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Sienna Alfano, 9 year old published author and friend of Sarasota Farmers Market

Community Contributor: Sienna Alfano

As a Non Profit organization, it is our mission to create opportunities for our community to connect not only in person on Saturdays, but also HERE in our Newsletter Updates. To keep within this mission, we are delighted to invite our friend, Sienna Alfano, to interview our current vendors with the goal of getting to know the business owners, highlighting their products, and provide a unique insight to our readers. Check out her Monthly Features below!

January: Celebrating New Years Resolutions with DREAM EARTH BOWLS

We’re divided on a lot of things, like whether to put pineapple on pizza, how to braid challah bread, or how much hot sauce is too much. It’s New Year, too, so many resolutions are related to healthy eating. But we want some sweet punch! However, we can only eat sweet things in moderation. I tried to go a week without sugar, and I failed on the second day. Fruit is recommended for quenching dessert cravings, but let’s be honest, apples never taste the same as, say, apple pie. Logic tells us that all fruits are like this, but logic’s wrong. Take açaí, for instance. The name is divisive, but it’s pronounced like AH-sigh-ee. The sweet berry, when prepared properly, can taste like strawberry or raspberry ice cream. It also provides essential nutrients, and tremendous amounts of energy. Lots of people and companies claim to sell the sweet fruit, and many of them are legit, but isn’t it better if they help the Earth? A company that ends hunger, and helps the planet, sounds just like a dream. And yet, it’s real. Meet Dream Earth Bowls.

Ashley & Joseph, Owners of Dream Earth Bowls

Dream Earth was founded in Hawaii by Ashley Yamamoto in 2019 (the year before the world stood still). Ashley wanted to have an impact on the world, but she couldn’t figure out how. She received a 200-hour Yoga-Teacher Training Certificate in Maui, and then flew to Honolulu. While there, Ashley worked on an organic farm and focused on permaculture, all while concentrating on peaceful living and self-education for a few months. But even after all this, she still couldn’t figure out how to have an impact. Then, she combined the two things she loved best, helping people and healthy eating, to create Dream Earth. Every person who buys a bowl, be it the Earth Bowl, the Dream Earth Bowl, the Ocean Bowl, or the Blossom Bowl, can put their dream on the community “Dream Board”, where dreams can range from the funny “I want to retire” to the slightly more sobering “World Peace” and “Liberating Lab Animals”. In addition to this, all of the bowls are sugar-free, complete with superfoods and fresh berries. Mmmmmmmm. But if an unimaginable event comes when you can’t make it to the market? Ashley recommends blending açaí until smooth, then topping with strawberries, blueberries, bananas, granola, and honey for an authentic, dreamy experience. Ashley was kind enough to give me a free sample of the Earth Bowl, and, needless to say, it was awesome. But if you want a more detailed description, read on.

Forget fruit, the Earth Bowl was more like an ice cream sundae — the most lavish one at that. I gazed down at the bowl in wonder; where was I supposed to start? I thought about digging down under the bananas, but that would spill over. I eventually compromised on eating the small mountain of coconut first. My eyes widened at the toasted, marshmallowy taste, complemented by a drizzle of almond butter so fresh it tasted like real almonds, a rarity these days. The mound now gone, I preceded to eat the bananas. However, these weren’t regular bananas: They were more firm, and sweet, and mellow. I then moved onto the blueberries. Again, these had more flavor: they weren’t mushy, they were firm, and sweet, and sour. A sprinkle of chia seeds nicely accented the creamy goodness, like finding real chocolate chips in a cookie. After the toppings, I melancholically licked the remains of almond butter on my fingers, the only remainder of fruity fireworks. But the melancholy didn’t last long, because I then encountered a crisp bed of organic granola. I was struck by the natural sweetness of it; normally, granola is always sweetened by sugar. Hungrily muting the last of the granola, the açaí blend at the bottom confronted me. I hesitantly took a bite — then a much larger one. I couldn’t believe that it was made with coconut milk; in fact, it tasted much better than an ice cream sundae. My only word for this is awesome, I thought.

