Walking around the local farmer’s markets is a little like going to Epcot. Pasta, empanada and seafood booths share the market with local produce, homemade gourmet pet treats, and even French food from a three-generations-old recipe. It’s pretty much culture with a capital C. I’m surprised nobody’s called Anthony Bourdain yet, because there are no reservations required to taste these unique local offerings.

Area farmer’s markets are great places to discover and sample local food prepared by local artisans. With at least four in the area—Venice on Saturday mornings from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., Phillipi Farmhouse Market on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sarasota on Saturday mornings from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Englewood on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.—local foodies have ample opportunity to connect with quirky food culture.

Kringle’s Kitchen

When Pat Switzer thinks about what ingredients to include in her next homemade dog or cat treat, she thinks about what she would feed her kids.

Pat and her mother Alice Bergquist own Kringle’s Kitchen, a homemade pet treat business. They sell their treats at the Phillipi Farmhouse and Venice Farmer’s markets and are thinking about placing their products in local grooming shops.

In April 2011, Pat opened Kringle’s Kitchen because her dachshund rescue, Kringle, had dietary restrictions and she couldn’t find treats for him. Her vet suggested raw vegetables as treats—dachshunds need strict diets to control their weight because they have bad backs—but Kringle soon got tired of them. So, Pat began experimenting with Kringle-friendly treats that would be delicious and healthy.

Kringle’s Kitchen’s first treat, the Carrot Oatmeal Heart, was born.

Pat and her mother now sell about 12 different types of treats at the Kringle’s Kitchen booth at each farmer’s market. At least four of these treats are gluten-free.

They’re a hit at the markets with animal clients and their human chauffeurs. There’s a Sheltie named Cinnamon who runs directly for their booth when she gets out of her owner’s car.

Kringle’s Kitchen also prepares gift baskets, throws dog birthday parties and sells pet stockings for the holidays. Kringle’s specializes in pampering for furry pets, however. They do not plan to branch out into treats for snakes or birds.

“I’m not a reptile person,” said Pat.

People interested in Kringle’s Kitchen’s unique dog and cat treats can purchase products from their booth at the Venice Farmer’s Market or call Pat Switzer at 941.876.3308.

Maggie’s Seafood

Maggie Balch, owner of Maggie’s Seafood, eats fish five times a week. Her cardiologist is probably happy she doesn’t raise beef cattle.

Maggie has been in the seafood business for seventeen years. At her booth at the Venice, Sarasota, Phillipi and Englewood farmer’s markets, she sells local seafood caught by local fishermen.

“We’re all in the same boat,” she says.

Get it? Because she runs a seafood business?

She probably gets that a lot because her husband is a captain and she grew up around the water. On a serious note, Maggie seems connected to the local fisherman in that each needs to make a living off the water. She sometimes buys northern fish like cod or halibut to satisfy seasonal visitors, though.

“I’d rather support Florida where I live than Boston where I don’t live,” she said.

Florida seems to want to support her too. At the Sarasota Farmer’s Market, the line in front of Maggie’s Seafood can be twenty minutes long or longer.

“We see the same faces every week,” she said.

Customers who want a specific fish or who are on a tight schedule can call in their orders during the week to ensure Maggie will have them in stock. To call in orders, call 866.908.0002.

Venetian Coffee Roasters

Venice is fortunate to have its own bean-roasting coffee company within her city limits. Venetian Coffee Roasters is a family owned small-batch micro-roaster located on the Island. People huddle around their booth at the farmer’s market to sip, sample and purchase the tasty and aromatic selections. Founded in 2009, Venetian Coffee Roasters seeks to provide the freshest micro-roasted coffee to bring the greatest satisfaction, cup after cup. Their beans are also available at retail locations in Venice, Sarasota and throughout the West Coast of Florida.

They provide their products in larger quantities for churches, restaurants, business offices, or large events such as weddings, reunions and fundraisers. They always welcome people to stop by and try a sample or a blend in the works. 203 Base Ave., 941.586.5098 or venetiancoffeeroasters.com.

Dee Ziner Cakes and Pastries

Move over Buddy Valastro, there’s a new Cake Boss in town. As luck would have it, her last name is Baker.

An engaged couple once asked Dee Baker if she could design a wedding cake for them that included a spot for their pet Beta fish. Not a picture of him or a likeness made of fondant—the real fish.

Dee designed the cake without hesitation. It’s just one of the many tasks she has taken on since opening Dee Ziner Cakes and Pastries in 2009, where she also bakes muffins, cupcakes, pies and pastries.

Dee offers free wedding cake tasting and she tries to get to know her customers on a personal level as she brainstorms with them about wedding cake designs.

