Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dutch Country Farmers Market in Laurel

The Dutch Country Farmers Market has re-opened in Laurel, and it is still worth a drive by anyone interested in exploring food -- it's just a drive on Rte 198.

This market was a Burtonsville landmark for years, and, as I said about that location, you could go to Laurel just for the spectacle and the pretzels. Dutch Country is the size of a small supermarket with a dozen vendors selling everything from meat to candy, fresh-squeezed juice to ribs you can carry out. The new market has shopping carts and wide aisles. But it is still chaotic. It's still friendly. It's still a well-stocked middle ground in a world where so many stores specialize in organic or cheap.

Start your trip with a $2 hot pretzel from Lydianne's Soft Pretzels, which is right at the front door. They're literally right out of the oven, and you can't beat that kind of treat. Personally, I ask for a pretzel that hasn't been dipped in butter. They dip everything in quarts of melted butter. That's delicious, but I prefer a little more crisp and little less butter.

Then, take a walk. As far as I can tell, the vendors are all people from Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Obviously, this is a perfect place if you like Pennsylvania Dutch food. Think pasta and potato salads, sweet desserts like cheesecake, fudge and pies, and canned items like jams, pickled vegetables (brussel sprouts!) and pickled eggs. Don't expect a "Whole Foods" array of ethnic items. The meat counter has three different kinds of bologna, but doesn't sell pastrami. The prepared foods sells lots of fried chicken and ribs, but you're not going to get Asian-flavored grilled chicken breasts.

Sample your way around the Dutch Market to see what catches your eye. I have found great ingredients to cook and many little treats. The Laurel market has a machine that stamps rice cakes similar to the popped rice bowls at H Mart. They blow out of the machine every nine seconds, which would be a little show if you shop with kids. Usually, I'm in the midst of errands, and the full selection of vegetables -- clearly not grown in Pennsylvania -- always makes me wonder whether they're really "farmers market" special or just nice-looking stuff from a wholesale market. But you should definitely check out the central stall with bulk candies, spices, and baking items. (This weekend, I saw the wafers/cookies that you use to make ice cream sandwiches. You could make your own with your favorite ice cream.) You should also check out the restaurant, which had lines out the door from 8:30 past 9 am.

You should also read the comments. The first reports from other people are here, and TVMom posted photos on A Million Things I Love. I hope that other people will comment on this post about why they drive to the Dutch Country Market. These are my current favorites:

  • The hot pretzels, including the breakfast "bacon, egg, and cheese" pretzel log. (I'm not kidding.)
  • The fresh-squeeze orange juice and lemonade at a stand that is in the center across from the BBQ and meat stands. Juice can run $7.89 and $3.59 for a half-gallon respectively, but it's delicious. You can buy smaller bottles as well ($4.29 and $1.99).
  • The dairy products -- including Trickling Springs Creamery regular or organic milk in glass bottles -- in a dairy section across the aisle from the juice stand. It is right next to a machine that makes rice cakes.
  • The Beiler's Meats counter with a broad selection of steaks, veal, pork, interesting sausages, organic meats, and butcher-store specialties like ham hocks, cow feet, and goat meat. Beiler's sells three levels of meat -- USDA grain fed, a "natural grain fed" free of steroids, hormones and antibiotics, and a certified organic. One tip: Grab a number from the middle of the long counter. If you just stand around, they won't help you.
  • Bacon. Six slices of thick-cut bacon beat a pound of plastic-wrapped stuff at the grocery store. Beiler's sells pepper, smoked or regular bacon.
  • The baked goods, including all kinds of dinner rolls, sweet breads, cakes and even loaves from the Breadery in Ellicott City. But read the ingredients. This is a business, not just home baking. Some of the items are packed full of of potassium sorbate, polysorbate 60, and other not-so-country ingredients.

If you are looking for butchers, check out my post about meat markets in Howard County. If you're driving to shop in Laurel, consider checking out Panam Supermarket for Latin groceries, Eastern Bazar for Indian, or Aladdin Market for Middle Eastern.

Dutch Country Farmers Market
9701 Fort Meade Road (Rte 198)
Laurel, MD 20707

NEAR: The market is on Rte 198 just east of U.S. 1. It is very convenient from downtown Laurel or I-95. Watch for the Home Depot and then turn right at the next light. There is a Jerry's Subs in the center -- along with a Filipino market.