But, say you’re trying to not eat sweet stuff for a week. You’re missing out on açaí magic, but Ashley’s advice is “Anything that’s grown is good for you.” Can you now replace your doubt with trust? Can you replace your dream with reality? Can you replace your ice cream with açaí? No! You think. I’ll say, Try açaí and you won’t want to go back. Trust your dreams.

Disclaimer: Although my bowl was complimentary, all opinions were my own and were not influenced in any way.

February: Lots to love at ANDORS CAKE WORLD + SUNCOAST FLORIST

It’s getting to that time of year when we show love to our family and friends, and give a present or two. But imagine that it’s two days before Valentine’s Day, and you haven’t managed to get presents. What do you do? Well, you could make them yourself, but an even better option is to pay a visit it to your local Farmer’s Market. However, there are lots of stalls to choose from to buy your present. Which one will you decide on? Everyone likes all sorts of presents, but the most traditional stall is Suncoast Florist. There are countless flower options here, including roses. But really, what is a present without a story? It’s nothing. And what’s a story without a plot twist? Nothing. You may be expecting a romantic story, with flowers galore, but before he started Suncoast Florist, Logan Gordon was an artist. It was actually his father who first started the business in 1980, so for Logan, the roll of Chief Florist was a natural transition. The retail was bought in 2000, and came to the Market in 2013, nine years ago. It would be wrong to say that the flowers are flowers; if you please, say petals of silk. In the same way, it would be incorrect to say that the scent is just beautiful; think instead of a floral, botanic perfume. Perhaps it would be better for you to buy the flowers a few days beforehand, but can’t figure out how to keep them looking fresh and new. Logan recommends changing the water every day, and giving them a small sachet of plant food everyday; his preferred brand is CHRYSAL, which he provides with every bouquet of flowers. Sophisticated in every way, you can find these flowers every Saturday on Lemon Avenue.

Logan Gordon, owner of Suncoast Florist

Now suppose that your loved one has a sweet tooth. Suppose that they love desserts, but want to stay healthy. Meet Andor’s Cake World. Andor specializes in desserts and pastries from around the globe. He follows in the footsteps of his Hungarian parents, although he grew up in Serbia. All of his pastries, be it his cakes, cookies, pies, biscuits, or pastries, are all homemade, with no cake mixes or artificial sweeteners. I was able to try the Zserbo Cookie, and of course it was delicious. But if you desire more detail, just read on to hear a detailed description of the deliciousness. 

When I read the name of the Zserbo cookie (also known as Gerbeaud), I was intrigued. How to pronounce it? Was it shee-air-bo? Was it zer-bo? I contemplated it with squinted eyes. The entire cookie was shrouded in mystery; was it like a chocolate shortbread? An apricot confection? As I took a bite, fireworks exploded in my mouth. The smooth yet crumbly walnut shortbread layers were sandwiched with sweet and tangy apricot jam. The rich layer of chocolate on top nicely contrasted the sharpness of the apricot. I reluctantly finished the last crunchy morsel. 

And if you desire a larger selection, keep your eyes peeled, because Andor’s Cake World is going to be offering chocolate-covered strawberries just in time for Valentine’s Day, along with a heart-shaped assortment of pastries. Even better, top the pastries with a single rose from Suncoast Florist. All these delicious bites, all in one place. Now, you don’t have to run to the florist and then to the bakery. Well, you only have to walk for not even a minute to get from Suncoast Florist to Andor’s Cake World, but that’s beside the point. While the Farmer’s Market is open from 7 A.M to 1 P.M all season long, all you have to do is head over to the stalls, rain or shine. You never know, the Market may become your Valentine’s love!

Andor & his father, owner of Andors Cake World

DISCLAIMER: Although my cookie was complimentary, all opinions were my own and not influenced in any way.

March: celebrating Women’s History Month with two boss ladies!

