AS YOU SIFT through fresh-from-the-farm greens, chat with vendors, and sample the day’s best produce, it’s easy to get lost in the sights and sounds of the farmers market. But sometimes all it takes is a simple Belgian delicacy to snap you back to the sensorial pleasures of the moment. In Cincinnati’s historic Findlay Market, unlikely culinary star Jean-François Flechet provides just that high-calorie distraction with his tasty waffles.
Every Saturday morning, the chatty 30-something dishes out the hot-off-the-iron treats -- popular street food in his hometown of Liège, Belgium, and throughout Europe -- to throngs of market regulars. Baked in a special cast-iron skillet, the dough handmade in small batches, Flechet’s waffle is a perfectly dense, caramelized, sugarlike glazed confection, which he offers in seasonal flavors (cinnamon apple for winter, pumpkin for fall) and topped with fresh whipped cream, chocolate, or fresh fruit.
It’s an intoxicating snack that practically guarantees repeat customers. “I’ve had people who have had the waffle every single week from the first time I was here. They’re really addictive,” Flechet says with a laugh. Unlike some waffle vendors who reheat frozen patties imported from Europe, Flechet takes pride in his freshly made product.
His Taste of Belgium business has become so successful that Flechet is expanding beyond Findlay: The waffles are now available via catering and at coffee shops in Cincinnati and Columbus; at nearby Kings Island amusement park; or in the bakery section or in frozen packs in Cincinnati-area grocery stores. For more information, visit www.authenticwaffle.com.
Cooking staple: Fresh tomatoes in season. You don’t even have to cook. Fresh buffalo mozzarella, locally grown tomatoes, basil, and olive oil -- beautifully simple. / Vacation spot: Barcelona. Great food and wine, beautiful architecture. / Book to read again and again: Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera / Cincinnati restaurant: Slims in Northside. The food is amazing. / Glimpse of the city skyline: Cityview Tavern in Mount Adams. The view is great, and the drinks are cheap! / Regional food: Goetta -- it’s a mix of oats and ground pork. / Local band: Over the Rhine
A Few of Flechet’s Favorite Things
Support local farmers and specialty vendors with a summertime stroll through these must-visit markets.
Findlay Market, Cincinnati
This urban oasis is open year-round with about two dozen indoor merchants and hosts a farmers market, outdoor vendors, and entertainment Saturdays and Sundays from April to November. www.findlaymarket.org
Portland Farmers Market, Oregon
From roaming musicians to cooking demonstrations, shopping here is a crash course in eating local, with more than 250 vendors showcasing fare from throughout the Northwest. www.portlandfarmersmarket.org
Downtown Farmers Market, Des Moines, Iowa
This dog-friendly market, open every Saturday from May to October, offers meats, sweets, wines, flowers, and crafts from nearly 200 vendors representing 47 counties. www.desmoinesfarmersmarket.com
Union Square Greenmarket, New York City
A slice of country life in the heart of Manhattan, Union Square Greenmarket offers produce; baked goods; rich jams; and plants, flowers, and herbs four days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday) year-round. www.cenyc.org/greenmarket