July 19--Thanks to an ever-growing number of savvy entrepreneurs, a Saturday or Sunday farmers market run can easily evolve into a quick, informal, affordable and delicious brunch outing.
Rise and shine
At the Fulton Farmers Market, sisters Kate and Jen Lloyd, self-described "bread heads," are the self-taught talents behind the new Rise Bagel Co. (www.risebagel.com). They're boiling and baking the kind of bagel -- hefty, chewy, deeply golden -- that so rarely materializes in this bagel-bereft metropolis, topping them with sesame seeds, poppy seeds and a cinnamon-sugar mix and filling them with generous schmears of tangy organic cream cheese (get the garlicky mix of seasonal veggies) or an ultra-creamy made-in-Minneapolis peanut butter. Save yourself the post-shopping regret and buy a dozen for the freezer.
4901 Chowen Av. S., Mpls., www.fulton farmersmarket.com. Sat. 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Golden's Deli (www.goldensdeli.us) takes advantage of its proximity to the St. Paul Farmers Market -- the two Lowertown institutions are across Wall Street from each other -- by setting up a temporary market outlet that's notable for its long lines and short waits. The main event? Bagel sandwiches. The basic building blocks are imported from Bruegger's, a serviceable choice immeasurably boosted by the sharp-eyed Golden's crew, who scour the market for farm-fresh eggs, vegetables and spectacularly delicious ham from the nearby Prairie Pride Farm stand. The fresh-squeezed lemonade is an air conditioner in a cup, and the java comes courtesy of locally roasted Peace Coffee beans.
290 E. 5th St., St. Paul, www.stpaulfarmers market.com. Sat. 6 a.m. to 1 p.m., Sun. 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Grill and thrill
At the Minneapolis Farmers Market, be on the lookout for the Tollefson Family Pork (www.tollefsonfamilypork.com) stand, where the grill fires up a couple of brats, a few Polish sausages and a hot dog, all first-rate specimens made using well-raised animals from the family's southern Minnesota acreage. The zesty smoked Italian brat -- piled high with fresh fixings -- is a meal in a bun, and if you've got a few minutes to kill, order the one-and-only ham steak, a sizzling, grilled-to-order wakeup call.
312 E. Lyndale Av. N., Mpls., www.mplsfarmersmarket.com. Sat. and Sun. 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Spicing it up
Kris Petcharawises cranks up the heat at his Gai Gai Thai (www.facebook.com/gaigaithai), the hugely fragrant stand that lights up the Bloomington Farmers Market with Thai-style breakfast rice bowls (get the Minnesota-meets-Bangkok version made with pepper-packed Spam) or the big bowl of egg noodles stir-fried in a fiery garlic-chile paste. Wash it down with a cool glass of lemon grass- and lime-infused iced tea, and then encourage him to open a restaurant.
1800 W. Old Shakopee Road, Bloomington, www.bloomingtonmn.gov. Sat. 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Beyond baked goods
The name says Skillet Joe's (www.facebook.com/skilletjoes), but in-the-know shoppers at the Prior Lake Farmers Market know that the truck is the work of Cocoa & Fig owners Joe and Laurie Lin. Look for a bread pudding-style French toast drenched in blueberry syrup, an English muffin Benedict topped with crab cakes and a well-crafted (and portable) huevos rancheros, along with a shortlist of favorites from the Cocoa & Fig bakery case, including sweet and savory scones, granola packed with nuts and dried fruits and a rhubarb-studded coffee cake. Don't miss the maple-glazed, rosemary-flecked bacon.
Main Av. SE. between Dakota St. and Eagle Creek Av. SE., Prior Lake, www.priorlake farmersmarket.com. Sat. 8 a.m. to noon.