Marvelous March is upon us once again, bringing Women’s History Month with it. Before it was a national holiday, it was actually a week — the week of March the 8, back in 1980. For reference, that’s back when the World Wide Web was invented. Subsequent presidents continued to announce Women’s History Week until 1987, which designated March as Women’s History Month. If you’re interested, you can read the poetic Public Law 100-9. To celebrate, we’re interviewing two fabulous women-owned stalls. Enjoy!

Izumi Haraki, owner and operator of Haraki-Gordon Green Tea

Haraki-Gordon green tea is dedicated to quality of products. Japanese-born Izumi Haraki and her American husband first founded the company about 20 years ago. Izumi found that Americans drank more coffee than tea, and she hoped to change that — hence, Haraki-Gordon Green Tea was founded. She wanted to bring matcha to the States — but with no artificial ingredients. In fact, where most teas have sweeteners and additives. And that’s bad enough without other fillers and preservatives that are in most commercial brands! But Haraki is tea with a difference. Their tea, apart from being naturally gluten-free and non-GMO, has no sugar, additives, fillers, or preservatives. But for those who prefer their morning brew a little bit sweeter, never fear: Izumi recommends blending brewed matcha, maple syrup, and ice for a healthy shake. However, this tea can be used for so much more than just the standard hot or cold brew. They can be used in protein or energy shakes. And if you read the January article about Dream Earth Bowls, you’ll know how healthy açaí is; maybe try putting it on an açaí bowl. Here’s an idea — matcha hot chocolate. Matcha is more than just delicious — it’s healthy, too. It improves brain function, lowers the risks of some cancers, reduces blood sugar levels, and reduces bad breath. Did we also say that it’s considered a superfood? We can safely say that, on the whole (foods), this is the healthiest tea. 

Sienna enjoying everyone’s favorite Saturday snack from The Empanada Girl

Next on the agenda, we have The Empanada Girl. Stefania “Stef” Fochi makes empanadas — the Argentinian way. Cooking was her calling from a very young age, and continued to make an impression on her. When she finished high school, she started culinary school. Two and a half weeks later, she considered vending at the Market, and in February 2010, she started to vend. And vend she did, starting with just one table and a toaster oven, and seven flavors. Now, she has two tents and twenty-one flavors! When I came to their stand for the interview, I talked to Sofia, her assistant and long-time family friend. There also seemed to be a common pattern in the best-selling empanadas — they all contain meat. The Breakfast Empanada is the overall best-seller, and it’s easy to see why, because it contains egg, cheese, bacon, and sausage. Chicken and beef empanadas also clear off the shelves quickly. And in accordance with the phrase “Less is more”, Sofia and Stef both say that one empanada is a snack, and two is a meal. Just one, you say? Doesn’t sound like much? Ah, but it is. These aren’t your average empanadas, so they’re not averaged sized. They are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, but big enough to feel full after just one or two. But if you want to get just one, remember to come early; these empanadas are so good that there are lines at nine o’clock. Plus, some of them are simple yet delicious. Take the Butternut Squash Empanada . . .

They say that pastry doesn’t taste good without butter. When pigs fly, they say. The pastry, made out of just flour, canola oil, eggs, and water, encases a delicious filling of caramelized onions, butternut squash, and some sugar and spices. The no-butter pastry is nice and light, while the onions in the filling really balance out the sweet. What’s more, the squash actually tastes like squash rather than just saccharine vegetables. The filling is creamy and delicious, contrasting the crimped pastry. It may look small — but the flavored pasty packs a punch. Hey, look, a flying pig . . .

Disclaimer: Even though my Empanada was complimentary, all opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way.

April: Egg-zactly what you are looking for this Spring!

It’s that time of year once again when we decorate eggs and prepare chocolate and baskets. Yes, dear Readers, Amazing April has come once again — so why not celebrate Spring at the Farmer’s Market? Read on to see some amazing vendors, for amazing April.

