On the second day of high temperatures in Bethel, chocolate melted, pizza and steak chefs stood by 700 degree ovens, and farm vendors struggled to keep veggies from wilting. Nonetheless, spirits were high at the opening of the Bethel "Municipal Farmer's Market 2012" on Thursday, June 21.
"I'm afraid all my stuff is melting, look at this," said owner Lillie Petrie of "Lady Lily Fantasy Chocolates" as she pointed to a melted wedding chocolate on her table. "It was a good luck portrait for a wedding. Better not buy this one, bad luck." Petrie had a variety of chocolates for sale and said, "My signature is marzipan. It has no sugar, it has honey. It is one-of-a-kind, you have to taste mine."
Robin Grubard displayed baked goods from her company "Daily Fare." She said she also sells bakery and lunch items at the Bethel train station and the specialty is sandwiches and scones. She also gives cooking classes.
The selection of items at the market this year was diversified and vendors came from many parts of Connecticut to participate in the opening day.
With the hot weather, the Italian Ices booth may have been the most popular booth of the day, as Daniel Tucciarone served the ice cold treats. "The recipe is a family secret," said Tucciarone, about the colorful selection of ices.
His parents Liala and George Rodinas own the company called "Ma and Pa's Traveling Kitchen." Tucciarone said, "My dad taught me how to make the Italian ice, and he cuts deals with me. I get to keep a percentage."
The ingredients of the "secret recipes" were also not revealed from two other vendors, either.
Bruce Lyon, owner of "Victoria's Wood Fired Pizza" had a wood and stone oven built into a truck trailer. "It's the same one as the famous chef Wolfgang Puck of Los Angeles has," he said. "The temperature reaches 700 degrees."
Lyon also described how his oven makes the Neapolitan dough rise perfectly. "You can't get that without towing a thermal mass behind you," Lyon said.
Billy Craig of "Billy's Southern Style Barbecue" stood next to the hot rotisserie oven cooking beef brisket and other meats. He picked up the thick slab with garden forks. He said, "These forks work best for lifting the heavy cuts of meat."
Craig grew up in Georgia and said he preferred not to mention his secret recipe for the delicious cooked beef. "Not so fast!" he said with a smile.
Craig said that slow cooking was the key. "We make our own dry ribs. We use all natural ingredients in our barbecue sauce. We use wood for cooking. I am partial to fruit woods." He said he gets the beef brisket from Omaha Beef in Danbury.
This year's market also had a variety of hand-crafted items. Diana Gooljar, 32 year resident of Bethel, along with partner Diane Kopta, who has lived in Bethel for 10 years, are the owners of "D2 Beading."
Their display of hand crafted beaded jewelry were priced at $20 for a necklace and $5 for earrings.
"Scent Sational Scrubs" owner Ginny Doyle of New Fairfield, had soaps and sugar or salt scrubs for sale that included "Don't Bug Me!" soap (a mosquito deterrent), cranberry fig rainbow soap, and a soap for dogs in a bone shape.
Bethel resident Shani Specht, owner of "Send a Smile," sold creative hand made greeting cards that she made herself, some that were three-dimensional, for one dollar each. She said, "We feature a card of the week and it will be different each week."
"Rosaly's Garden" had large bird house gourds hanging from an open umbrella. Owner Rosaly Donofrio said, "I grew them on Fleetwood Avenue in Bethel in my garden." She also had wine cork wall art, a sample of the numerous creative crafts for sale.
Farmers had a great assortment of crops piled high, displayed in baskets and pleasing to the eye as well as taste buds.
Ken and Dana Assard, owners of Percy Thomson Meadows in Bethelehem, a five generation family business, had "farm-fresh, free range, eggs" for sale, among many other items. "We have hundreds of Rhode Island Reds. We never lock them in at night. We do a rotational pasture so they are always eating grasses and bugs, so the yoke is orange and more firm. Higher in Omega threes and lower in cholesterol," said Dana Assard.
"Holbrook Farm Market" owner John Holbrook already had sold out of his most unusual item called a "bagel tomato" which has a hole in the center. He also had strawberries, lettuce, tomatoes, and much more. Apprentice Jess Wong held up a huge head of fresh lettuce from a box holding many more.
Most farmers commented on the unusual growing season this year. Holbrook said, "The season was totally abnormal because of the early warm weather. It presents different challenges. More intense bug infestations, different bugs come earlier, and crops are maturing differently than in the past. Winter crops were done in four weeks, before some of the Spring crops. We bought stuff from other farms to fill in. We should still be picking."
"Stones Throw Farm" of Bethel had large carrots and rhubarb and other items. "We plant seeds in the fall and then put hoops with plastic over them. This makes them bigger and ready earlier," said owner Gwyneth Finch, who said she has been farming for 12 years.
Billy Michael performed on guitar and sang "Summertime" by the Kinks, among others. Visiting singer and 2010 Bethel High School graduate Shawn Silva sang a duet with Michael, as they entertained the crowd from the Municipal lawn gazebo.
The Bethel "Municipal Center Farmers Market" is open from 3pm to 7pm every Thursday from June 21 to September 6, 2012.