FOOD: New Farmers Market Vendors Are Worth a Visit

Falls Church Times Staff

Jimmy-thumbFebruary 26, 2010

If you haven’t braved the cold weather on Saturday mornings to check out the Falls Church Farmers Market, you’ve been missing out. This winter the city’s food wonderland has bolstered its already stellar vendor line-up with two excellent additions.

In December, Oh! Pickles set up shop, offering a range of classic barrel-cured pickles.  A month later sausage and charcuterie maker Jamie Stachowski, who has developed a cult following among area meat-eaters, snagged a spot and started selling homemade bacon, kielbasa, and a number of other European-style fatty treats.

I’ve been a frequent customer at both.

In a perfect world, the pickles at Oh! Pickles would be locally made from locally grown cucumbers.  Alas, they are imported from the New Jersey-based Patriot Pickle Co., which sells wholesale to many restaurants.  They also contain preservatives, which is a turn-off for many people.  But they sure taste good.

Usually the stall is setup with samples of every kind of pickle, but sometimes they don’t get around to it.  If there are samples the day you happen by, I say just eat them all and decide for yourself which one you like best.  If not, I’d zero in on the classic kosher dills, which add a springy tang to any sandwich.   For a zippier pickle, go for the spicy red hot variety.  The crinkle cut bread-and-butter pickles are a tad on the sweet side but also good.

Stachowski’s stand at the other end of the market has been drawing huge crowds.  The wafting aroma of pork fat sizzling away on a hot plate inside of his jeep is surely a factor in his success.  He doesn’t have a sign yet and he doesn’t need one—market-goers just tilt their noses up and start walking.

A snow-filled Farmers Market with barrels of pickles on display.  Who'da thunk it?

A snow-filled Farmers Market with barrels of pickles on display. Who'da thunk it?

After years toiling in restaurant kitchens (where his homemade charcuterie was often featured on menus), the wonderfully eccentric Buffalo native shifted to meat crafting full-time a little over a year ago when he launched Stachowski Brand Charcuterie.  Since then he’s slowly built up a customer base, selling mostly to restaurants and local specialty food shops, including Red, White, and Bleu, the city’s wine and cheese specialist.  He’s also organized several pick-ups at random spots in the Northern Virginia area through the online foodie forum

Bringing his product to a Farmers Market was a logical next step and we’re lucky to have landed him.  He’s got some seriously good stuff.

Seemingly every person I’ve come across at his stand at the market has walked away with some fresh kielbasa.  The sausage is mildly spiced, a little sweet, and supremely juicy.  The veal bratwurst, laced with cream, is just as succulent and pleasantly subtle.  Both are a far cry away from many of the off-tasting and overly spiced supermarket sausages.  There’s no doubt that they are made with care and calculation.

Some of the smoked products are a little more assertive.  Sometimes it’s just the right amount of smoky goodness, like with the smoked kielbasa, which is a great foil for crusty bread, good mustard, and pickles.  But the Portuguese linguica I brought home a few weeks ago was a little too smoky to enjoy.

Other misses have been the painfully salty Irish bacon, the strangely spiced venison pate and the too-lamby merguez sausage.  But perhaps those are a matter of personal taste.  European-style charcuterie can be quite bold—some people like that and others don’t.  The beauty is that there are always a handful of cooked samples at Stachowski’s stand so you can make the decision for yourself.

Stachowski’s prices aren’t bad either, although they are frustratingly uneven.  Somehow a single piece of Irish bacon (which cooks down to essentially nothing) and a huge link of smoked kielbasa both sell for seven bucks.  I suspect such discrepancies won’t remain for long.  His business is still evolving (take a look at the Web site here) and considering its small scale is doing incredibly well.

A winter time market will never measure up to the bounty of spring, summer, and fall.  But the Falls Church Farmers Market is thriving in these cold months.  Its two newest vendors are chief examples why.

February 26, 2010 


3 Responses to “FOOD: New Farmers Market Vendors Are Worth a Visit”

  1. Victoria Kwasiborski (Falls Church City) on February 26th, 2010 7:33 am

    Growing up in a home and neighborhood where Polish sausage was homemade on a regular basis I have a fairly particular palate for the treat, and can say that the Stachowski sausage is quite, quite, good, especially on toasted rye with spicy mustard and early dill pickles. (And for the semantics-loving foodies out there, kielbasa is just a generic Polish word for sausage; the only “true” Polish kielbasa composition is defined by the Polish government.)

  2. Gary (The Little City of Fall Church City) on February 26th, 2010 9:55 am

    For those who don’t make it on Saturday mornings, Jamie Stachowski’s products are also available at Red, White, and Bleu.

  3. Barb Cram, Falls Church on February 26th, 2010 11:37 pm

    Bravo to Howard Herman for having these folks — he makes sure the Farmers Market has always got such a wide variety of offerings and top quality. Our Little City’s Market is tops!

Feel free to leave a comment. Please increase the credibility of your post by including your FULL NAME and CITY. All comments are subject to editing for courtesy and content.