all of it beautiful. Bunches of carrots include yellow, orange and red, as pretty as I’ve seen anywhere. The blue shelling peas are sweet to both the eye and the palate; they also have sweet little mixed bouquets and containers of just-picked squash blossoms. They are one of the farms that still have fresh favas, too. Cauliflower is the Snowball variety, which sits next to Arcadia broccoli and fragrant sweet peas. These two farms alone are worth a trip to this market.
Full Circle Baking, located nearby in Penngrove, is the market’s bread vendor; when it comes to cheese, look for Valley Ford Cheese Co.; honey is from Bloomfield Honey.
While there’s not a lot of variety when it comes to cheese–and, alas, there’s no butter–there is a huge array of condiments. Mustard Seeds Farms, based in Sonoma, offers tastes of its handcrafted mustards and marinades; flavors range from sesame, sweet garlic and zinfandel-orange to tropical mango, tequila and jalapeno and fiery hot. Hot sauce, a new line of vinegars, beautiful dried tomatoes suspended in olive oil and baskets of blackberries are offered by Pirate Sauce, which is having a hard time keeping up with demand since the Food Network declared its hot sauce “the best in the USA.”
The Hummus Guy has a stall here, as does Terre Verde Foods, which produces condiments, marinades, preserves, salsas, hot sauce and spice rubs. These products are gluten and soy free, though it is the nature of many condiments to simply not include such ingredients. F. A. Ninos, Godfather of Sauce, also offers its condiments at the Cotati farmers. HomeMaid Raviolis offers its fresh pasta, raviolis and sauces.
Several vendors have plant starts.
Art Downing of Edgeworks Sharpening Service attends the Cotati market and I can heartily recommend him. He transformed my dull aging Chinese cleaver into an awesome chopping machine and did a great job on my sewing scissors, too.
When it comes to eating at the market, you’ve got a lot of choices, from Malabar chicken and chana masala from the Karma food truck and Korean sliders from Seoul Food Takorea to hot dogs from Jumbo Hot Dogs and a crespella crepe (prosciutto, Gorgonzola, black pepper, greens and cream) from the Ultra Crepes truck. There’s a barbecue booth, the BBQ Spot of Sebastopol, offering slow–cooked meats and traditional sides like potato salad, cole slaw and corn bread, a Kettle Korn booth, all manner of sweet and savory gluten-free goodies from Penngrove’s Mama Baretta and cookies and cupcakes from Starting From Scratch Bakery.
Crafts feature jewelry, bags from reclaimed materials, quilts, dolls, sock monkeys and similar scary creatures, knit caps, pillows and more.
There’s a booth selling beer, a band on stage and a playground where kids can entertain themselves as the sun sinks down behind the trees, making the market a perfect place to linger on a lazy Thursday evening. As I walked towards my car, the aroma of sizzling bacon mingled with a light afternoon breeze as a young chef tried to convince his audience that everything tastes better with bacon. By looks of the faces of the attendees, he was preaching to the choir.