by Jim Ridley
You call these weekly assemblies of home-baked goods, food stands and organic produce "farmers' markets." I call them "food courts." Two weeks ago I made it through the Saturday morning West Nashville Farmers Market in Richland Park with the best barbecue sandwich I've had in Nashville (more on that later), a big cup of basil lemonade from Primm Springs, a crisp, gooey empanada from Karla Ruiz (and damn the scoundrel who absconded with her entire supply of tamales!) and a grilled rice cake basted with tamari from Naoko's Delights.
But the best farmers' market find I've found recently along these lines — and perhaps the most counter-intuitive, no pun intended — is at the Saturday morning Woodbine Farmers Market in Coleman Park. This budding market already has one of my favorite items, available nowhere else I've seen: Ben Smythe's Banjamin's Ghost Pepper Elixer & Seasoning, a variety of zippy spice powders, rubs and condiments with the dusky atomic bang of the infamous Bhut jolokia throughout. I put it on eggs; I put it on buttered bread; I snort it off the table in lines.
And now I can put it on biscuits and gravy as I walk around the Woodbine market, thanks to Jon Heidelberg and his Jonbalaya Catering. An affiliate of Riffs Food Truck — where Chef Carlos was dispensing amazing blackened fish tacos and Thai beef salad over noodles last week across the shady field — Jonbalaya has the breakfast I've been craving on early-morning trips to the farmers market: buttery biscuits with perfect discs of poached egg and mild country sausage, available with a rich sausage gravy that shames Cracker Barrel. That's $4; the biscuit, egg and sausage alone are $2.50. Great stuff.
Jonbalaya and Riffs have a lot of mutual joshing going on. When I bought a peach iced tea from Jonbalaya, Jon directed me across the lot to tell the guys manning Riffs his tea put theirs to shame. I did so, expecting a plateful of Thai beef salad in the face. (Which wouldn't be a bad thing.) Chef Carlos grinned and shook his fist in mock indignation. The smart guy would go early enough to have Jonbalaya's biscuits and gravy — washed down with either a Primm Springs lemonade or a chocolate milk from the Dairy-Air Airstream trailer — spend an hour or so hanging out and striking up conversations, then hit the Riffs truck on the way out.