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Farmers Markets Have Found Their Foothold in SA


The array of foods at farmers markets has grown.

The array of foods at farmers markets has grown.

Ten years ago, San Antonio’s idea of a farmers market was little more than a roadside stand with some fruits and vegetables out of the back of a pickup truck. There were some exceptions, such as the Saturday get-together in the Olmos Basin, where you could get fresh eggs and even some exotic items mixed in with the usual array of zucchini, squash and beans as well as the ever-popular tomatoes and peaches.

Red and white onions at the Pearl Market.

But the audience was small. That would change within five years, when the Pearl Farmers Market opened. It wasn’t just the market and the initial wave of interest in the renovation project that had begun at the once-abandoned brewery. People’s eating habits had begun to change. They wanted something fresher, more organic and different from what they could get at most supermarkets.

Beets at the Quarry Market.

Beets at the Quarry Market.

But they got more than that. They found ranchers selling grass-fed beef as well as humanely raised pork and chicken. They found local bakers, a local chocolatier, winemakers, a bee keeper with raw local honey and Sandy Oaks with its locally produced olive oil. There were also food vendors, herb growers, musicians, cooking events and plenty of dogs, all of which made the Pearl a destination on Saturday mornings.

Suddenly, it was easy to see that the brightest and best flavors for you to put on your table could be bought year-round from your very own region. Within a short time, leeks, pattypan squash, fennel, daikon radish, kohlrabi, an assortment of mushrooms, purple carrots and okra, candy stripe beets and baby artichokes all came to be a part of what’s grown in the region and offered at the markets.

Dogs and farmers markets go together.

Dogs and farmers markets go together.

Other markets have joined the scene, but perhaps none has made as much an impact as the Quarry Farmers and Ranchers Market, which celebrated its third anniversary recently. This Sunday morning spot, in the parking lot of the Quarry shopping center at 255 E. Basse Road, has a decidedly different vibe and yet it offers many of the same items, from fresh produce and local baked goods to live music and food treats. With more than 30 booths, the array is rich, whether you’re looking for seasonal fruits, vegetables and herbs, locally raised meats or locally processed foods.

So, whether you shop on Saturday or Sunday, at the Pearl or the Quarry or any of the other markets in the region, you have greater choices for eating healthier than ever before, thanks to the growth of farmers markets in the area.

Bakers have become a market fixture.

Bakers have become a market fixture.

The Pearl Farmers Market

The Pearl Farmers Market

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Ripe Returns to Éilan Sunday


Ripe, the monthly farmers market at Éilan Hotel Resort & Spa, 17101 La Cantera Parkway, has a list of almost 30 vendors set to appear this Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Ripe is happening Sunday at Eilan.

Ripe is happening Sunday at Eilan.

The lineup is as follows:

1. Bendele Farm
2. Peeler Farms
3. 9-1 Family Produce Farm
4. Johnson’s Backyard Garden
5. Peralta Farms
6. Sol y Luna Baking Company
7. Bakery Lorraine
8. Tamale Addiction
9. Ms. Chocolatier
10. J&K Italian Ice
11. Rick the Beekeeper
12. The Lemonade Company
13. Juicer Heroes
14. Texas Olive Ranch
15. Alamo Cattle Company
16. HGD Foods

Food trucks will be on hand, too.

Food trucks will be on hand, too.

17. River City Cactus
18. Green With Envy
19. Mi Luchero Candles
20. Plant Apothecary and Gardens
21. PAWsitively Sweet Bakery
22. Zia Designs
23. Will Heron Designs
24. Bruce & Adam Troxel
25. San AntonioAmerican Lung Association
26. The Duk Truck
27. Bite Street Bistro
28. Wheelie Gourmet
29. Roasted Corn Cart

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Insalata di Pomodori e Melone (Tomato Melon Salad)


When you go to the farmers market this weekend, be sure to stock up on fresh tomatoes and melon in season. They’re great by themselves or tossed together in a fresh salad. That’s why this salad from celebrity chef David Rocco is so appealing.

“I love using sweet fruit in a savory salad,” he writes in his new cookbook, “Made in Italy” (Clarkson Potter Publishers, $35) “You’ll find this a lot in Sicily. There, people ‘get’ mixing these flavors. that may be a result of how incredible their fruit is. I’m going to give you the basics to match the picture, but don’t be afraid to make this salad your own. For instance, you don’t have to use arugula as a base. Sometimes I use only fruit, some finely chopped red onion for spice and heat, and some fresh mint or oregano.

“You can change the fruit. I’ve used melon here, but oranges or figs are also great. The thing that brings all the flavors together is the olive oil, so use the good stuff here.”

