We woke up to a windless morning along with bluebird skies, and it was absolutely perfect especially after that windy night. Our little Chili Pepper was a dream, she kept us warm and cozy all night. One of my favorite parts of a camping trip is waking up by feeling the early morning sunshine in on us. The ground is dewy under our toes, and the air is crisp. There is nothing like getting the stove going, brewing a pot of coffee, and taking it all in. Over our early morning coffee and cornmeal griddle cakes we kept coming back to a great salad we had for dinner, Campfire Roasted Beet Salad, it was so easy to make on the road and was really flavorful. This salad happened after discovering a great little farmer’s market during our road trip.
After filling up on many cups of coffee, corn griddle cakes with blueberries, and the fresh ocean breeze, we hitched up the Chili Pepper and headed north. Our plan was to find a farmers market as well as a new camping spot. Our final destination was somewhere around Mendocino, no real plan, just somewhere. We drove through gorgeous countrysides that were dotted with small farms, gently rolling hills and peeks at the blue ocean. It was perfect except for one thing; the farmers market search was grim, again.
After driving a couple hours, we turned a bend, and there was a blessing in front of us. A big sign stating that today was the Albion Community Market. We had an hour to kill before the market opened, so we continued north in search of a campground to call home. Just north of Mendocino, we lucked out and found the Russian River Gulch. They had a couple campgrounds left, and we could have our pick. We picked number 19 as it was intimate and surrounded by thimble bushes that were nearly ready to burst with summer berries. We felt lucky. We loved campsite number 19 and Chili Pepper fit in perfectly. Off to hit the farmers market in search of dinner.
Albion is a small community of about 200 people, just south of Mendocino. They say an English sea captain by the name of William Richardson, built his home and sawmill in this spot, and named it after his homeland, back in the 1840s. The area became a logging community after the Southern Pacific Railroad starting coming through in the early 1900s. Today, Albion is a sleepy little village, with a great sense of pride.
The Albion Community Market is a renegade market but the sense of community is very relevant. As soon as we walked up, we could tell that everyone knew everyone and that this Sunday afternoon was the day for the local folks to catch up while getting some shopping done. Smiles were all around us. Children were running and playing in the grass. It felt like being home, the way one would hope for a community market to feel.
We fell in love with LR Farm, Rosa had ruby red beets and summertime squash that were screaming at us to bring them home. As we worked our way to pay we noticed newly picked heads of creamy butter lettuce as well as crisp cucumbers. They soon became a welcome addition to our market bag. On our way out, Snag End Farm “snagged us” as Tim had baskets of baby-sized potatoes that were too cute to pass up. We knew they would be perfect with our morning eggs and sausage on a stick. yes, we filled up another huge bag full of these gems, before heading back to camp.
Once back at camp, the temperature was dropping, and dusk was beginning to break. We popped open a bottle of red wine, Lenny started a roaring campfire, and I began preparing dinner.
I decided to roast the beets in the hot embers of smoky wood. Once they were tender, I thinly sliced them and then drizzled a small amount of olive oil over the top. I finished the salad with a sprinkle of feta, some fresh mint, and a splash of cassis vinegar. The smoky beet salad was the perfect companion to a grilled steak and the delicious Spanish wine we were drinking. (recipe below)
If you are traveling in the Mendocino County area and would like to explore the area’s farmers markets, here is a list, that may be helpful:
- Mendocino, May 6 – October 28, 12:00pm – 2:00pm
- Gualala, May 21 – November 5, 9:30am – 12:30pm
- Ukiah, May 7 – October 29, 8:30am – 12:00pm / November – April, 9:30am – 12:00pm
- Boonville, May 7 – October 29, 9:30am – 12:00pm
- Redwood Valley, June 12 – October 9, 9:30 am – 12:30 pm
- Albion, 2:00pm – 4:00pm (cannot find a website)
- Laytonville, June 13 – October, 2:30pm – 5:30pm
- Ukiah, June 7 – October 25, 4:00pm – 7:00pm
- Fort Bragg, May 4 – October 26, 3:00pm – 6:00pm
- Willits, Year Round, 3:00pm – 6:00pm
Recipe: Campfire Roasted Beet Salad
3 medium beets, peeled
cassis vinegar, balsamic works as well
1/4 cup feta crumbles
mint, handful, minced
Lay beets on a large piece of foil, drizzle with some olive oil and sprinkle a little water on them. Wrap the foil tightly.
Once the fire of your grill has reached about 400, the embers will be a bright orange color, let them die down a bit until rather ashy.
Lay the foil packet near the ashy ambers but slightly off to the side.
You will hear the olive and water sizzling; this is okay. It will take about 30 – 40 minutes until they are fork tender.
You will need to move the packet around every so often, to redistribute the heat.
We did have to move them to the grill top, as the fire got too hot.
Once the beets are fork tender, remove from the heat, and set aside for about 5 minutes.
Slice thinly. Lay on a serving plate.
Drizzle with a little olive oil, and a splash of the vinegar.
Sprinkle the feta and mint over the top.
Season with salt and pepper, to taste.