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Farmers markets are thriving in San Antonio

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A few weekends ago I visited San Antonio and had a chance to stop by both the Pearl and Quarry Farmers Markets.  Once again, I was delighted to see how quickly the markets in San Antonio are growing and how much they have to offer.

Saturday morning there was quite a crowd at the Pearl Farmers Market as the City of San Antonio Parks and Rec department was giving away fruit and nut trees.  The line for the trees wrapped around the brewery and the Culinary Institute of America.  I love that Pearl can accommodate the market and other activities with plenty of parking and space for both and that many of the people waiting for trees made their way over to the market to shop.

The farm booths were packed with lovely winter produce with plenty of to offer thanks to the almost spring like weather that week.

Turnps at the marketWinter produce at Pearl market

I recognized a number of the vendors from my previous visits and was happy to discover a number of new faces.  I bought some chorizo from La Hacienda products and was tempted by their cookies but decided to save those for another day.

Hacienda chorizo and pastries

I was particularly excited to find Restaurant Gwendolyn at the market.  I had read Chef Michael Sohocki was now offering hot and prepared food at the market, and I couldn’t wait to try it.  My dinner at Restaurant Gwendolyn was one of the best meals I ate  last year and the market offerings did not disappoint. The biscuits and gravy were terrific and the lentil soup looked amazing – one of the vendors said it was the best lentil soup in town.  I also picked up some of their spicy sausages and whole seed mustard for home.

Lentil soup from Restaurant Gwendolyn

I had a lovely chat with Bryan and Rhonda Bickham of Springfield Farm.  They used to work the SFC Downtown Austin Farmers Market each week, but have family running that booth so that they can focus on the bustling San Antonio markets. Bryan shared with me that Pearl is their highest volume market and continues to grow.  In addition to their fresh produce, the Bickhams are also selling body products made by their daughters from natural ingredients and herbs.  I picked up some rosemary and mint lip balm that I love. It keeps your lips soft and it smells minty fresh in case you’ve misplaced your breath mints.

Body products from Springfield farm

I also had a nice visit with with Kelly Escobedo of South Texas Heritage Pork who shared the news of the revitalized Slow Food South Texas Chapter and helped connect me with the group.  I can’t wait to attend some of their upcoming events.

South Texas Heritage Pork pig parts

Sunday, I headed to the Quarry Farmers Market nestled in the parking lot of the Whole Foods at the Quarry shopping center just north of downtown San Antonio.  When I visited last May, this market was brand new with about a dozen vendors.  In less than a year, the market has doubled in size and is bustling with customers.

Crowd at Quarry market

There were plenty of produce and meat vendors to fill your shopping bag.  I’m particularly fond of the wild boar pan sausage from Koch Ranches and I was happy to catch Bikkurim Farms, regulars at several Austin markets, on their first weekend at Quarry.  Some of the best additions to the market were the hot and prepared food vendors.  Restaurant Gwendolyn, the Rolling Pig food truck and The Gardener’s Feast (tamales) were all serving up delicious dishes

The most intriguing hot food booth was Ming’s Things where Ming Qian and husband Chef Hinnerk von Bargen, a professor at the Culinary Institute of America,  were cooking up gorgeous crepes and steamed buns.

Ming's Thing Crepe in the making
Ming's Thing sloppy joe buns

If baked goods are more your speed, Bakery Lorraine and Bistro Bakery have gorgeous pastries.

Bistro Bakery pastries

Heather Hunter of Cowgirl Granola has done an outstanding job organizing a successful Sunday market for the folks in San Antonio.

Have you been to either of the San Antonio markets? Who are your favorite vendors?

See you at the market!

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Picking a CSA & Road Trip to San Antonio

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I am delighted to have two articles in the Fall edition of Edible Austin.   The first recounts a fantastic weekend in San Antonio exploring the real food scene on the River Walk.  I was amazed how each place had such unique character – I felt like I was walking into a completely different city with each new venue. And, more importantly, the food was fantastic. If you haven’t been to San Antonio lately, I highly recommend it for a weekend away.

The Embracing Local article explains how to pick a Community Supported Agriculture or local produce delivery service.  Many farms are still taking members for the fall season and this article can help you narrow your choice to the service that will work best for you.

You can view the entire issue online or pick up a copy at a local farmers market, restaurant or store.

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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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Pearl Farmers Market & A Bitchin’ Camaro

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30510_1Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to be invited by Chevy to join a small group of bloggers for a road trip to the Pearl Farmers Market in San Antonio.  As I rarely turn down a trip to a farmers market, I accepted, although a bit skeptical as I have always been a little biased against American-made cars.

Call it left-over stereotyping from the 80’s, but in my mind American cars are rattly messes that don’t get good gas mileage.  Well, needless to say, after driving four different vehicles that day, I will admit that I was wrong. (You might want to bookmark this page as you won’t see this type of admission often.)  Chevy’s little road trip worked it’s magic because I fell in love with a car – the Camaro.

30510_2Big fun!  Very big fun!  Of course, it’s completely impractical, I will never own one and I was forever grateful that I was driving the Malibu (which is surprisingly comfortable and posh) and not the Camaro when we got stuck in traffic on the way home.  But man – was it a fun way to arrive at the Pearl Farmers Market.

I was pleasantly surprised to see how much the Pearl Farmers Market has grown since my visit in September.  You can really fill a market bag now with everything from fresh produce to proteins to olive oil to cheeses.

30510_3Since Farmhouse Delivery just dropped off  my CSA share of veggies, I focused on the non-produce booths.  I bought chevre from CKC Farms, a goat cheese vendor who has amazing products and is now coming to Austin for the Thursday Westlake market and the Downtown Austin Farmers Market.

L & M Beef tempted me with soup bones at the bargain basement price of $2/lb – could not pass that up.  I bought a ham steak from Menzies Farm, who suggested that I pan fry it with salt and pepper, a great way to bring out the flavor of the lamb.

30510_4I was a little stunned when I saw a booth with farm-raised tilapia.  R. Scott Enterprises, Inc operates an aquaponics farm where they grow lettuces hydroponically and raise healthy tilapia without antibiotics, something rarely accomplished for farm-raised fish.  For the second time that day, I was skeptical, so I did the only thing I could do, I bought some.

The HGD Foods booth a few stalls down was selling Gourmet Gluten Free Fish Fry mix so I finished my purchases with all the supplies for a great fish fry.  I made the fish this week and it was fantastic – flaky, light and tasted great.  I never would have guessed that it was farm-raised.

Chevy bought us lunch at the Texas Farm to Table Cafe before we headed back to Austin. The cafe serves sandwiches, salads and breakfast items that are sourced from Texas farms whenever possible. The Deep Ellum Blue salad very tasty and a the cafe was a pleasant place to refuel before we headed home.
The road trip to San Antonio was fun and I was reminded twice that day about being open-minded.  Life’s a lot more fun when you try new things!

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