Insalata di Pomodori e Melone (Tomato Melon Salad)

2 or 3 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
1/2 cantaloupe, peeled and diced
1/4 red onion, diced
1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Dried oregano, to taste (optional)
1 bunch arugula, torn

The key here is to mix your tomatoes, cucumber, melon and red onions in the vinegar, oil and spices and let that sit for 5 minutes. Make sure, though, that you don’t overdo it with the oregano or the red wine vinegar. These are really just slight complements to the fruit and the fantastic olive oil, and too much of either will overpower the dish.

On a serving plate, lay out your greens. I prefer using baby arugula because it has a nice pepperiness and makes a great base for the salad. Add the seasoned fruits and vegetables on top. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

From “Made from Italy” by David Rocco

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Hyatt Hill Country Is Doing It All — And Sharing It on Menus


Troy Knapp

Food. Thoughtfully Sourced. Carefully Served.

That’s the name of a new global program Hyatt Hotels has launched to focus on sourcing local food and beverage options.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that our ingredients are sourced from the most humane and responsible companies and that we are preparing them with as little manipulation and additives as possible,” said Gino Caliendo, general manager of the Hyatt Hill Country Resort, 9800 Hyatt Resort Drive. “This new philosophy will be at the core of every food and beverage decision that we make. We are evolving the way we purchase and serve food. We believe it’s what our guests deserve and what our planet needs.”

This means different things to the people who eat at the Hyatt Hill Country. One is that executive chef Troy Knapp and his staff are sourcing local ingredients, including seafood and cage-free eggs as well as meats, vegetables and fruit. Another is reducing the amount of sodium and additives, while using natural sweeteners, such as agave nectar, instead of artificial ones.

The program is built on three points:

  • Healthy people, which is based on providing portion controlled offerings made with natural ingredients and healthful cooking techniques. Examples include reducing the hamburger size from 8 ounces to 7 ounces, mandating gluten free and vegetarian options on all menus, offering Stay Fit Cuisine menu items, and providing natural bacon, organic produce and hormone-free milk as menu options.
  • Healthy planet, which ensures sustainable purchasing and operational practices. At the Hyatt Hill Country, that means sourcing sustainable seafood, purchasing local game, utilizing an on-site chef’s garden and recycling programs that include turning wet waste to feed for local farmers.
  • Healthy communities, which is based on supporting local farmers markets and sharing knowledge at schools and community events.

Hyatt has also joined forces with Partnership for Healthier America, with a goal of improving the nutritional profile of its children’s menus.

The Hyatt Hill Country Resort has been involved with community efforts for years now, which helped it earn the first Excellence in Doing It All honor, which it shared with the Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo in Brazil. The recognition was part of the Hyatt Thrive Leadership Awards.

The local resort was honored because it demonstrates a commitment to reducing its environmental impact and leads a community outreach program that works with organizations such as United Way, Habitat for Humanity and the San Antonio Food Bank, according to the award.

“Hyatt Regency Hill Country’s programs include a 19-year partnership with John Jay High School and Hands On Education, an on-site hospitality training program for adults with disabilities that resulted in many full time positions at the hotel,” it says. “Being part of a military town, the hotel has embraced all branches of the military with Operation Inspiration, an initiative that gives guests the opportunity to send messages of hope and appreciation to instillations across the world, Operation Caffeination, an outreach where the hotel collected premium coffee and shipped it to our men and women in uniform.

“Operation Paperback has been the most successful program to date, with more than 3,000 gently read books being donated by both employees and guests, then sorted, packed and shipped to all parts of the world, including the USS Carl Vinson. The Festival of Trees enables 10 local schools to compete for cash prizes, each school is given a pre-lit 9-foor tree and a $150 gift card with which to decorate the tree, votes are made in the form of canned food items, all which goes to the San Antonio Food Bank, the three schools who collect the most win cash for existing programs.

“Environmentally, the hotel has a clear action plan in place and has several impactful initiatives such as the upgrade of an irrigation control system that reduced energy and water consumption by more than 10 percent and ozone treatment in laundry, which is saving more than 20 percent in water and sewer costs, 30 percent in natural gas, and is reducing chemical use by more than 20 percent.”

 

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Griffin to Go: You May Think You Know Gelati


A mixed cup of gelati.

TORRE ALFNA, Italy — I had a cup of gelati this morning before breakfast. We were walking through the town, where the combination bar-pizzeria-gelateria is open before most folks get up and after the rest go to bed, and the call coming from inside was too strong to resist.

