Growing up in Texas, the only basis for comparison that I have or farmers' markets is the one in Dallas. That place is expansive, to say the least. Over the years, the only one that I have found that even compares is Pike Place Market (my favorite market of all time) in Seattle. To be honest, I probably haven't even been to a farmers' market since I left Seattle years ago. A few roadside stands, perhaps. But, nothing that could actually be considered a "market".
With the kids off to Florida for two weeks to visit their grandparents, the Mr. and I are left with exorbitant amounts of free-time on our hands. Work-free, kid-free, whine-free time. What does he want to do? Work on recording his new album. Me? Cooking. Canning. Researching. Blogging. But, I needed something to do all of those projects with. What better time to make our first trip to a farmers' market in North Carolina?
After looking around at the markets that this general area had to offer, we settled on Durham Farmers' Market.
It had the most vendors listed. And, vendors that didn't just offer mounds of fresh fruits and vegetables. Let's face it... I'm a sucker for a crusty loaf of artisan bread. Or some melt-in-your-mouth handmade goat cheese. So, off we traveled to Durham Farmers' Market... located in the eclectic Durham Central Park area. There are tons of cool-looking working artist studios, a lovely park, and most importantly what turned out to be a fabulous market.
The vendor I was most excited about visiting was Sunset Ridge Buffalo Farm. We love us some bison around this house. Bison is lean, slightly sweeter than beef, and lacking that gamey flavor of some wild meats. It is low in cholesterol, calories and fat. This makes it a choice alternative protein for dieters and health-conscious folks. Bison is also heart healthy and higher in protein than beef, chicken, pork or fish. Not to mention... it is delicious. Unfortunately, around Fayetteville... it is incredibly difficult to come by. So, imagine how excitedly overwhelmed I was to have this selection to choose from:
We settled on 1 lb of stew meat, some Italian spiced sausage, bison jerky, and a few different flavors of bison meat sticks. The Mr. and I are currently collaborating on a bison stew recipe. It is in the crock pot as we speak, and the heavenly aroma is already wafting through the house. Stay tuned for the recipe later this week! As far as the jerky goes... yum! But, the bison sticks (especially the sweet flavor)... INSANELY DELICIOUS!
As I mentioned, I am a sucker for a freshly-baked loaf of artisan bread. We came across one lady that had some of the most beautiful loaves to choose from. (Note to self: I really need to take better notes on vendor names next time around). But, the Mr. and I, spice addicts that we are, settled on a loaf of jalapeno cheddar bread.
It was the first thing I tore into when we got home. Toasted with a pat of butter melted on top... drool. It would also make for some lovely rustic panini sandwiches. I'm actually pondering the logistics of a savory French toast recipe. Hmmm...
Anyone that knows me, knows that cheese is my weakness. The restaurant that I miss most in Dallas is Cru. We used to have girls' night there all the time. I was always satisfied with my Sinful Experience Flight of cheeses and a refreshing flight of champagne. The restaurant was an experience in and of itself. But, as it is... I have to create my own cheese flights these days.
We picked up cheeses from two different vendors: Chapel Hill Creamery and Celebrity Dairy. Both of these vedors were winners in the "Local Cheese Producer" category of the annual Best of the Triangle: Reader's Choice Poll put out by Independent Weekly. Chapel Hill Creamy took first place. And, we took some of their Paneer. The kind lady working the booth suggested it as a wonderful cheese for frying. Maybe next time. This time, I'm concocting a bruschetta recipe that incorporates it. Recipe to follow this week! Next trip, I'm amped to try their Carolina Moon variety. Our selection from Celebrity Dairy was a goat cheese: Silk Hope. It is described as "a hand-ladeled cheese, coated with vegetable ash and mold-ripened to a snowy white finish. I'm seeing this as a serving cheese. Some fresh honey, some toasted almonds, and fresh-baked bread. Yum.
By this time, I'm sure the Mr. was bored out of his mind (although he is kind enough to never admit it). So, he was quite delighted to come across a local craft brewery vendor: Fullsteam. They are another first-place winner in Best of the Triangle.
Me, not being much of a craft beer connoisseur, let him pick his poison. He settled on Southern Lager. They are sold in half-gallon growlers for $14. The best part is that $4 of that is a refundable deposit that you get when you bring the jug back. I had planned to use it in the bison stew, but by the time I got to the stove... it was gone. But, we'll bring it back next week and try another kind.
Aside from fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, and breads. There were a couple of vendors selling non-edible wares. The one that really drew me in was Moondance Soaps. To be honest, I normally don't buy soaps like this. Although, beautifully fragrant... I find them to be frivilous, and impractical.
The man working the booth offered the Mr. a tiny, individually-wrapped sample of Rose Petals & Cream Goat's Milk Soap. I picked it up, gave it a quick whiff, and was instantly transported back to Seattle. Whatever it is about that soap... it reminds me of home. Although, I have only lived in Seattle for a handful of years, it will always be where my heart is. That soap took me back. I HAD to have a bar of it.
What do ya' know... we actually did buy some fruitsand veggies! Although a little early still for peaches, I picked up a basket. I'm full of hope that these will be delicious. I'm thinking they'll make their way into a canning experiment sometime this week.
Blackberries. HUGE. Juicy. Sweet. Blackberries. From Maple Spring GardensThese didn't even make it home. They were snacks for the 1.75 hour drive home.
Fresh, sweet corn on the cob. We're going to throw these babies in a pot of boiling water, and enjoy with our stew tonight.
Fresh green beans. Because, let's face it... I'm obsessed with them lately.
Lyon Farms had deliciously sweet strawberries, and offers their own strawberry cider bottled for sale. They serve up strawberry cider slushies that were the perfect way to round out our day at the market, and cool us off on the walk back to the car.
On the way back, we stumbled upon this fabulous street art. The Mr. loves the quote. It is a standard by which society should strive to live by.
We've already started planning our list for next week's trip. Two of the things on my list: a Coke float from the most adorable ice cream truck I've ever seen...
And, a bundle of these gorgeous flowers for my table...
Join me next Saturday for another exciting trip to the market!