Archive | July, 2011

Farmers markets are popping up all over San Antonio

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Whenever I visit San Antonio on a Saturday, stopping by the Pearl Farmers Market is a must.  The market has grown into a vibrant hub since it opened two years ago, and you can easily devote a morning to exploring the market stalls, restaurants and shops at the renovated Pearl Brewery.

During my last visit to Pearl, I was surprised to find a card listing all of the other farmers markets in San Antonio.  I knew there were a few farm stands, but this card listed over half a dozen markets that covered almost every day of the week.  Wow!

The success of the Pearl Market has San Antonians seeking out more fresh, local produce and the farmers and market organizers have stepped in to meet the demand.  Since we had some time in our schedule, we toured the Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market  on Sunday (8 am to noon in the parking lot of the Whole Foods at the Quarry).

Photos by Jenna Noel

This neighborhood market hosts about two dozen vendors with produce, meats and prepared foods.  I bought some wild boar pan sausage from South Texas Heritage Pork and was delighted to see familiar faces from Engel Farms, Markley Family Farm Springfield Farm, Scott Arbor and The Gardener’s Feast as well as several vendors from the Pearl market on Saturday.

It was inspiring to see how one strong market spurs others in the same area and I’m looking forward to visiting some of the other markets soon.  Do you frequent any of these markets?  If so, which is your favorite?   Are there other markets that I’m missing?  I’d love your help exploring San Antonio’s markets.

Other San Antonio area markets:

Main Plaza Farmers Market on Main Plaza in downtown San Antonio, this market is run by the San Antonio Food Bank, Tuesdays 10 am to 2 pm.

San Antonio Farmers Market Association operates six area markets including:

Olmos Basin, 
100 Jackson Keller (between San Pedro and McCullough), San Antonio. Open year-round. Tuesday and Saturday 7:30am – 1pm.

Leon Valley Community Center, 6427 Evers Rd, Leon Valley, TX. Open year-round. Wednesday 7:30am – 1pm. 

St. Jude Catholic Church, 130 S. San Augustine St., San Antonio. Open May – Dec. Wednesday 8am – 1pm.

San Antonio Botanical Gardens, 555 Funston Place, San Antonio. Open May- Dec. Thursday 8am – 1pm.

St. Matthews Catholic Church, 11121 Wurzbach Rd., San Antonio, TX. Open year-round. Friday 8am – 1pm.

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Blackberry Popsicles

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I love popsicles.  They are the one sweet I always have in the house , even in the winter.  After 41 days of over 100+ degree temperatures in Austin, my favorite treat has also become a vital survival tool.   I’ve started taking a popsicle break about  each day, just when I don’t think I can take the heat anymore.

Last year, I was given a vintage popsicle kit by my stepmother and I’ve started making my own popsicles rather than buying them at the store.  I get to use the freshest produce available and I control how much and what type of sweetener I am using.

Vintage Popsicle Set

I love my vintage pop molds, but if you prefer a speedier method, you might also consider a quick pop maker like this one featured on The Kitchn site.

You can get quite elaborate with your popsicle recipes (see links below), but a basic mixture is pureed fruit combined with simple syrup and any spice or flavoring you want to add.

I chose blackberry popsicles for my first experiment and decided to keep it simple – just fruit and simple syrup.

Blackberry Popsicles

1 pint blackberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

Place the blackberries in a blender and process until you have a smooth puree.

Place a thin mesh strainer over a bowl and pour the blackberry mixture into the strainer to remove the seeds.  Run a wooden spoon over the mixture to force the juice through the seeds.

While the blackberry mixture is straining, make the simple syrup by boiling the sugar and water in a saucepan, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.  Remove the pan from the heat.

Remove the strainer from the bowl and combine the blackberry mixture with the simple syrup.

Place the molds on a cookie sheet and pour the mixture into the molds.

Blackberry popsicles pre-freezer

Once the popsicles are frozen solid, run the molds under cool water to loosen the popsicle from the mold.  Gently press the popsicle out of the mold.  (Gently! I’ve already broken one stick.)

Blackberry Popsicle

Don’t you just love the eskimo!  I feel cooler already.

If you want to get fancy, here are a few other sites with fun popsicle recipes.  Everyone must be overheated this summer!

