Foraging for a Thanksgiving feast

Foraging for a Thanksgiving feast
Check out Alexandria's farmers' markets this Thanksgiving. (Photo/Kassidy McDonald)

By Kassidy McDonald

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, now is the perfect time to start thinking about how to prepare your holiday meals. Whether you’re cooking for two or for 50 people, it’s a great idea to check out Alexandria’s local farmers’ markets for the freshest of ingredients. Not only are you buying products that you know are local, but you’re supporting family-owned and small businesses around the holiday season. There are also many small businesses that make custom orders for holiday parties, and they’ll work hard to make sure you have everything you need to make this Thanksgiving a memorable one.

There’s an abundance of farmers’ markets in Alexandria, so checking out more than one
is definitely worth the time when trying to put together a Thanksgiving meal. Whether you’re cooking a traditional turkey dinner with stuffing, cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes, or taking a different approach entirely, there is something for everyone at all of these farmers’ markets.

Markets in Alexandria in- clude the Old Town Farmers’ Market in city hall’s Market Square; the Del Ray Farmers’ Market on the corner of East Oxford Avenue and Mount Vernon Avenue; the Four Mile Run Farmers’ & Artisans Market at 4109 Mount Vernon Ave.; the Old Town North Farmers’ Market at Montgomery Park at 901 N. Royal St.; and the West End Farmers’ Market at Ben Brenman Park at 4800 Brenman Park Dr.

With five markets to choose from, it is easy for residents to shop for Thanksgiving ingredi- ents. These markets take place on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, depending on which market you choose to visit.

Here are some of the city’s farmers’ markets, as well as ingredients they offer in order to make this year’s Thanksgiving extra special.

Old Town Farmers’ Market

MB Bakery is offering many holiday classics this Thanksgiving. (Photo/MB Bakery)

The Old Town Farmers’ Market has been held every Saturday for 260 years. It is the oldest farmers’ market in the country that has been held continuously at the same location, and George Washington even sent his produce from Mount Vernon to be sold at this farmers’ market.

The Old Town Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday, rain or shine, from 7 a.m. to noon. The list of products sold by vendors ranges from fruits and vegetables, meat and poultry, cheeses, breads, pastries, flowers, plants, soaps, jewelry and art. A full list of vendors is available at its website, which also includes a map of the locations in Market Square. If you’re looking for a specific product this Thanksgiving, the Old Town Farmers’ Market also has a resource where you can look up products to find vendors that sell them.

Their website includes an option to look up specific products that you would like to find at the Old Town Farmers’ Market. Those looking for a turkey this year can type “turkey” in the product search bar, and The Lamb’s Quarter will come up as a vendor. They offer free-range poultry products like eggs, chicken and turkeys. The search results will also show what dates the vendor will be attending the market, in order to make sure that the vendor is there before visiting.

Lost Boy Cider is a vendor located at the Old Town Farmers’ Market and also has a brick and mortar store in the city. Founded by Tristan Wright, Lost Boy Cider hand crafts wine, seltzer and hard ciders using Northern Virginia apples.

Not only does Lost Boy offer year round cider flavors, they also offer several upcoming special releases specific to the holiday season. One fun flavor to try this Thanksgiving is Carrot Cake, which is sold in 19 oz. cans. The cidery also offers a November special selection in 16 oz. cans called Sage Advice that features cranberry and sage flavors, and will re- mind guests of the fall season.

The Fermented Pig is another vendor to check out at this farmers’ market. Their products can be purchased both at the market and directly on their website. They offer handcrafted meats like bacon, sausage, charcuterie and sides like collard greens and mac & cheese.

Looking to smoke a turkey this Thanksgiving? Not only does the Fermented Pig offer their own food items, but they also have smokers available for rent. Their smokers can hold up to 500 pounds of meat. They deliver and pick up the smokers, and provide wood, propane and a tutorial on how to use the smoker.

Another option is MB Bakery, a pastry shop that will be located at the Old Town Farmers’ Market on Nov. 12, Nov. 19 and Nov. 26. For Thanksgiving, the bakery will feature pumpkin, apple and pecan pies, hand decorated cookies and cookie decorating kits, soft yeast rolls and homemade toaster pastries in a variety of flavors including apple cranberry, pumpkin pie with cinnamon icing and chocolate bourbon pecan.