So, several euros later, I was armed with a mixture of torrone, a type of honeyed nougat with nuts, and a pistacho, which has become the flavor to try everywhere we go. Why? Because each version that is handmade, and most of them are, will feature roasted pistachios, which gives a browner color and a flavor so rich that you’d never mistake it for what we have back home.

The day's flavors of gelati.

There are so many differences between the gelati here and the gelati back home that it’s almost a misnomer to use the same name for both. The texture in Italy is much creamier and denser, more like ice cream, and it lacks that slickness the American version has. There are seems to be a lot less sugar, which makes it more palatable as it lets the true nature of each flavor shine through.

In the pistachio, for example, you’ll taste differences everywhere you go, often because each gelato maker roasts the nuts for different lengths of time, and that is readily apparent. All have some touch of green to them, but I haven’t seen any that resemble the artificial green that the pudding mixes have told us “pistachio” is supposed to look like.

The flavors are what really makes the difference. They reflect the Italian taste and the country’s culinary traditions. You’ll find numerous frozen variations, such as zuppa inglese, gianduja (chocolate with hazelnut), stracciatella (chocolate and vanilla), amarena (sweet cream with marinated cherries) and chocolate mixed with a candied orange peel.

Fresh fruit in the market.

They also reflect what is in the marketplace. On Thursday, we took a cooking class with Lorenzo Polegri, who runs classes  at this Zeppelin restaurant in Orvieto. We started the day by going to the farmers market where a great many fruits were in season, including cherries that glistened in the sun, apricots dripping with juices, the first strawberries of the season and even some loquats that seemed to dwarf the versions we grow in Texas.

In the end, Lorenzo picked out some of the last blood oranges to arrive from Sicily this season and decided that would be our foundation. Once  back in the kitchen, my friend Steve and I volunteered for the dessert squad, which meant we had to cut the peeling and pith from all of the oranges, some of which were so dark that they were a blackish purple.

We then threw them in a food processor and pulverized them down into juice, which was strained so that all of the fiber was removed. Then we stirred in the sugar, the milk and the heavy cream in a ratio of 4 parts juice to 2 parts sugar and one part each of the milk and cream. (This variation of gelato was not custard-based and had no eggs in it.) A little rum went into the gelato maker before the orange juice mixture did, and we let the machine work its magic.

Blood orange gelato with a drizzle of raspberry syrup.

During one of the test tastes that we took during the process, it was decided that the acid level was a little low, probably because the oranges were so sweet. So, we added a splash of lemon extract and another of orange extract, which increased the brightness considerably.

It took more than an hour for the gelato to solidify, most likely because of the alcohol involved. But when we had the end result after our meal, it certainly left a smile on our faces.

Well, it’s a little after lunch now, and it’s our last full day here. I think it’s time for a return trip to the gelateria.

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Pearl Throws a Party for Its Third Anniversary


Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard has been a long-time feature at the Pearl Farmers Market.

Cora Lamar helps a customer at her produce and flower booth.

As revitalization of the Pearl Brewery began several years ago, the owners of the property, Silver Ventures, knew that a farmers market would be a great way of bringing local people to the site while developing a greater sense of community. Three years ago this weekend, the Pearl Farmers Market began with vendors selling everything from fresh vegetables and meats to olive oil, baked goods, lavender products, and flowers.

The lineup of vendors has grown and changed somewhat in that time. Many of the vendors have become old friends over time — Beaune Farms, Biga on the Banks for their breads, Sandy Oaks Olive Orchards, Al’s Gourmet Nuts, Thunder Heart Bison and Peeler Farms chickens, to name a few — and new ones have been added, including Restaurant Gwendolyn, which offers handmade sausages and bacon. The market has also become more at home in its space at the back of the Pearl Brewery, with hundreds of people milling about and many a dog sniffing out the scene.

On Saturday, the spring harvest after the recent rains brought an abundance of items, including breakfast radishes, kale, arugula, cabbage, onions, spring garlic, fennel, green beans, herbs, leeks, brussels sprouts, new potatoes, beets, varieties of squashes, carrots, cucumbers, shallots, peppers, broccoli, mushrooms and more. Fredericksburg peaches were going quickly, as were blackberries and a few strawberries.

Chef John Brand serves marketgoers a savory treat.

Cora Lamar of Oak Hill Farm drew customers with the vivid lavender-colored artichoke blossoms that she had. She also had a few artichokes with her, but they sold quickly, she said.

Artichoke blossoms

For those who bought an artichoke blossom for the first time, she explained that they should not be placed in water or they’ll rot. Instead, the flowering plant, which is in the same family as the thistle, should be set up without water. As the plant begins to dry, the green leaves should turn brown, but the flower would retain its color, Lamar said.