Mark Bittman’s popsicles four ways (sweet, savory, creamy, boozy)

Six popsicle recipes from Women’s Health Magazine

Cooking Light’s Beat the Heat with Icy Treats (not strictly popsicles)

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Road Trip! Houston

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This spring I was invited down to Houston by some like-minded real foodies for a screening of the movie What’s On Your Plate?, a charming and compelling documentary by two young women about where food comes from.  I visit Houston often to see family, but had never taken the time to explore Houston’s farmers markets. This was the perfect opportunity to learn more about Houston’s real food scene.

First stop on my itinerary was Revival Market in The Heights neighborhood.  Morgan Weber started Revival Farms, a ranch and farm just outside of Houston in Yoakum, TX, in 2009 and quickly became one of the state’s top purveyors of quality, humanely raised heritage breed pork and beef.  Revival’s booth at the Houston farmers markets was swamped with customers and chefs from as far as Austin would drive to Yoakum to buy their meat.

This spring, Weber teamed up with friend and chef Ryan Pera to open Revival Market. I walked in expecting a meat market and was delighted to find instead a small neighborhood grocery selling locally sourced meats, cheeses, dairy, produce and staples.  The market also offers prepared foods, charcuterie and coffee.  “I wanted to create a place where you could come by to get everything you needed to cook a great meal and didn’t have to go to another store,” said Weber.

Revival market - produceRevival Market - prepared foods and charcuterieRevival Market - cannced goods

Revival Market is definitely that – bright and inviting with shelves stocked with tempting artisanal goods.  It was a challenge to not buy one of everything.

Just a couple of miles down the road, Houston Dairymaids offers tastings of their carefully selected cheese and specialty foods at their warehouse location on Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings.  Houston Dairymaids brings the best from Texas cheesemakers to Houston and supplements their stock with artisanal cheeses from around the country.  The warehouse opens to retail customers a few hours each week, but cheese fanatics can also find the Dairymaids at area farmers markets.

Tasting at Houston Dairy Maids
Houston Dairy Maids - tasting board
Houston Dairy Maids - olives & breads
The daily tasting included an eclectic mix and I found some new cheeses I really enjoyed including the Stewart’s Special from Texas’ own Veldhuizen Family Farm and the Cumin Gouda from Marieke in Wisconsin.  Houston Dairymaids also sells specialty foods and I noticed bread from Slow Dough Bread Co., which I had just seen at Revival Market.  Clearly, this bread must be good.  We thoroughly enjoyed the salty pretzel rolls and the perfectly baked baguette.

With a few hours to kill before the movie screening, I decided to grab an early dinner at Haven, located just off of Kirby Dr. near the Southwest Freeway (Hwy 59).  The tasting from Chef Randy Evans was one of my favorites at this year’s Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival Stars Across Texas event in April and I couldn’t wait to try items from their menu.

Chef Evans uses fresh, local ingredients to create what he calls Texas regional cuisine.   Touches like serving buttery crawfish over tender gnocchi and topping a salad with fried green tomato “croutons” highlighted the creativity of the kitchen.

Haven - crawfish gnocchiHaven - salad with fried green tomatoes
With “Happy Times” starting at 2 pm on Fridays and the bar serving up craft cocktails, Haven is a terrific place to kick-off the weekend.
Haven - cocktail

As the sun began to set, it was time to head to Mandell Park, a small municipal park in the Museum District, for the movie screening.  The event was hosted by the Friends of Mandell Park, a community group committed to the improvement and maintenance of the park and its community flower and vegetable garden.

Mandell ParkMandell Park - spring veggies

Moviegoers spread blankets and chairs across the lawn while they nibbled snacks from Green Plate Kids, a catering and prepared meal service that specializes in healthy food for kids.  Chef Monica Pope, owner of t’afia and passionate advocate for fresh, local cuisine, kicked off the festivities with a question and answer session during which she noted, “Food is the language of family. Eating well has to start with the family.” It was the perfect opening for a movie about two girls learning where their food comes from and how it is raised or grown.

If you have children in your life, I highly recommend the movie as a way to introduce them to the importance of knowing your food.  The girls are sweet, honest and inquisitive – probably just like your kids.  You can watch the trailer and inquire about scheduling a screening on the movie’s website.

I spent the rest of the weekend exploring farmers markets and some of my sister’s new favorite restaurants.  After Chef Pope’s inspirational comments the evening before, it only seemed fitting to start Saturday at the Midtown Farmers Market hosted at her restaurant t’afia.

