HarborMarket, Kenosha, Wisconsin

Last Saturday — and then again today — we visited the Kenosha’s HarborMarket.

My dad used to take me to Kenosha’s Farmer’s Markets when I was a kid. He made the best dill pickles I have ever tasted. We would go to the grocery store to get the vinegar, the salt, the garlic and the rye bread, and then hit the farmer’s market (usually Baker Park) for the cucumbers and the big stalks of fresh dill. All of this was alchemically prepared and then ceremoniously layered inside a crock in the basement to pickle in the cool darkness for a week or two before we put the batch up in Mason jars.

Nowadays, Amy and I patronize our neighborhood farmer’s market as much as possible during the season. It makes such a difference when you can buy real tomatoes instead of the supermarket kind. We’ll get peppers or corn or beets and throw a meal together around whatever we find, sometimes picking up a small bouquet of flowers for the table to boot. It’s good, fresh food at a bargain, and you get to talk with some great people and engage in face-to-face commerce.

The HarborMarket is a similar idea, but it is not limited to farmers. There is produce — onions, garlic, herbs, lettuce, beets, eggs, honey — but there are also soaps, prepared foods, art works, gift items and other merchandise.

Today one booth was occupied by Southside Johnny. No, not the Southside Johnny of Asbury Jukes fame. This guy explained that he is the other Southside Johnny, the one originally from Chicago’s South Side, a cover musician who claims he had no clue there was a New Jersey namesake, and that he’ll probably change his name if he succeeds beyond the local level.

What especially attracted our attention was the Wisconsin Lamb. We have a number of good lamb recipes, but finding lamb can be difficult in Kenosha. Some stores only seem to carry it during the Easter season, and when you do find it, it’s usually been frozen and transported from New Zealand and they want you to buy an entire leg. So we were excited last week to find fresh, local lamb at a reasonable price. The couple from Pinn-Oak Ridge Farms told us they visit the Harbor Marketplace every Saturday, and that in addition to the selection of lamb they bring, orders can be placed in advance for pickup. They said they had several orders refrigerated and waiting in their truck for Kenosha customers.

To sample their meat, we bought two of their pre-cut one pound kabob packs, plus some onions and flat-leaf parsley at other booths. Kabobs would have been nice in the hot weather, but later in the afternoon a creepy, cold fog rolled in off Lake Michigan, making an oven-cooked stew almost perfect. Amy prepared “Spicy Lamb Stew with Parsnips and Figs,” a recipe from that Cooking Light magazine she loves. We paired it with some King Fish 2003 California Shiraz, a great bargain wine ($4.50!) snapped up this afternoon at Binny’s. It pays to be on their email list.

The lamb was sweet and tender — especially good considering it was just kabob chunks. Now I can’t wait to get a nice leg portion to make “Roasted Lamb With Monsieur Henny’s Potato, Onion and Tomato Gratin.” I’m almost wishing for a chilly weekend.