European Food Shines at Local Farmers Market


“Autre chose?” asks Joelle as her customer pays for a quiche. Joelle and her husband sell fresh Belgian food at the Rose Park farmers market every Wednesday afternoon. Sweet smells welcome all under her tent, marked by a bright “Les Caprices de Joelle” sign.

Nearby their booth, a cucumber is purchased, a pain au chocolat is coveted and a head of lettuce is examined. Despite the tiny raindrops drizzling down around the tents, shoppers mingle among green produce and golden homemade bread.

“Even though it is rainy, people come anyway,” Joelle said.

Joelle moved to the U.S. eight years ago. A native Belgian, she studied the culinary arts in Belgium before crossing the Atlantic.

She said the farmers market is important to her as a chef, especially “coming from Europe, [where] everything we make is from the farmers market.”

Naturally, her booth specializes in Belgian waffles, but not like any found in America.

“We order the sugar from Belgium. It’s made from beets,” she said. “It takes a long time for the sugar to get here since we ship it.”

Crêpes, marinated carrots, lentil soup and chicken turnovers are just some of the European foods Joelle has to offer, but she is not alone.

Bonaparte Bread offers French pastries and bakery items. At this booth, Claudio sells croissants for $2, French bread for $3, and pain au chocolat and almond croissants for $3.50. Claudio is relatively new to the market, having only sold there a month, but his booth seems to be exactly what farmers’ market founder Leslie Wheelock had in mind.

“I moved back from France and missed the markets,” Wheelock said.

When she proposed the idea of a farmers market to the Friends of Rose Park board, they assigned her to the task of creating it. The market is sponsored by the Friends of Rose Park and the DC Parks & Recreation Department. As an all-volunteer market, Wheelock depends on personal contacts, the Friends of Rose park website and e-mail to connect to new vendors. Though other markets in the district might be more commercial, she said the Rose Park market is optimal for new farmers and vendors.

“Farmers who have never been to market before come here.”

Wheelock said customers can even bring their pets. The market often has a booth that sells dog treats.
She said the market relies on the strong sense of community surrounding it to help it succeed.

“Unless we have neighborhood support, the farmers don’t come.”

The market is held every Wednesday from 3 to 7 p.m., May through October.

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