Farmers markets again offer midweek dinners

"Gina Smith, right, talks with her husband, Paul, Wednesday as customers peruse the menu at Bayview Farmers Market. The Smiths prepare a hot dinner at the midweek evening market. This is the second year the market has offered hot meals to eat there or to go each Wednesday in the summer and fall.Jon Jensen / staff photosHot meals are back at South Whidbey's farmers markets on Wednesday evenings.Chefs have begun the annual dinner service at both the Bayview Farmers Market, at Bayview and Marshview roads, and the South Whidbey Tilth Farmers Market, at Highway 525 and Thompson Road.At Bayview, Gina and Paul Smith are among those cooking dinners. The Smiths produce what Paul calls down-home cookin'.You can't get it in restaurants, he said.These are my mom's and grandmother's recipes, Gina added.Beneath a two-sided white tent the couple and their daughter, Jennifer, sold the sticky buns and cinnamon rolls that have made them popular at Bayview's Saturday market. Wednesday evening's fare adds some large covered serving dishes and, last Wednesday, this menu: Chinese pepper steak served on rice, a slice of fresh cantaloupe, and an almond cookie for $6.75.The Smiths have noticed that business seems to come in waves, and they joke that their customers arrive on every-other ferry.We've got a lot of regulars now who come and get dinner on Wednesday, said Gina. A lot of single people say this is their one home-cooked meal of the week.The Smiths don't have any food service background, and cook the food for Wednesday's dinners in what they describe as a typical home kitchen.They expect the number of Wednesday diners to increase in the coming weeks as vegetables begin to ripen. That brings more fresh produce vendors and more customers to the midweek event. Offering mid-week dinners when the Smiths aren't available is Rosie Hilton, popular on Saturdays with her Tucker Wagon.About a half-mile from Bayview, at the South Whidbey Tilth Farmers Market, Frances Maxwell was preparing a Thai menu on a breezy Wednesday evening.This is a windy place, she remarked as she re-lit a fuel container beneath a serving dish after the wind had extinguished it.Customers recently dined on coconut soup with shrimp, egg roll with three dipping sauces, stir-fried lemongrass beef with Asian greens, and fresh summer fruit in a ginger-wine sauce.Maxwell, whose catering business is called Frances Cooks Culinary Cottage, said she began serving food at the Tilth market last year, when she served a North Georgia Brunswick stew. I do soups and omelettes to order on Saturday mornings as well, she said.Maxwell is a founding member of the International Association of Cooking Schools and offers dinners and brunches at her Culinary Cottage in Greenbank. Both markets plan to continue the Wednesday dinners into the early fall. "

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