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Lancaster Central Market

August 14, 2011

Sunflowers at Central Market

“I grew up in an all female household,” Vasso told me.

“My mother worked to support the family, and my grandmother raised me. She taught me everything about the cooking she grew up with in Greece.”

“I started this little business as a part time venture, something for fun to do on the side. But I’m working 7 days a week, baking or selling. It’s a true labor of love.”

I can taste that love. Vasso is the sole proprietor of Yasou, selling authentic Greek pastries in a tiny stall at the Central Market in  Lancaster, PA.

The most enjoyable food you can put in your mouth is made with fresh, local ingredients, and in small quantities by people who put their heart and soul into what they do.  And with the discovery of Vasso and others here in Lancaster, I think I have found the epicenter of the locavore movement here in the United States.

Two hours from Washington, DC is the country’s oldest continuously running farmer’s market, the Lancaster Central Market in operation since 1730.   The market is open Tuesdays and Fridays from 6am-4pm and Saturdays from 6am until 2pm.  The current market is operated in a beautiful Romanesque Revival building built in 1889.

You will find a wide variety of small shops selling everything from flowers and organic produce to European pastries, hand made candies, grass fed free range chickens, creamy milk and unpasteurized cheeses. The owners include people of Greek, German, Italian, Amish, Thai, African and Middle Eastern descent, and the market stalls overflow with their diverse flavors and languages.

Greek pastries by Yasou

My favorites include Yasou, the Greek pastry stall. Vasso makes all the pastries daily, and there is no web site, no ability to ship or pre-order. You simply have to go and sample her cookies and Greek pastries – they are the most delicate morsels you will ever eat.  Her  Finkia and the Almond Kourambiedes cookies (Pauline used to make these) dissolve in a buttery sweetness when they touch your tongue.

Cookies are about $1.7o each, and a box of pastries ranges from $18 to $36.

Linden Dale Farm cheese artisan doles out samples and describes the cheese making process

For cheese I head to the Linden Dale Farm stall at the front of the market.  On this morning I was late to try the popular mozzarella cheese curds, tiny crumbly balls with a fresher, tangier taste than more mature mozzarella balls.

Instead I indulged in a small disk of Laughing Lindy goat cheese, with a soft puckered rind and a smooth, bold taste of cheese in the middle. Each disk is made by hand, is aged three weeks and varies in size and price.

Laughing Lindy

Laughing Lindy reminds me of a favorite Cabecou cheese that I buy at the farmer’s markets in Southwest France.  Another excellent choice is Tome, a wedge of unpasteurized goat cheese aged 9 months. It’s dry like parmesan, and has a strong,  nutty taste.  Prices for cheese ranged from $2.50 to $5.50.

I sampled wonderful hand made pretzels, Greek chickpea patties, took home a pack of thinly rolled frozen spanikopita for $10, a dozen eggs from free range chickens for $2.50 and a grass fed, free range chicken for $3.59 a lb.

If you enjoy high quality food at a reasonable price, spend a weekend in Lancaster. Leave early on Saturday morning in order to get to Central Market as early as possible. Spend the afternoon strolling through the many artistic shops in town, and the night across the street from the market at the Marriott Hotel, and have dinner at the Pressroom, in the old Steinman hardware store. Sundays, I’ll warn you, most businesses are closed, but there is still plenty to see with Amish farms nearby and many historical sites.

For more pictures of Central Market, click here.

Market Street Produce in Central Market

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Stan permalink
    August 15, 2011 4:59 pm

    Better to read this and look at those photographs AFTER one has already eaten !!!
    It sounds an amazing place, how does it compare to the St.Lawrence market in Toronto ? How would you rate it?

    • August 17, 2011 5:39 pm

      Hi Stan, what I loved about Central Market was that 1) it went back centuries, 2) the Amish influence, and 3) how wholesome and “small” it felt – no industrial sized mixers or other appliances. Everything is made fresh from the local area organic farms. Grass fed cows, unpasteurized cheese, everything is super fresh and tasty. Several Amish farmers were there and you could hear many people speaking German, Italian etc.

      I love the St Lawrence Market, but it’s bigger, busier and more commercialized now. I used to go there daily in the 80’s for lunch and have back bacon on a bun. I still love that there.

      • Stan permalink
        August 18, 2011 10:16 am

        Hi Tonya, Central Market sounds very different. I agree re St. Lawrence and it has become very trendy for urbanites.
        I wonder if there is similar in the Kitchener-Waterloo Amish area. I must check out St. Jacobs/Elmira area.

      • August 18, 2011 7:37 pm

        Great idea. Will is headed there this fall for UW – so we will be visiting too!

  2. Joyce permalink
    September 2, 2011 8:57 pm

    I love your post. I live in Lancaster County and Central Market is a gem. I don’t visit it enough and you have reminded me why I should go more often! Just a note, the Amish are not wearing “costumes”. These are their eveyday clothing.

    • September 3, 2011 7:59 am

      Hi Joyce, you are absolutely right and I will change that. Thank you for reading the post, and for taking the time to write. Tonya

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