Like the old saying goes, “March came in like a lion but left like a lamb”. The beginning of the month was still in the grip of Old Man Winter, but the weather, especially this last weekend, was what Spring is all about: Sunny, warm, breezy, and not a little colorful.
Here in Austin, the middle of March is taken up with the annual craziness that is SXSW. While I normally don’t participate (I remember the good old days when it was just about the local music), this year was different. I participated in a panel on food & heritage long with Amy Kritzer of What Jew Wanna Eat, Kay Marley-Dilworth of ATX Food News, and Annette Priest, founder of Revel Insight. (Here is the Storify link).
As well as doing the SXSW panel, I also recorded a podcast with Cecilia Nasti of Field & Feast on Croissants.
After my SXSW was over, however, Husband Steve’s was just beginning; he’s the music guy. So, since he wasn’t home much during most of the festival, I didn’t do too much cooking this month. Hence, I didn’t do my usual amount of shopping.
So, sadly, I have no new recipes to share this month. Just some really lovely photos.
Sunday, March 1. Mueller Farmers Market
It was cold. Very cold. Also cloudy and damp.
As my friend Kelly Ann and I watched the ducks swim on the pond at Mueller, I wondered how they could stand it.
We had to park a ways out from the market stands because not only was the market open, but the Thinkery (the new Austin Children’s Museum) was in full swing.
While I normally enjoy the walk from the further lots (it is very pretty), that day was an exception.
As is my usual routine, I sought out my favorite produce vendor, Johnson’s Backyard Garden. I may not always buy the bulk, or any, of my produce from them on a given visit (I like to try others, too), I simply like to go and take a look anyway. Their displays are beautiful and their produce, most of the time, is fantastic.
Had to stop by the Austin institution that is Texas French Bread for some sourdough wheat. If you’ve never had it, you’re missing out on something great.
Even though I set myself a limit on how much I’ll spend on any given visit, if I impulsively decide to visit Countryside Farms, I know the limit will be crossed.
Their meats and charcuterie are excellent and unique. And, one of these days, I’m really going to indulge in some of their rillettes, pates, and mousses. But for now, I’m going to stick with the old stand-bys: chicken, sausage, and bacon. And, occasionally, lard and marrow.
K & S Seafood was a vendor that hadn’t seen before. They generally sell at Cedar Park and Barton Creek Farmers Markets according to their Facebook Page.
I decided to try some Black Drum, a fish neither Steve nor I had ever tried before (at least not knowingly). The fish that I bought had been caught the previous Thursday, cleaned, filleted, and kept on ice. So, even though by this point it was 3 days old, it still had a nice oceany smell to it. However, the lady working the stand did tell me that I needed to cook it within the next 24-48 hours.
I’m not sure if it’s the way I cooked the fish (simple pan searing) or what, but we decided we didn’t care for it. There was really no flavor and the texture was almost plastic-like.
I can see using the drum bones to make stock, though. The flavor would be mild enough to take seasonings well and not overpower.
Now, I know that all sorts of studies have warned against drinking alcohol to keep warm. But, when you’re confronted with a cold, damp, and windy day, and you’re presented with a table full of mead that you’re encouraged to sample for free, I’d like to see you say “no” and walk away.
Meridian Hive Meadery‘s samplings were the highlight of the trip. I tried 4 excellent samples and finally landed on the Huajilla as my choice. Not too sweet and a little dry, I think it will be lovely in the late spring, early summer, or mid autumn.
The meadery opened in Austin in 2012 and is open for tours and tastings (check the website for details).
Now, on to my purchases for the day:
Thursday, March 12: Boggy Creek Farm
With Steve’s SXSW already starting and me getting ready for a crazy few days that included a much-anticipated visit from my oldest (long-term) friend Michelle, I took it easy at my monthly visit to Boggy Creek Farm.
Compared to my visit to Mueller, the day at Boggy Creek was almost balmy. By that I mean, the sun was actually out. At least a little. It had been raining for several days prior to my visit, so things were a little messy at the farm. Nothing terrible – just puddles and mud.
After I bought my produce and sausage, I did what I always do, take a little stroll around the farm.
And, of course, there were the grande dames and lords of the farm, the chickens and roosters.
I noticed that they were all running around loose and I wondered what was going on. Carol Ann told me that because of the rains, the coop was muddy, so they let the chickens and roosters out so the coop could be cleaned and dried. She said that they all normally get to run loose after the farmstand is closed for the day, but and exception was made and they were let out early.
Needless to say, I stayed longer than I had originally planned.
So, my purchases for the day:
Sunday, March 22: Hope Farmer’s Market.
This was the best day yet. Spring warm, sunny, and SXSW was finally over.
Hope isn’t a large market, so I generally see a lot of the same vendors I see at other markets. Some seem to be exclusive to this one.
Of course, Johnson’s Backyard Garden was there. And, as usual, their stand was glorious. The only sour note was their romaine lettuce. While I did end up buying a bag, I really had to search for one that wasn’t already beginning to brown.
Yard to Market Co-Op was a vendor I’ve not seen or noticed before. I just took a quick look at their website and it looks like Hope is the only farmers market they attend.
I will say their produce looked amazing (especially the dino-sized rutabaga) and the eggs were so fresh they looked like they came out of the hens that morning.
I’ll most definitely need to seek them out first next time I head to Hope Market.
And, yes. I stopped by Countryside Farms again. I was hoping for another chicken. They were sold out; so, I settled for some Merguez.
As I was leaving, I decided to take the long way back to the car and admire some of the East Austin mural art. It seems to be one of the few signs left that this area was a thriving Hispanic & African American community. Sadly, like most other medium-to-large cities, people from the older neighborhoods are being priced out in the name of progress.
Once again, I headed home with my purchases.
Since I don’t have any recipes this month, I thought I’d give you a tutorial on how to wash and store your fresh greens. This can apply whether you buy your greens organic at the farmers market, farmstands, or the conventional produce from the grocery store.
All produce has the same thing: dirt. Dirt you have to wash off. Whether it comes from the ground or other people, it has to be washed off. This is especially true with leafy greens. Dirt tends to get into the nooks and crannys of the stems and leaves, and, if you don’t wash them properly, at best, you’ll end up with grit in your food.
And sometimes, bugs. Yes, bugs happen.
So, here is the tutorial in pictorial form:
I hope this was useful.
See you in April.
Well, at the end of the month.