Ybor City, home to Cuban cigar factories, hipster hookah bars and the largest continually operated outdoor market in the Tampa Bay area. Open every Saturday, rain or shine, it showcases local gourmet foods, artists and products that are uniquely Tampa.
This morning, even with the less then stellar weather, there was a nice turnout from the vendors. After strolling around the market for over 2 hours, I had picked out the best food stands. The cheesecake, cheese and flaming fruit sauce people had captured my attention.
Le Anns Cheesecake N More was right up front offering delicious chocolate chip cookies and homemade cheesecake that was to die for. LeAnn and her husband Joe let me know that the cheesecake recipe was brought over from the old country and been in the family for over 100 years. They set my expectations for the other baked good vendors high enough that no one could top my experience with them today. Both talented and personable, they were truly the highlight of my day.
The next stand that I stumbled upon was Jessi’s Flaming Fruit Sauce. Jessi created the perfect blend of sweet and heat. Her Apricot Sauce really showed that she was definitely a step in front of the others in attendance today. She takes great pride in what she does as evident in listening to her explain the different sauces she had with her. Having a few gift baskets made up made it easier for the early Christmas shoppers in attendance today.
Seeing The Cheese Lodge today brought back pleasant memories of the small German village markets I used to frequent while living abroad. Located in the New Port Richey area and in business since 1982, they brought a nice selection of both domestic and foreign cheeses and salami. The owner of The Cheese Lodge is a seasoned professional that attend most of the local markets. She had wonderful stories about the trips she took to procure the cheese before aging it 7 years to perfection.
All in all, it was a great outing. It was nice being able to have the interaction with the local merchants that you can only find at your local farmers market.