Sienna with Circle 6 Farm owner, Leonard

Circle 6 Farm and Ranch is based in Manatee County, and comes to the Market every weekend. Circle 6 is a fifth generation farm, who raises, along with cattle and chicken, some more unconventional meats, like goat and rabbit. All of the products are all antibiotic-free. The chickens are free-range. His meat isn’t injected with hormones. And you can actually taste the difference in the organic eggs! Leonard Horak, the owner, was kind enough to give me a dozen of the eggs — which, to add, are sold in reused containers — and they were beautiful. In a dozen shades of brown they sat, from dark umber to pale, speckled white. I enjoyed two of these eggs, fried in olive oil. The yolks are a gorgeous yellow-orange color, and the whites don’t fall apart when you cut into them. And I’m sure that many a person has fallen foul to the hard yolk of the fried egg; when the yolk is dippy for five minutes and then runs dry. But these yolks are so deliciously dippy that it’s possible to enjoy the whole dozen all at once. But if you can’t reach the Market and have to go the the store? Leonard recommends to always do your own research before buying a product.

The other two vendors I interviewed were Big Top Baskets and Traditional French Crêpes — fitting, as the owner of Big Top is the daughter of the owner of Crêpes. The story of Big Top Baskets is an interesting one, so read on to find out.

Sienna with Big Top Baskets owner, Natalia

When I arrived at Big Top, I spoke to Natalia, the owner. It turns out that, eight years before Natalia manned the stall, it was owned by a different proprietor. When they retired, they asked if Natalia wanted the stall — she answered with a yes, and now she imports baskets and decorative items from South Africa, Uganda, Swaziland, and Senegal, to name just a few countries. From dainty, tiny baskets with bronze-colored finishes, to humongous, Easter-like baskets with a wicker style, from stormy grays and blues to bright pinks and yellows, this stall has all your bases (and tops) covered.

Finally, I interviewed Traditional French Crêpes. Roverta, the owner, was kind enough to lend me some of her time for me to interview.

Sienna and Roverta

At first glance, when you look at Traditional French Crêpes, you notice the snaking line going around the corner. When you get closer to the booth, you inhale the delicious aroma of crêpes, whipped cream, strawberries, cinnamon, chocolate spread, and . . . seafood? Chicken? Yep! If you’re looking for a more substantial breakfast, or you’re on a diet, Roverta makes savory crêpes as well. She actually used to be a trapeze artist for a circus, but her odyssey in crêpe-making begins with her husband’s family, from Normandy. The recipe for the crêpes was passed down from generation to generation. She recalls the days when she and her family cooked for whole days, with no electronics and no distractions. And now? That love for cooking has blossomed into many, many flavors of crêpes, like buckwheat, non-dairy, Nutella, cinnamon, fruit, ham, and seafood. But if you can’t make it to the market, never fear. Roverta says that “How I eat is how I want my customers to eat”. As if these delicious crêpes weren’t enough, she also plans on releasing blueberry, strawberry, and peach crêpes. Bon Appétit! 

So there you have it, three astonishingly great vendors for this month! Head on over to the market every Saturday and fill your (easter) baskets with these awesome finds.

Disclaimer: Even though my eggs were complimentary, all opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way.

May: treat yourself organic guacamole and spanakopita this summer!

Well, we’re all the way into May, and half of the year has flew by our eyes. I interviewed Dynasty Guacamole and and Greek Triangles for this month. For Marvelous May, read on for Marvelous Vendors.

Sienna & The Queen of Dynasty Guacamole

When I first saw Dynasty Guacamole’s stand, I already knew that everything about it would be great. To me, the way they make the guacamole in front of you, the delicious smell of herbs and spices, and even the avocado green color of the stall just seemed perfect to me. The guacamole starts with organic avocados, to which is added diced tomatoes, sea salt, onions, lime, and cilantro. A bonus? Everything is one hundred percent organic! This stall also sells other delicacies, like ceviche (a marinated fish dish, native to South America) and the bright yellow mango salad. The owner’s healthy eating advice? “All things in moderation”, she says. The avocado fruit (yes, you read that right — avocado is a fruit) is healthy for the skin, eyes, and heart, and the other ingredients are loaded with vitamins and minerals. After I returned home, I tried a dip of this delicious guacamole. This guac is perfection! The taste of avocado is not overpowering, but the flavor is still there, accented with sea salt and lime juice, all going up against diced tomatoes, which adds some nice texture. I’m certain it would taste great with blue corn tortilla chips. I even had it on a baguette bagel for breakfast, which was delicious. And next time you eat avocado toast, use the guacamole instead. You could even use it in deviled eggs!