Midtown Farmers Market - spring veggiesMidtown Farmers Market - quail eggsMidtown Farmers Market - plums

The Midtown market is a smaller, neighborhood affair with booths from area produce vendors, Houston Dairymaids and several prepared food vendors including Chef Pope’s own Green Plum Catering.  Among the market’s unique finds were first of season plums and quail eggs.  The Midtown Farmers Market is currently on break (June 1 through August 31), but is definitely worth a stop if you are in the neighborhood after the summer.

Urban Harvest, an organization similar in mission to Austin’s Sustainable Food Center, operates three farmers markets in the Houston area.  The largest, Eastside Market, is open Saturdays from 8 am to noon at 3000 Richmond Ave. in the parking lot of an unassuming office complex.  With over 40 booths from a variety of vendors, you can quickly fill your market bags with fresh produce, meat, dairy, baked goods and prepared foods.   I was glad to finally meet the farmers from Blue Heron Farm who sell their completely addictive cajeta at Antonelli’s Cheese Shop in Austin.

Carrot bouquets at Eastside MarketEastside marketBrown Paper Chocolates

On Sunday’s Urban Harvest operates a neighborhood farmers market at Highland Village (2720 Suffolk Drive) from 10 am to 1 pm.  You can grab quiche for brunch from the catering arm of the restaurants Shade and Canopy or pick up flowers, produce or eggs from one the dozen vendors.

Highland Village Farmers MarketFarm eggs at Highland Village Farmers Market
As we puttered around Houston, my sister introduced me to some of her casual dining favorites.  We had breakfast tacos at Tacos A Go-Go before the Midtown market.  The taqueria, just around the corner from t’afia and next door to Houston’s Continental Club, has a fun, funky decor, an abundance of breakfast taco ingredients to choose from and a spicy, tangy salsa verde that I wanted to bottle and bring home.
Tacos A-Go-Go - breakfast

We also visited Calliope’s Po-Boys where I had the best po-boy I’ve had outside of Louisiana, and that is no exaggeration.  I ordered the surf and turf sandwich – sopping wet, tender roast beef paired with crispy, sweet fried shrimp on crunchy french bread.  Wow!

Calliope's Surf & Turf po-boy

And, of course, we visited family favorites.  No trip to Houston would be complete for me without Vietnamese food, this time at Vietnam Restaurant in the Heights, Sunday breakfast at Merida’s on Navigation (we are a Merida’s, not a Ninfa’s, family) and coffee and a pastry at Croissant Brioche in the Rice Village.

One of my favorite things about Houston has always been the restaurants and that you could eat well from any corner of the globe.  Discovering the real food community with its committed farmers, chefs and artisans makes the city’s culinary landscape that much more intriguing.


View the full slideshow below.

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Monument Cafe & Market: Georgetown’s Sustainable Food Hub

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Monument Cafe in Georgetown (500 S. Austin Ave.) has proudly served homemade Texas diner classics for 16 years, but owner Rusty Winkstern wanted to do more than just dish up great victuals from farm fresh ingredients.  He had a vision of incorporating sustainability beyond the kitchen, and two years ago he moved the cafe from it’s original location to a full city block with the plan to create a self-reliant business center.  
They started by creating a restaurant structure that is built to last and all aspects are open to the customer – even the dish pit – making the dining experience transparent to guests.  Everything is made in house except for the breads and they are bringing those in house later this year with the addition of Mark Chapman, formerly of Le Cordon Bleu Austin and the Driskill Grill, as the master baker.
Next, they added the gardens.  The vegetable garden behind the restaurant yields okra, squash, cucumbers and melons to supplement the loads of produce they purchase from area farms.  The garden also hosts a beehive that is tended by a local junior high science class.  The market buys the honey and the bees pollinate the garden – a perfect symbiotic relationship.

This summer, the Monument market debuted, open daily from 8 am to 8 pm, to sell the same farm fresh ingredients they use in the cafe. 

The market features products from area farms, ranches and Texas food artisans. You can stock up on organic Texas dried goods, milk from Texas Daily Harvest, butter from Way Back When Dairy, Gulf seafood from  K & S, Vital Farm broilers, Richardson Farms pork and even yak meat from Texas Yaks.  The market will also be selling wine from five Texas vineyards.
Winkstern and the Monument team have created a truly sustainable food hub in their corner of Williamson County – a place where you can savor your food while feeling good about where it comes from and how it is grown.  I’d say that’s a pretty monumental feat.  
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