Stop by the farmers’ market to shop MB Bakery’s delicious holiday treats or visit their website for delivery and curbside pick-up options. Orders placed by 4 p.m. will be baked that night and ready for pick-up or delivery the following day or a later date, if indicated at checkout.

Del Ray Farmers’ Market

Brutto Breads will have a limited “large format” menu for large groups. (Photo/Brutto Breads Instagram)

The Del Ray Farmers’ Market has been around since 1994 and is a food and plant-based market located in the neighborhood of Del Ray. The market takes place from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, and offers fruits and vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheeses, breads, fresh pasta, baked goods and cut flowers, according to its website.

Brutto Breads is a popular vendor at the Del Ray Farmers’ Market. On Nov.19 they will attend the market, offering cubed stuffing bread for purchase as well as classic menu items like focaccia and Brutto breads in a variety of different flavors.

“Breads purchased on November 19th would be best if sliced and popped in the freezer to save until Thursday. To reheat from frozen, they should be placed on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for 8 to 15 minutes depending on desired crispness,” Brutto Breads owner Matt Gitlin said.

Their brick and mortar store is located at 601 Fontaine St. and will be offering pre-orders on special menu items for Thanksgiving. This includes a limited “large format” menu for large groups.

Brutto Breads will have roll packages for Thanksgiving in three flavors: Il Brutto, classic whole grain breads; Il Brutto Sesame, black and white sesame seeds; and Il Brutto Sesame Semolina, white sesame with semolina flour and olive oil, Gitlin said. Brutto Breads is also offering full pans of focaccia and large format Brutto loaves, which are one and a half times the size as the original Brutto loaves. These specially ordered holiday items are available for pickup the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, or delivery on that Wednesday or Thanksgiving day. These special holiday options are a perfect addition to a large Thanksgiving day gathering.

Have some Thanksgiving Day guests who are vegan or vegetarian? The Sexy Vegie is a vendor at the Del Ray Farmers’ Market who sells their plant-based products exclusively online or at various farmers’ markets throughout the DMV area.

Their menu includes soup like gazpachos, wraps, salads, veggie burgers and mixes. The Sexy Vegie also has dips like a sun-dried tomato and basil dip and a spinach and garlic white bean dip, which could serve as a Thanksgiving appetizer.

Sexy Vegie “will be rolling out a new line of organic salads at the markets this weekend,” according to owner Ashwini Persaud.

Four Mile Run Farmers’ Market

The Four Mile Run Farmers & Artisans Market is open year-round on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Photo/Kassidy McDonald)

The Four Mile Run Farmers & Artisans Market is open year-round on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1p.m. at 4109 Mt Vernon Ave.

According to the city’s website, this farmers’ market is “part of an overall vision to expand and improve Four Mile Run Park and the surrounding neighborhood.”

The Four Mile Run Farmers’ & Artisans Market was also the first farmers market in Northern Virginia to accept SNAP/EBT cards, making it an affordable option for many families throughout the city to get fresh produce and holiday treats for Thanksgiving.

One particular vendor that stands out at this market is Lopez Farm from Warsaw, Va. They offer a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, including lettuce, cucumbers, avocados, squash, potatoes, tomatoes, peaches, raspberries and blueberries. Lopez Farm has everything you need to make delicious mashed potatoes, a side salad, squash casserole or even a peach cobbler dessert.

Buddin’ Bakery is another vendor at The Four Mile Run Farmers’ & Artisans Market. They are self-described as “a micro-batch, from scratch artisan bakery that specializes in ‘traditional’ fares with worldly flavor inspirations.”

For Thanksgiving, Buddin’ Bakery is offering pre-order for select items through their website. Their menu items include apple pies, maple sweet potato pies, pumpkin pies, cookie platters and even a mocktail pack that includes 12 bottles made with real fruit and homemade herb simple syrups. These items are available for pickup at the Old Town North Farmers’ Market on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and delivery can be scheduled in select Northern Virginia areas.

Supporting local businesses by visiting farmers’ markets is one approach to collecting all the necessary ingredients to make a successful holiday meal. This Thanksgiving, visit any of the farmers’ markets in Alexandria and find fruits and veggies for casseroles, side dishes and desserts, breads and rolls, pastries and pies. It’s a surefire way to support the community and make memorable holiday meals for the family.