It was noon last Saturday at the Saratoga Springs Farmers Market, and hundreds of shoppers jostled around tables of farm-fresh vegetables and homemade jams and cheeses.
The band Running The River was spinning a toe-tapping tune between the green beans and the cabbages, and in the far end of the market, where picnic tables are set up for snacking, Adirondack folk singer Dan Berggren was strumming his guitar near steaming trays of spanokopita and moussaka.
“We are going to taste seven of the best things in the market,” Joe Haedrich says to a small group of people gathered around him. From a knapsack over his shoulder, he draws out bottles of chilled Saratoga Spring Water and hands them out.
For the fourth summer, Haedrich, a retired businessman from Chestertown, is leading weekly Saratoga Springs Food Tours, where participants nibble and sip while taking in tidbits of history and culture.
On this tour, the first stop was Oliva Vineyards, where Tony Oliva, the proprietor, is waiting.
Just before we arrive, Haedrich stops the group and gives us a little fact to chew on, as he points to the Mouzon House restaurant near the market.
“Mrs. Mouzon was the first black graduate of Skidmore College,” he says.
Saratoga Springs Food Tours
WHEN: 12 p.m. every Saturday through Oct. 25
WHERE: Saratoga Springs Farmers Market and Broadway, Saratoga Springs
HOW MUCH: $42. Reservations required. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes.
MORE INFO: www.saratogaspringsfoodtours.com, 306-7513
Tony grabs a bottle of Post Time Peach, made in Fort Edward, and pours samples into tiny plastic cups.
“That’s good. Crisp,” says Bobbi DeFranco of Altamont, who is on the tour with Joe, her husband. They’ve love betting on the horses at Saratoga Race Course, but this is their first visit to the market.
Saratoga Crackers, a Middle Grove business, is the next stop, and here our nosh comes with a story about how owner Teresa Alger, the daughter of a jockey, came up with the idea for the healthy snack.
“These are excellent,” says Joe DeFranco, and he buys two packages, Beer & Cheddar and Rosemary Olive.
While we crunch away, Haedrich shows us a picture of George Crum at Moon’s Lake House.
“Did you know that the potato chip was invented in Saratoga Springs?” he asks.
After a few minutes, we follow Haedrich to another vendor, Sweet Spring Farm.
“This is Jeff,” he says. “He has 40 goats in Argyle and he makes the finest goat cheese.”
Jeff hands us a smidgen of creamy herb cheese made 72 hours ago, and answers our questions about his craft.
“I’m not a big fan of goat cheese, but I really liked that,” says Joe.
For two-and-a half hours, we walk and snack.
“At the farmers market, I try to vary it. So it could be quite a bit different on another day,” Haedrich says.
At the market, we try prize-winning yogurt from Argyle Cheese Factory, chocolate milk from Battenkill Valley Creamery, broccoli-and-cheese tart from Chris’s Kitchen and a strawberry spread at Anna Mae’s Homemade Jams.
After a rest stop at Old Bryan Inn, the tour moves to shops on Broadway.
We sniff and taste at Saratoga Olive Oil, munch kielbasa and pretzels at Saratoga Salsa & Spice Company, and top it off with mini cupcakes at Bettie’s Cakes.
Haedrich, who is 67, started Saratoga Springs Food Tours after selling his tech business, printing.com.
“I had traveled quite a bit and had done food tours in different parts of the world, in London and in Paris. And I really enjoyed them,” he says. “I love to cook. I love to explore different foods.”
Haedrich already knew some local history because for a few years he was a volunteer tour guide for Saratoga Springs Visitors Center.
He estimates that 1,000 people from the Capital Region and beyond have gone on his tours, a number that includes private tours for General Electric employees, Skidmore College students and bachelorette parties.
“The typical tour has anywhere from 10 to 12 people on it. A couple of weeks ago, there were people from Indonesia. I’ve had people from Australia and several people from England, Germany and France.”
Growing up in New York City, Haedrich made annual summer visits to Saratoga Springs because his grandfather had a house in Schroon Lake.
“We’ve been coming to Saratoga ever since I was a baby. I remember one of the big hotels in Saratoga, I’m pretty sure it was the Grand Union Hotel. And it always made an impression on me,” he says.
“It’s the greatest, most fun job in the world. Every Saturday, I get to meet a bunch of new people and hang out with some great people who are in the food business.”
Reach Gazette reporter Karen Bjornland at 395-3197 or email@example.com.