Helena Market Days ends another successful season

From left are Charlie Holliday, a market regular, who was ready and willing to enjoy a chocolate Frio's Gourmet Pop, with Michael Weidenbach. (contributed)

From left are Charlie Holliday, a market regular, who was ready and willing to enjoy a chocolate Frio’s Gourmet Pop, with Michael Weidenbach. (contributed)

By LAURA BROOKHART / Community Columnist

Our long-time faithful volunteer and procurer/scheduler of chef demos, Mary Perko, made it possible for us to enjoy a double-header summer farewell with Chef Chris Vizinna, “Good Heat Chef,” from Campus Dining Inc., headquartered at Samford, and Chef Benard Tamburello from Bernie’s On Main Street and La Dolce Vita.

Tamburello and Vizzina spoke of their mutual Sicilian heritage, remarking that Northern Italy and Southern Italy/Sicily do not claim to be of the same country, rather southern Italians are an independent folk who live on the land, are proud of what they do and “cook from their hearts.” Sicilian cuisine has Spanish, Greek and Arabic influences.

Chef Vizzina brought samples of his homemade sausage for all to try while Chef Tamburello served chicken marinated overnight in Creamy Italian from his line of dressings available now at his restaurants.

Both chefs believe it’s essential to start off with good produce, preferably local.

“A highlight to come from this market year,” noted Mary Perko, “is newly established relationships between our farmers and our chefs, who are now doing business directly with one another. It is an accomplishment that we have farmers whose produce can satisfy the top chefs in this area.”

The last few Saturdays have also introduced new vendor, Frio’s Gourmet Pops, with Michael and Lori Weidenbach of Alabaster. Some of our market volunteers — I will not name names — taste-tested as many as four ‘locally grown’ pops per market. Yummy flavors include pink lemonade, lemon buttermilk, key lime pie, coffee and my favorite, cajeta (caramel).

Our best-attended Saturday was Aug. 3 at the Best Butt in Helena Cookoff. More than 800 folks attended. The People’s Choice Awards chose Boom Shak-Alaka as the winner; the official judges selected D’s Butt. The Workman Group was runner up. This year’s event raised $1,190.86 for Friends of Helena Schools.

We thank all our farmers, our vendors, our market customer regulars, (even our irregulars), our musical performers, and our volunteer crew who show up week-after-week at dawn and sweat through take-down at noon to make this growing market more successful each year.

We all have a great time and I want to encourage locals to consider volunteering for the 2014 season. Many community hands make light work! See the facebook page for schedules, updates and weekly photo posts.