Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Calling All Locavores

My best friend Jake recently turned me on to a word and concept I had never heard before: Locavore. A locavore is a person who eats only locally grown food, or food grown within a limited distance from where they live. Locavores are part of a larger local food movement that encourages sustainability by growing your own food and/or shopping at local Farmer's Markets.

Always up for trying on a new movement, Philip and I put on our locavore hats and spent a good chunk of Saturday at the Flint Farmer’s Market. We hung with Tim the Crepe guy, picked up supplies from the vendors (D’vine Wines is my favorite!), caught up with lots of old friends, and of course, we ate. It’s no surprise to me that the Flint Farmer’s Market was recently voted “The Most Beloved Farmer’s Market in America.” It's definitely the place for a couple of budding locavores to hang out and "be seen."

If you’re not familiar with the Market, allow me to give you a brief tour. (You can also go to the Flint Farmer’s Market Web site and click on “Our Vendors.” Here’s a shortcut: http://www.flintfarmersmarket.com/vendor_list.asp. The list on this site includes the permanent, indoor vendors, but seasonally, The Market also includes an additional 25-30 additional outdoor vendors. Many of them sell produce, but a number of good food carts pop up as well.

Six different vendors offer breads of many varieties, including bagels, donuts, flatbreads, muffins, breakfast rolls, whole grain/sour dough/French and other assorted loaves, and of course the ever popular Giant Elephant Ears, which you can smell all through the Market. Everything is baked fresh daily, so if you don’t get to the Market early enough, there’s a good chance your favorite bread might already be gone. That’s happened to me enough times that now I always get to the Market before noon to make sure I get what I want.

Whenever Philip and I host a dinner party, we always include a cheese course. It’s different; it classy, and it feels a bit, well, French. All good reasons to go visit young Paul, the Cheese monger at Hills Home Cured Cheese. In addition to their dreamy triple cream brie, they have over a hundred cheeses from around the world.

The best way to try them is to ask Paul for a sample. He’s very knowledgeable and able to turn even the vaguest of requests into a recommendation that will please your taste buds beyond your expectations. I highly recommend the Wisconsin Applewood Smoked Cheddar, if you’re just getting your cheese-feet wet. This cheese is versatile, hearty, and far and away one of the finest I’ve eaten. You can serve it in omelets, on crackers, in sauces, or just break a piece off and pop it in your mouth. The lines can get pretty long here as well, so plan your visit accordingly.

Fruits and vegetables are Market staples, and you will not be disappointed with the wide variety of fresh pickins. Four permanent vendors hawk their goods all year and offer plenty of choices. When I’m in the mood to cook vegetarian, which is usually Thai or Indian, I stuff my big orange Market Sack—a recyclable bag you can purchase for five bucks—with vegetables and fresh herbs. You can also purchase herbs and spices at Edna’s Herbs & Fine Cured Meats Shop.

But of course, I’m a carnivore at heart. Lucky for me The Flint Farmer’s Market boasts a robust cluster of meat and poultry shops that offer the freshest, highest quality meats in the county. I rarely leave the Market without paying a visit to Knob Hill Meats. I created a recipe several years ago called Rosemary Port Roast. Yes, Port Roast. In the words of Rachel Ray, a person I’ve never been very fond of, “It’s yummo.” Anyway, Knob Hill sells a delectable bottom round roast that’s ideally suited for this recipe. All totaled, there are five meat and poultry shops in the Market.

In the spirit of embracing the concept of the locavore, and in the spirit of embarking on a six month tour of Mexican food experiences throughout Flint, I have come up with a culinary challenge for myself. I’m going to try to make an authentic Mexican dinner using ingredients that I buy exclusively from the Flint Farmer’s Market vendors. I haven’t disclosed this on my site yet, but I am an Aquarian. I only share that with you now because one primary characteristic of an Aquarian mind is that thinking up the idea for something is much more enticing than actually implementing the idea you’ve come up with. Translation: I love this idea. Now let’s see if I actually follow through.

I would challenge you to embrace your inner locavore and drop by the Flint Farmer’s Market. I double dog dare you to come up with your own authentic Mexican meal, purchasing all of the ingredients at the Market. If you’re willing to share, I will post the recipes for anyone’s locavore Mexican meal right here on Eating Flint. Let’s get busy people! I’m sure you’re not all Aquarians.

3 comments:

  1. Good blog, Bob. I want to mention the fabulous Vermont butter that Paul occasionally sells at the cheese shop. It comes wrapped in blue and white paper in a little basket, and its flavor, especially on fresh butter croissants from the bakery, will help ease the dolor of the latest Michigan football loss.

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  2. Jan, if it's as delicious as your description, I'm in for a treat.

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  3. Not to be picky, but doesn't buying cheeses from around the world undercut the 'locavore' nature of the project? A friend of mine (whom I believe you know and for a small fee I will identify) takes this idea to its logical extension: he signed up to purchase a set amount of local produce weekly. He receives this bag with no foreknowledge of what will be in it each week- it is dependent upon the local season. When he discovers what he has bought for the week, he crafts that week's menu. Local and tied to the current season.

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