Sandy McDonald said...

OK, I have my doubts about the produce, especially when I see the fruit and produce refrigerated truck from the wholesale market in Jessup leaving as I am pulling in. And then I go to the produce stand inside and the peaches are ice cold. I get to the deli stand early and they are scooping the contents of a plastic tub with advertising on it from a company in PA into the containers that go into the display case. This next part is a customer service rant, but what isn't today. I have bought from the deli stand for years. At one time, they took personal checks, but never debit cards or credit cards. Now they no longer take checks either. And they have a sign that says "small bills and change appreciated". Last weekend, I purchased $7.79 worth of salads and gave the lady a $10 bill. She wanted to know if I had exact change. Now, if all you accept is coins and bills, and you have been running this business for years, isn't it up to the owner/operator to go to the bank during the week and stock up on bills and rolls of change?

Sheri said...

After months and months of build-up, I was very excited about this grocery coming to Laurel; we live only a mile or so away (in Russett) and frequently shop in the party store, Philippine grocery, and dance shop co-located in the same strip mall complex.

But, WOW am I ever disappointed!! Opening day was a nightmare: lines of cars backed up onto Hwy 198 and police directing traffic.. well okay, thinks I: we'll just come back another day when they're not so busy.

HAH. What a farce. They're either not open (Sundays/evenings) or the parking lot is such a zoo, with people directing traffic and near misses and overflow into Home Depot (which doubtless makes them unhappy) that it's not worth the effort. I honestly thought they had been shut down after 4 times of passing by - twice in the middle of the day - only to find them closed.

Thankfully, we can still shop at the other stores in the complex after 5pm and on Sundays.

After reading this review, coupled with the 7 - SEVEN!! - times I've fruitlessly tried to visit the store itself, I'm rather glad we've never been able to get inside. We'll continue to take our business at Super Grande (where the produce and fish are amazing) and Weiss.

HowChow said...

@Sheri -- The Laurel market is only open Thursday to Saturday. Don't let me argue you away from the Super Grand, but you might give the Dutch Country Farmers Market a try. There are some cool items. (If I understand right, these folks open a few days a week because they either commute from Pennsylvania or have apartments down here and live away from home a few days a week.)

What do you get at that Philippine grocery? I saw it, but I was at the market so early on a Saturday morning that the grocery wasn't opened yet.

Sheri said...

Re: the Philippine grocery - we get noodles and lumpia, mostly. The selection is limited - it's a very small store. We've only been in there once since Super Grande opened, I admit.

HowChow said...

Thanks. I want to try the lumpia. BTW, I had saved that Asian Aisle tip that you gave me months ago. I'm using it in Monday's post about a Japanese soda. Thanks again.

Steve said...

Wow, what a difference in prices from their old location! Up at least 30% across the board on produce and meat. Less customers buying food, many more eating at the restaurant, so much so that they have added extra seating since they originally opened at this location.
Watch out for "weights and measures" with the produce people....something of a slight of hand. Asparagus are sold by the bunch at $4.99. One bunch weighed 11 oz., the other just shy of 9 oz. Doesn't that equate to about $9 plus a lb.? Snap peas sold by the container. Local (?) strawberries sold by the qt. Mine weighed 23 oz. with carton and paper bag. I was there when a lady bought her berries back. The manager was snippy and explained that it was dry weight, and so it was. But way too confusing.......qt., bunch, pack, pound. I forgot something that I needed and had to go back. This was the Thursday before Memorial Day and I was dreading the return trip. I had number 58 on my first trip, and only waited through four numbers for mine to be called, and when I returned 1 1/2 hours later, the number was 76 and there were a handful of customers at the produce stand. Maybe they waited on some without taking a number, but still....the meat stand also had 5 customers. There was a line out the door for the restaurant. Yeah, they have some nice things, but keep your eye on the actual amount that you are buying or from now on, ask that they weigh something tagged a "bunch" on the scale. I sure will. Happy Memorial Day!

Frusacy said...

I have to agree with Sandy above. I stopped buying at the produce stand when I witnessed their "repackaging" and an altercation between the manager and a customer who in my mind had a rightful claim. I also stopped buying at the meat counter after my dad (a French butcher) told me that their meat was not better than what Safeway and giant offered... And yet I still go occasionally ... For the butter!! The best butter around in my opinion...