The morning sun drew a line to the handcrafted ice cream booth, where flavors included Strawberry Basil, Salty Caramel, Orange Lavender, Blackberry Lemon and Peach Pecan Amaretto.

Fennel bulbs

The anniversary celebration also brought out some of the city’s chefs who provided samples of dishes that used ingredients you could find in the market.

.Fresh-picked carrots

Chad Carey of the Monterey was there with his new chef, Coleman Foster, to hand out chicken meatballs with a peach kimchi. John Brand of Las Canarias and Ostra offered braised lamb’s neck, while Ocho chef Jason Garcia served a quinoa salad with seasonal vegetables  and a tamarind vinaigrette.

It’s always fun to stop by Melissa Guerra’s Tienda de Cocina in the neighboring Full Goods building on the brewery campus. In addition to the great kitchen items that the store always features, Guerra was offering a hula hoop demonstration and she was spinning right along to the DJ’s funkadelic sounds.

Customers shop the market for the freshest produce.

 

 

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Kohlrabi’s in Season. But What Do You Do With It?


Kohlrabi means "cabbage turnip" and its flavor is a mild version of both.

Kohlrabi is in season, and it’s plentiful at farmers markets these days. If you haven’t tried one before, just peel it, cut it up and take a bite.

“People always ask me what to do with kohlrabi,” says Yotam Ottolenghi in the new cookbook, “Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi.” (Chornicle Books, $35). “It seems too healthful, too weird, too German! In actual fact, this is a wonderful vegetable. When mixed with root vegetables you can use it in gratins, you can shallow-fry it in olive oil and serve with garlic and chives, and you can add it to an Asian stir-fry. But in this salad, I think I have found the absolute best use for a kohlrabi. It is wonderfully fresh-tasting, with a good lemony kick and some sharp sweetness. … Serve the salad alongside rich main courses.”

You might find both green and purple kohlrabi at the market. The color doesn’t matter, because it’s just the peeling.

Cabbage and Kohlrabi Salad

1 medium or 1/2 large kohlrabi
1/2 white cabbage
Large bunch of dill, roughly chopped (6 heaped tablespoons)
1 cup dried whole sour cherries
Grated zest of 1 lemon
6 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
2 cups alfalfa sprouts

Peel the kohlrabi and cut into thick matchsticks that are about 1/4 inch wide and 2 inches long. Cut the cabbage into 1/4-inch-thick strips.

Put all the ingredients, apart from the alfalfa sprouts, in a large mixing bowl. Use your hands to massage everything together for about a minute so the flavors mix and the lemon can soften the cabbage and cherries. Let the salad sit for about 10 minutes.

Add most of the alfalfa sprouts and mix well again with your hands. Taste and adjust the seasoning; you need a fair amount of salt to counteract the lemon.

Use your hands again to lift the salad out of the mixing bowl and into a serving bowl, leaving most of the juices behind. Garnish with the remaining sprouts and serve at once.

Makes 4 servings.

From “Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi” by Yotam Ottolenghi

 

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Drought Takes Toll on Local Farmers, Ranchers


Peppers are one food in season -- if the plants have survived the drought.

If you go to one of the many farmers markets in the area this weekend, take a minute to talk with the purveyors about the problems they’re facing because of the drought.

Some, like Bob Mishler of Uncertain Farms in Seguin, have watched acres of plants burn in the merciless sun. He’ll still have his pickled and canned goods for sale at the Legacy on Sunday morning, but the fresh food from his farm is over for a while.

Neither he nor Cora Lamar from Oak Hills Farm in Poteet, who is at the Pearl Farmers Market on Saturdays, have any idea when to start fall planting, either, because of having to water the seeds. Many farmers usually begin their fall crops within the next few weeks, but no break in the weather could mean a lean fall for lovers of fresh food.

While not selling their wares at the farmers markets, wine grape growers and vintners are feeling the effects of the weather, too. For them, the news isn’t all bad, according to Becker Vineyards.They started their harvest early this year, says spokeswoman Nichole Bendele.

“Although we have a drip irrigation system in place, we are in a drought. We started the grape harvest about two weeks early, and will probably be finished by the end of August instead of the second or third week of September,” she says.  Besides Stonewall, we have another vineyard in Ballinger, and a third in Mason and also purchase grapes from growers in the Texas High Plains and West Texas areas.  Our winemaker, Russell Smith, says, that because of the drought the overall quantity is down, but because the grape clusters have such small berries, the wines of 2011 will be deliciously intense.”

Farmers and winegrowers aren’t the only ones hurting. Linda Perez of L&M Grass-fed Beef says she’s been feeding her cattle hay for weeks now because the grass is dead, and the hay is not in abundant supply.