Next, I interviewed Greek Triangles. Spanakopita is a traditional Greek pastry filled with spinach and feta cheese, and is a staple all through Greece. I interviewed the owner of this stall, who grew up in Isthmia, about an hour south of Athens. When he realized that he couldn’t get good spanakopita in the U.S.A, he decided to start Greek Triangles.

Sienna and Jon

Today, his spanakopita stand sells three types of spanakopita: original, vegan, and ham and cheese. The original is a mix of spinach, feta, onions, and herbs, wrapped in phyllo pastry, while the vegan one has no eggs and is wrapped in vegan phyllo pastry. And ham and cheese is the original, except it has cheddar and chopped ham added in. All these sound delicious . . . can you imagine what they even taste like, if you think the description is mouthwatering? But what if, say, you can’t get to this stand or you don’t like spinach? His healthy eating advice is “all things in moderation”. Out of interest, I asked whether or not he gets a lot of kids eating his pastries (as kids don’t generally like spinach). I was actually very surprised by his answer; he says that almost all the kids who eat his products like the spanakopita. 

So there you have it, two breathtakingly brilliant vendors for this month. And when the month starts to turn hot, cool down with a piece of spanakopita and a bowl of guacamole. 

Disclaimer: Even though my guacamole was complimentary, all opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way.

June: great finds for Dad at the Farmers Market

It’s already half way through the year; where has the time gone? Of course, we’ve probably spent every Saturday at our marvelous market, which isn’t a bad thing. Every month, you loyal readers have read everything from the açaí of Dream Earth Bowls, to the pastries of The Empanada Girl, to the unique services of .  . . well, you’ll just have to read on to find out the vendors of this month!

American Eagle Knife Sharpening specializes in . . . you guessed it, knife sharpening. Born in Brittany, France, Thierry (pronounced: Terry) Rouillard was trained by a Korean master knife sharpener and certified. Thierry has just closed a coffee shop, and he heard that the original owner of this business was retiring. He decided to seize that opportunity, and he’s been in business for eleven years. Along with his sharpening services, he also sells beautiful, handmade charcuteries boards. Now, you might be thinking that you can get a charcuterie board from anywhere. But think again, because these boards are too pretty to put food on. Many are shot through with a burst of lively green, but others range from the darkest aquamarine to the lightest teal. And as if these lovely colors weren’t enough, these boards come with the shiniest gloss finish. For all that these boards are worth, though, you still need decent knives to go with your board. These services are also convenient; and give you an excuse to roam around the market for fifteen minutes. But, suppose that you can’t make it to the market. Thierry offers his advice: “Never put knives in the dishwasher”. He says that the water can dull the knives because they are all rattling around in the rack. And even if the knife in question is serrated, or you have a special rack for knives in your dishwasher, don’t put them in there.

Next on the agenda is the Bicycle Mechanic. He’s been in business for ten years, and this, too, is a service where you can drop off your wares and wander the market. He started the business because his bike broke. He realized that many people had the same problem, and so The Bicycle Mechanic was founded. His advice for keeping bicycles in the best possible condition? After you wash them with soap, don’t let them dry in the garage, as it leads to decay, and (if you wash them) can cause the spokes to pop out. Also, under any circumstances, don’t put chlorine near your bike. The chlorine reacts with the moisture in the air to form hydrochloric acid, a powerful corrosive. This rusts almost any metal on your bike, and whether your bike is the discontinued Orient Express, or the Trek 850, or any bike whatsoever, they all react to chlorine. 

So now you’ve gotten the memo of two brilliant vendors, one who sharpens knives and sells boards, and one who repairs any bike that there is. Both of these services make the perfect Father’s Day pastime — so we’ll see at the market, year-round, 7 A.M to 1 P.M.