Foodie Events / Restaurants

New Outdoor Market in EaDo Brings Farmers, Sports and Music Together: This Isn’t Just Another Farmers Market

BY // 01.10.18

A sports bar is bringing a breath of fresh air — and fresh produce — to East Downtown.

Add this to the top of your To-Do in EaDo checklist: check out the Blue Field Outdoor Market, now happening every Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm, at 2619 Polk.

Sports Creek isn’t your average sports bar, and it isn’t putting on the average farmers market. It truly brings the “sports” to the sports bar equation. Not with roaring flat screens, but with three sand volleyball courts and a blue-turf soccer field that can accommodate games of seven on seven and nine on nine.

Partners Daniel Escobar, Roberto Contreras and Sean Jaehne held the grand opening for the outdoor market last weekend.

For a farmers market, outdoor is a given, but out-of-the-box isn’t. It’s easy to visualize overflowing bins of lettuce, carrots, kale. But what about a field for free yoga, all the mimosas you can drink for $15, and live music?

Initially, the fresh idea for the space was a farmers market meets food truck setup. Jaehne — who has extensive connections on the food truck scene and has visited multiple farmers markets — approached Escobar about adding some vendors to Sports Creek’s schedule.

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“Sean saw this open space and said, ‘You’ve got all these morning and day hours before you open at 6. Make use of that time, especially on the weekends,’ ” Escobar tells PaperCity.

Escobar and Contreras reached out to chef Monica Pope of Beaver’s and T’afia to get her expert advice “on the produce side” and got together with “other individuals with some sort of influence in the realm,” like Faith Cisneros of Local Market and Anton Sinkewitch, executive director of EaDo Management District.

Little by little, the vision expanded to include “craftsmanship, vintage, entrepreneurship, and food,” Escobar says. “What started out as a farmers market became an open market.”

Eventually, Escobar wants the market “to become a microcosm of all the great things Houston has to offer.”

Contreras feels the same way. “We’re most excited about giving people an experience — this is something that isn’t happening in Houston yet,” he says.

Some might argue that Discovery Green occupies the same space. Jaehne would disagree. With Blue Field’s support of local businesses, it shoots to “tie Houstonians together culturally,” he says.

According to Jaehne, there’s nothing in place like that yet. “It’s meant to tie the city together. Downtown isn’t able to do that,” not even Discovery Green. In his view, big businesses come into the park and make the experiences generic.

Blue Field, supporting and featuring local Texas craftsmen, farmers, and more, won’t follow in Discovery Green’s large footsteps. Instead, it’s:

Step 1: Throw a grand opening.

Step 2: Nail down vendors and streamline the process.

Step 3: Become “the cultural heart of Houston.”

At that heart lies visual artwork, handcrafted jewelry, homemade jams, vegan desserts, organic produce, and more, judging by the 50 vendors who attended the opening on Sunday.

“There was a time we would have been happy with 35 and using just half of the field,” Jaehne says. With the 15 extra vendors, the perimeter of the entire field was filled.

He’s happy with the numbers. For now at Blue Field Outdoor Market, vendors set up shop on Sundays for free. Once the partners are able to gauge interest, they will begin charging vendors for participating in the market.

A Market Economy

PaperCity chatted with five vendors at Blue Field Outdoor Market to get a feel for the market’s vibe and offerings.

First, the anticipated: classic, fresh farm produce and pickled vegetables. Next, the surprising: specialty booze-filled bundt cakes. A little less vegan, a little more Vegas.

Amy Williams was tickled pink to have the opportunity to showcase Underhill Urban Farm Co.’s pickled veggies, home decor, and homemade jams and sauces sold by the quart, pint, or half pint.

Before it officially came together last summer, Underhill was a group of individual family members and friends growing produce in their own backyards and farms. Now, they’ve teamed up with an emphasis on fresh, organic, non-GMO, and free-range products.

The goal is to pack as much flavor into their goodies as possible.

“It’s cool to go pick fruits and turn them into jellies the same day,” Williams tells PaperCity. Ruby Red Grapefruit Jalapeno Jelly is among their most popular handcrafted creations.

For the less adventurous, there are tried-and-true “Just Pickles” that come sliced, speared, or sandwich cut.