She once designed a cake for a couple who met in Alcoholics Anonymous. The cake’s bottom tier was a beach scene, with two sets of footprints merging into one. The second tier was shaped like an AA medallion. Dee worked with the couple to design the perfect cake to celebrate their special day.

“It was very unique,” she said.

Dee worked at Sarasota Memorial Hospital until two years ago when she decided to follow her dream.

“It’s always been a passion of mine, to have my own bakery,” said Dee.

She doesn’t use the word “always” lightly. Dee has been baking since she was a child, when she spent a lot of time with her grandmother in the kitchen. Dee’s grandmother taught her to make homemade pie crust and pies have become Dee’s favorite item to bake—she often takes them to the Venice Farmer’s Market.

“I feel like I’m really putting myself into it,” she said.

Nuts About You

When Brian Frazer roasts peanuts, he uses his father’s 100-year-old cast iron roaster.

“It’s a nice way to honor his memory,” he said.

Frazer owns Nuts About You, a Nokomis-based business that sells roasted peanuts and cinnamon roasted almonds, pecans and cashews. Frazer has roasted nuts at the Sun Fiesta, the Shark’s Tooth Festival and the Italian Feast in Venice. He also travels to Sarasota to provide nuts to festival-goers. He does around 10-12 festivals and fairs a season. He doesn’t roast any nuts in the off-season—no one wants roasted food when they’re roasting.

At the Italian Fest, he’s had customers tell him they can smell his nuts from the parking lot. A self-proclaimed kidder, he probably has to check to see if there are any kids within earshot before he makes any sort of quip back to them.

Frazer has been roasting nuts at local festivals for six years. Up in New Jersey, his parents roasted nuts for 25 years. Like his father, Frazer loves the customer contact he gets when he roasts nuts at festivals. He’s trying to expand the business into retail—he’s not opening a storefront, he’s trying to get local grocery stores to carry his product.

He says the biggest sellers are the cinnamon roasted almonds, because almonds are the healthiest nuts, though all of his nuts are free of artificial ingredients. He even uses pure vanilla on the cinnamon roasted variety. His penchant for all natural ingredients could be a tribute to the way his father roasted nuts, or it could be Frazer’s way of balancing his cooking conscience.

“This is the only place I cook,” he said. “I can’t even boil water at home.”

Peperonata Pasta

When Adrian Fochi opened Peperonata Pasta in 2002, he focused on bringing fresh, quality pasta to consumers. And nine years later, fresh pasta is the only product he sells to restaurants.

Peperonata is a family business. Adrian and his wife, Marina, split up the pasta duties, with Marina making the pasta shapes and Adrian creating the flat pasta. They make raviolis and sauces together, from Marina’s grandmother’s recipes.

Adrian is convinced fresh pasta is way more delicious than dry pasta. He compares the experience of switching from dry pasta to fresh pasta to someone who has eaten beef jerky their entire life and then tried filet mignon.

“Just try it once and you’ll get it.”

Adrian and his family are always trying to put new combinations of pasta together to serve their customers, some of whom get their Peperonata fix through the farmer’s market (Maggie’s Seafood carries their pasta) and some who eat at Casariano’s in Venice or shop at Whole Foods Market in Sarasota. This year for Halloween, Peperonata made orange pasta from carrot juice and black pasta from squid.

It was scary how fast it sold.

Richard’s Candy Co.

Every time Richard Terpstra packs up his booth at the Venice Farmer’s Market, he heads to the Bee Ridge Cancer Center, to donate his earnings. One dollar of each piece of fudge Richard sells will go to cancer research, in memory of a brother he lost.

One day in 2009, Richard was craving fudge. He looked up a recipe online and perfected it, and Richard’s Candy Co. was born. Richard’s now offers 83 flavors, including vegan and sugar-free. Richard sells his fudge at the Venice, Phillipi and Englewood farmer’s markets. His most popular flavors at the Venice market are peanut butter and maple pecan. His fudge is also available at Top Crop Produce on Venice Island.

He also sells fudge at the Myakka Relay for Life. He says his brother’s death has made him more aware of and thankful for the relationships in his own life.

“It’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do with it,” he said.

Pickles Plus

Pickles Plus is family owned and operated serving the Venice community since 2005. They offer tasty old fashioned dill pickles, fresh olives, homemade preserves and local honey, at very reasonable prices. www.picklesplusonline.com.

Going to a farmer’s market is a lot like going to Epcot, except there are fewer lines and fewer screaming toddlers. You feel less of a compulsion to give in to the global consumerism epidemic and more of a need to shout, to everyone you see:

“Thank God for local food!”

Farmer’s markets are places for ambitious entrepreneurs, creative sorts who offer everything from gluten-free dog treats to squid-flavored pasta. In the Florida climate, the outdoor market provides a uniquely local way to shop, savor and enjoy.

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