Perez, who is also at the Pearl on Saturdays, recently posted the following on Facebook: “Bought the most beautiful hay imaginable today, but it cost me: $65 in gas, 6 hours driving time, one blow out tire to replace, not to mention the price of the hay and the incredible heat to endure (had to have the heater on high in the truck to keep the engine from over-heating!). But you should have seen the look on the faces of the cows and calves when they finally got to taste it. Priceless.”

The cattle aren’t quite so carefree these days because sometimes she’s able to buy only enough hay for four days.

Of course, food doesn’t just magically land on the table because it’s mealtime. We’re learning that this summer the hard way.

 

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It’s Time for Some Sunflower Shoots Straight from Braune Farms


Sunflower Shoots from Braune Farms

Julie and Jeffrey Braune of Geronimo, near Seguin, bring their finest and freshest to the Pearl Brewery on Saturdays, while the family has another booth at New Braunfels Farm to Market.

Last Saturday, the lineup included fresh red and white onions, potatoes, tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, peppers and several types of squash, including yellow zucchini while the couple’s daughter, Janae, sells bouquets of zinnias as part of her 4H project. Free-range eggs were another big seller.

One item the Braunes offer year-round is sunflower shoots, which Julie Braune talks about in the accompanying video, which she made during a quick moment between a flood of customers. Find out how to use these great tasting treats by watching Julie Braune’s video.

One taste of the sunflower shoots will convince you why there are lines for Braune’s items every Saturday.

 

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Farm to Market Is One Man’s Dream Served Up to Hungry Customers


 

Who can resist a cup of sunshine at New Braunfels Farm to Market?

The following is the second of two parts.

Weeks before the New Braunfels Farm to Market opened last year, its creator, Ron Snider, wasn’t sure any farmers would show up to sell their just-harvested produce. Two weeks ago, the farmers market on South Castell Street boasted 72 vendors, the largest of any market in the region. Everything from fresh-picked peaches and tomatoes to grass-fed beef, artisan cheeses, fresh eggs and various types of garlic could be found.

More than that, it had plenty of customers picking up melons, mushrooms, Indian cucumbers and Indian breads while clearing out all of the offerings that the bakeries, the tamale vendor and several other booths had to offer. The roster of food stuffs for sale went on to include Cowgirl Granola, fresh-squeezed juices, German kettle corn and aguas frescas.

Plus, there were stands with handmade goods, including soaps and lavender goods, as well as henna tattoos and home-grown herbs.

New Braunfels Farm to Market's Ron Snider with his wife, Carol, and their granddaughter, 15-month-old Charlotte Lowe.

But, as large as it is, Farm to Market is only just beginning. Snider owns the art deco building next door to the parking lot where the vendors now set up their booths, and he is in the process of renovating it so the market has plenty of room to grow. Cooks will then have the necessary kitchen equipment as well as cleanup area, while some of the vendors will have better access to electricity to keep their meats, cheeses, dairy products and other items refrigerated.

The building once housed the Herald-Zeitung, New Braunfels’ newspaper, and Snider hopes to return its exterior to its former deco appearance, which was covered through the years by additions and a few too many Alsatian touches. He’s still doing research on the building, which hasn’t been easy.

“Most of the documented history of the old Herald-Zeitung Building was lost when the paper’s location on Landa Street flooded about 10 years ago,” he says. “I have a copy of the original architects’ rendering done by Phelps and Dewees of San Antonio. I’ve contacted family members and our local archives, but I have yet to find the true construction date or an as-built photograph. The only photos I’ve found to date have one or both of the additions.”

Snider began his career in the restaurant business and, after several detours, is glad to be back among food producers, chefs, bakers, butchers and the whole array of vendors who return every Saturday.  Watch him as he stops to talk with vendors and customers alike. “They have good cupcakes,” he says at the Sweet Dreams bakery booth. “They have good everything.”

Braune Farms of Geronimo is one of the vendors at New Braunfels Farm to Market.

He offers similar praise at every booth, whether it’s the sliders from Liberty Bistro or the farm-fresh poultry from Shady Falls Farm in Elmendorf.

“The market crowd for me is enjoyment,” he says. “I enjoy the connection with friendly farmers, ranchers, foodies and artists who are Farm to Market. These self-sufficient people who grow and make things with their hands have a certain satisfaction, pride and continence that you don’t find that often anymore. Gathering them outdoors with family, friends and neighbors makes traditional local markets something much more than a redundant march through another climate-controlled big box run.”

New Braunfels Farm to Market Hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, click here.

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