BFOM-Gundermann acres
The Gundermanns lost some produce in the freeze, but they still had plenty at the outdoor market.

Joan Gundermann, of Wharton County’s Gundermann Acres, has been farming “in one degree or another” for decades, she says.

 The 500-acre farm has been in the family for five generations. Not too long ago, one of her sons approached her about taking the reins. “I said go ahead,” she laughs.

They grow seasonal organic and sustainable fruits and vegetables, and they lost some to the recent freeze. Still, they boasted a healthy crop of strawberries, potatoes, onions, cauliflower, and more.

Bundt Cake-A-Holic announced its target demographic proudly. Husband-and-wife team, Vidal Jackson and Patty Morgan-Jackson, offered round cakes infused with liquor ranging from budget-friendly to top-shelf and VIP from its table display.

The cakes come in a variety of sweet and decadent flavors, a stark contrast to the many health-conscious options at surrounding tents. Those of you familiar with rum cake won’t be too surprised to hear they’ve got their own Bacardi bundt —only they use 151.

Other infusions? Hennessy, Crown Royal, Jack Daniel’s, and more. Have your cake and drink it, too.

The couple discovered they had the opportunity to sell more than just desserts and put their spin on the cakes after one of Patty’s work events. Patty is a former Marine and disabled veteran who worked at an oil company. For one occasion, Vidal whipped up a batch of the tipsy treats.

To say they were popular would be an understatement — it was popular enough for them to consider going into business. “I said, let’s do the damn thing!” Vidal says.

Siblings Gem and Paul Mendez have dedicated a business to creating all-natural, handmade, vegan, and social media-worthy soap. The cult classic Fight Club movie struck them back in their teens. The sudsy salesman made a lasting impact.

After trying their hand in performing in a punk band, doing graphic design, and writing and directing short films, their thoughts drifted back to Durden, Gem Mendez says. What can they say? They couldn’t fight it.

Three years later, they set up a display at the outdoor market. Pop culture serves as their inspiration.Their blood orange, Fight Club-stamped “Jack’s Soap” twins the iconic movie cover. The jet-black “Death Star” is activated charcoal, lemon, and Epsom salts.

Jolly Rogers Sweets may sport the token skull-and-crossbones flag, but they’d rather feed you than make you walk the plank. Their specialty? All-natural, organic, vegan cookie dough. No eggs, no dairy. So long, Salmonella scares.

Owner Joshua Luttrell had always enjoyed ice cream parlors, but ice cream just wasn’t his thing. He started up Jolly Rogers Sweets’ “cookie dough by the scoop” for like-minded snackers. The dough, made with vegan flour and butter, comes in chocolate chip, blue berry lemon, and confetti cookie.

All flavors are good up to a year. There’s just no guarantee you won’t wolf it down all at once.

The Market Scene

By about 11 am on the opening Sunday, around 100 visitors had come to check out the market, with several dozen striking a yoga pose. Others shopped at tents, fueled up at food trucks, and played pickup games of volleyball. Entrance to the outdoor market is free for now.

Several people watched Texas singer-songwriter Britney Doyal’s acoustic performance while sipping $15 bottomless mimosas. The partners make the most of their vendors, mixing fresh citrus with the bubbly.

In the future, as the partners book bigger names for live musical performances, they may charge a ticket cost of $10 or $15. Contreras has reached out to a lot of bands in Austin and Dallas interested in making an appearance. Folksy, blue grass bands are on the docket.

Contreras has already contacted Julia Cole, who sang the National Anthem at the Texans-Steelers game this past Christmas. The summer might well bring a big country personality.

Organization has been the toughest part, but the partners are ready for the challenge. Setting up Sports Creek taught them how to tackle a passion project from the ground-up.

“We built everything for Sports Creek by ourselves,” Contreras tells PaperCity. Four guys under 30 with not so much in the way of savings rallied together. They followed YouTube tutorials on how to install turf.

First, the idea. “Suddenly, it’s three months of manual labor,” Escobar says. “Last year was the trial period”. Contreras couldn’t agree more. “If you came here the first day, it’s totally different from what it looks like now,” he says.

“This year, we have a reinvigorated concept of everything else we can provide,” like the outdoor market, Escobar says. “We’re hoping 2018 is the year we skyrocket.”

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