FOODIE FEATURE: Your farm to shelf grocer

By on March 25, 2015
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From local meats and brews to sustainably caught fish, Aspens Market is placing major focus on selling quality market fare. (Photo: Sargent Schutt)

 

Aspens Market champions local fare with market dinners, farmer’s markets

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – The word “market” conjures up romantic images of outdoor areas in far-flung places, where local farmers and artisans gather to sell their goods. In many ways, The Aspens Market is one of these outdoor marketplaces reincarnate. Even the building that houses the Aspens, with its low ceiling and timber beams, lends itself to a neighborhood grocer rather than a sterile, fluorescent supermarket.

Sourcing choice, local food whenever possible, the market’s staff understand that these items come at a price.

“It’s a constant struggle to find quality, local ingredients in Wyoming,” said Andrew Smith, a.k.a. Smitty, head chef of the deli and butcher shop. “But it’s something we care deeply about and we understand the effort that it requires.”

Smitty regularly attends Slow Foods meetings to learn about new farms in the area and keep his finger on Jackson Hole’s food pulse.

While sourcing sustainable food from local farms is popular practice in agriculturally rich communities in California and Vermont, in Jackson Hole we’re at a disadvantage thanks to a short growing season, high elevation, and population density. Nonetheless a tight-knit community of farmers and chefs dedicated to the cause continues to emerge in Teton County.

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(Photo: Sargent Schutt)

Smitty bridges the gap between a deli and a restaurant by cooking hot food to order and serving draft beer in the deli for customers who are shopping or people who want to sit down for a bite. Every Friday night, Smitty serves up a fresh menu featuring local fare in the market’s small, 10-seat dining area. The Market Dinners, as they’ve been dubbed, are Smitty’s chance to do what he loves and cook for people. Among previous menu items are head cheese sliders, choripan (Argentinian sausage), Spanish tortilla, and steak frites. At $17, the steak is the most expensive item to appear on the Market Dinner menu, making the dinners a more affordable alternative to traditional area eateries.

Unlike chefs at most restaurants, Smitty has the unique opportunity to create a new menu each week, selecting cuts of meat from the butcher shop that may not have been hot ticket items in the grocer that week. This affords him the opportunity to be creative and showcase what delicious dishes some of the less popular cuts of meat can become. “I’m working on having recipe cards available at the deli for some of these cuts of meat that are hard to sell,” Smitty said. “Since we bring in whole animals to butcher here, there are inevitably some trickier cuts to cook, but I strongly believe that there is value to every part of the animal.” Smitty also noted that this summer he will use the leftover bones in his open-fire BBQ grill for charcoal.

(Photo credit: Sargent Schutt)

(Photo: Sargent Schutt)

In maintaining their core value of providing sustainable, local food for the community, the Aspens Market hosts its own farmer’s market weekly in the summer. The market included only a few stands this past summer in the grocer’s small parking lot; however, it aims to expand its lineup of vendors and move the market to its backyard, situated next to a small creek. Offerings will include a local beer tent, live music, and hot food coming from the grill – that’s where you’ll find Smitty, laboring over a savory lot of locally sourced meats.

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