Showing off the city
When playing tour guide, I invariably take out-of-towners on a spin across the Stone Arch Bridge and a pit stop to the Guthrie's open-air balcony before feeding them at the Mill City Farmers Market. The selection is second to none. Last weekend's options included an egg-topped, open-faced pulled pork hash sandwich of the gods from Black Cat Natural Foods (www.blackcatnaturalfoods.com), a glorious crÊpe stuffed with herbed goat cheese and a half-dozen just-picked vegetables at CrÊpes by Spoonriver (www.spoonriver.com), gorgeous roasted plum galettes from the Salty Tart (www.saltytart.com), tacos stuffed with black beans and roasted sweet potatoes at the Chef Shack (www.chefshack.org) -- not to mention the truck's one-and-only cardamom-scented and sugar-studded mini-doughnuts -- and single-source coffees from the Palacios family farm in Guatemala at Cafe Palmira (www.cafepalmira.com). My appetite found happiness with the signature dish from the Gorkha Palace (www.gorkhapalace.com) stand: potstickers filled with tender turkey (lovingly raised near Cannon Falls, Minn.) and doused in a lively tomato chutney.
704 S. 2nd St., Mpls., www.millcityfarmers market.org. Sat. 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Sunday a.m. selection
There's plenty of noshing possibilities at the Linden Hills Farmers Market. Get a slice -- including one crowned with bacon, scrambled eggs and crÈme fraÎche -- hot out of the wood-burning oven at Red Wagon Pizza (www.rdwagon.com), a Bollywood burrito stuffed with chicken marinated in a smoked tomato curry at Hot Indian Foods (www.hotindianfoods.com) or an ultra-refreshing frozen pop on a stick (sweet corn, anyone?) at Shimmy Pops (www.shimmypops.com). The baked temptations from Honey & Rye (www.honey-and-rye.com) are another draw. But my go-to is Red River Kitchen (www.redriverkitchen.com), because at this vehicular offshoot of Republic, chef Keven Kvalsten pulls together a role-model breakfast taco, a butter- and cinnamon-drenched coffee cake and other a.m. delights.
2813 W. 43rd St., Mpls., www.lindenhills farmersmarket.com. Sun. 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Another fine Sunday open-air grazer's destination is the Kingfield Farmers Market. Gai Gai Thai and Chef Shack are well-established favorites. Another crowd-pleaser is Foxy Falafel (www.foxyfalafel.com). The market, which has fostered a handful of brick-and-mortar establishments -- including Sun Street Breads (www.sunstreetbreads.com) and Bogart's Doughnut Co. (www.bogartsdoughnutco.com) -- is where Foxy owner Erica Strait first introduced her modern, delightfully nuanced spin on the classic Middle Eastern croquette.
4310 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., www.kingfield farmersmarket.org. Sun. 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Want to take a seat?
Several markets are within walking distance of top-performing brunch restaurants.
Spoonriver (750 S. 2nd St., Mpls., www.spoonriver.com) conveniently anchors the entrance of the Mill City Farmers Market.
At 43rd and Upton: Zumbro Cafe (2803 W. 43rd St., Mpls., www.zumbrocafe.com), Tilia (2726 W. 43rd St., Mpls., www.tiliampls.com) and Harriet Brasserie (2724 W. 43rd St., Mpls., www.harrietbrasserie.com) are neighbors of the Linden Hills Farmers Market.
The casual Lowbrow (4244 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., www.thelowbrowmpls.com) is a half-block from the Kingfield Farmers Market, and the goodness that chef Thomas Boemer is sending out to the dining room and patio at Corner Table (4537 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., www.cornertablerestaurant.com) is two blocks to the south.
The Saturday morning Apple Valley Farmers Market (www.stpaulfarmersmarket.com) is conveniently situated two blocks from the Valley Tap House (14889 Florence Trail, Apple Valley, www.thevalleytaphouse.com).
Finally, the Buttered Tin (237 E. 7th St., www.thebutteredtin.com) is a short stroll from the St. Paul Farmers Market. Plan accordingly.
Follow Rick Nelson on Twitter: @RickNelsonStrib
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