My dear friend Rachel was working the Custer Street Fair in Evanston the other day. Rachel does the farmer's markets all over the Chicago metro area, selling Tomato Mountain Farm organic products. Unfortunately, Evanston isn't her territory. So I walked down to see her at the booth.
When I got there Rachel was handing out mini-cups of Tomato Mountain Bloody Mary Mix, sans vodka of course. I watched with glee as a mother and her 14-year old son gave it a try. Rachel cautioned, "It's a little spicy." The kid was unimpressed with the amount of capucin in the mix, "that's not hot at all!"
Tomato Mountain products are all organic and come in good old fashion recyclable jars. My favorite is the Tomato Mountain Tomato and Shallot soup. The consistency is great and the flavor is lovingly roasted shallot wrapped around big tomato.
The Tomato Mountain booth was located in the "Eco-Village," sponsored by Whole Foods. Then neighboring booths housed a wind generator company and The Enterprising Kitchen - where I bought a fragrant bar for Orchard Pear soap, autographed by the woman who made it, Chauna.
Suddenly, there was a fanfare and everyone stepped aside for the Custer Street Fair paraders. First came Custer himself, or at least a huge-headed puppet version, with bright yellow yarn hair. Custer was flanked by men dressed in blue Union uniforms. Next came a couple of corseted ladies in period dresses, sporting bonnets (Talk about dedication to cause. It was 90 degrees!), a magician, a juggler and a number of other fanciful characters.
The fair was started in 1972, on a single block of Custer Street south of Main. It has now spread out onto Main, from Sherman on the West to Chicago Avenue on the East, then South along Chicago Ave. for two blocks to Washington. The best spots for vendors are under the "L" because it's cool if it's hot, and dry if it's rainy.
After the event, Rachel packed up her tent and came to our house for dinner. She brought with her two insanely yummy things - a round of Prairie Fruits Farm's Angel Food Farmstead Goat Cheese and a Red Hen Bread's Garlic Ring. Oh, were they worth the calories!
The cheese isn't called Angel Food for nothing. It spread out over the bread like chiffon. Sinking my teeth into the bread, I would find pockets of sweet, carmelized garlic. I'm so glad that Red Hen Bread doesn't have a location in Evanston, Lincoln Park is close enough. I'll have to trot down to the Green City Market because writing this has started me fantasizing about a repeat engagement for my tastebuds!