Farmers Market Inspiration

I can’t think of a place where there is more color and texture than at a farmers market.

The produce, the flowers combine to make me want one of everything which means I always come home with more than I need.

This time the market buys provided inspiration for a table.  It was a little challenging getting the carrots through the neck of the bottle until I found just the right size.

IMG_9438With the centerpiece of flowers and vegetables in place, it was easy to choose the rest.  

I had planned on using the black plates with the harlequin bowls, but one plate was missing….how does that happen?  

The solution was to do half of the place settings in reverse which added a touch of the unexpected.

As I added glassware to the table, I remembered the little Mason jars which I use for the kid drinks at tini time.  Off went the chosen water glasses to be replaced by the jars. 

This table was such fun to create, and as I stood back and looked at it it dawned on me that inspiration can come from anywhere.  You just have to be open to the suggestions.

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Tablescape Thursday

 

New Look Belfast

Belfast

This is Belfast, not in Ireland but on the midcoast of Maine, so named at the request of an Irish settler around 1770.  With names like Yarmouth, Moscow, Camden, Naples I think many towns in Maine are named for places of early settlers origins.

Not  too long ago Belfast was best known for its chicken packing plant.  That is closed now, and new restaurants, galleries, and shops line the main street making it a very fun place for an outing.

One of the most popular eateries, not only in Belfast but on Maine’s coast, is Chase’s Daily where tasty vegetarian dishes are prepared from produce grown at the family farm.  During the summer months, one can expect a lengthy wait for a table.

Chase's DailyWait time can pass pretty quickly if you venture to the rear of the restaurant where there is a stunning array of vegetables and flowers available for purchase.

 Chase’s is also a venue for local artists to display their work.   How many places do you go and see art and vegetables being complementary?

As good as all the healthy food is, my very favorite thing is this cookie oozing with chocolate and dried cherries.  I’ve been known to have one when I’m waiting in line for a table.

New this year in Belfast is an unbelievable farmers market.   I’d been told it was wonderful, but I wasn’t prepared for just how great it is.

Most Maine farmers markets are outdoors.  Not this one!  It’s in a huge enclosed building, and plans are for it to operate year round.  Hopefully, the full time population of the midcoast will support it as it is a great asset to the area.

In addition to produce and locally made cheeses and meats, there are all kinds of prepared edibles surprisingly representing a number of cultures.  It’s going to take more than one visit to try them all!

It was great to see a variety of handmade items  displayed and getting considerable interest.  It got me to thinking about whether or not some of my handwoven pieces might find a market there. Scarves and shawls just might fit right in.

cupcakesMost of the vendors did a great job displaying their wares.  I tried to pass by the egg carton full of mini cupcakes, but it was impossible to resist!  Not only were the cupcakes cute, they were very tasty.

That’s a quick look at some of what is in Belfast.  Next stop is Coastal Mountain Land Trust’s recently developed rail-trail which follows the route of the Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad, a passenger and freight line which operated from 1871 to 2007 between Belfast and Burnham Junction.  A hike is just the thing to walk off the extra calories ingested at the farmers market.  Let’s get going!

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Fresh and Local

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Amsterdam

With the emphasis these days on fresh and local, farmers markets have popped up all over.  Here in Houston, there is one someplace on any given day, quite a contrast to a few years ago when the only market was on the north side of town and not all of the goods were local.

Siena, Italy

Siena, Italy

In other countries, markets are commonplace

Marakesh, Morocco

Marakesh, Morocco

and fill the air with their aromas,

Farmers Market

Vietnam

some not so pleasant.

Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand

Some offerings are exotic, not always recognizable to this traveler,

Franklin, Tennessee

Franklin, Tennessee

while others are the tried and true with honest to goodness flavors lacking in shipped fruits and vegetables.

Houston, Texas

Houston, Texas

Here in Houston, locally grown produce is side by side

Farmers Market many kinds of prepared foods which reflect the ethnic diversity of the city.

Indian food at a Houston market

Indian food at a Houston market

I especially like the Indian foods, so spicy and good.  They make me think of my daddy who would have said, “It tastes like something made out of something.”  He would have been right!

Farmers Market Indian foodOne thing’s for certain, coming home with a selection of samoas, chutneys and naan makes for a delicious and easy dinner!

Farmers Market gingersnapsFor dessert are best ever gingersnaps, the sale of which benefits a center for persons with intellectual disabilities.  It’s not always that my eating helps someone else!

Tell me, do you have a local farmers market and what special treats do you find there?

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Saturday Market

With people slowly paying more attention to what and how they eat, farmers markets have sprung up all over.  In Maine, there’s nothing new about that, and during the short growing season the markets and the folks who work so hard growing and preparing products are well supported.

Saturday is one of Camden’s market days and under a brilliant blue sky, today it was packed.  The market is not a huge one, but you can find whatever you desire.

My favorites?  The sausage guy is one.  His homemade sausages are a gourmands delight, perfect for an appetizer plate.

And this cute gal sells great breakfast sausage among other kinds

made from what I think must be happy pigs!

The cheese guy always tempts my taste buds,

and the produce is irresistible,

and today there were even hints that fall is right around the corner.

Want something other than edibles?  Well, that’s there, too.  I love these baskets

 and delight in watching her busy hands at work.

In addition to local Maine farmers markets, it is not unusual to find roadside stands where items are sold on the honor system.  Just this week I bought flowers and produce

and delicious pies.  Now, you can’t beat that.  Any time you see a market or a farm stand, I urge you to stop.  You’ll not only find special treats, you’ll be supporting those who are working so hard to make a living.

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Man in the Kitchen

When you have a place in Maine, lots of folks come to visit which means many meals to think about.  As a rule, guests, especially the ladies, are quite helpful, but what a surprise when a guy insists on taking over the kitchen.  Go for it I say!

First, we had to go to Beth’s, a nearby farmstand with loads of beautiful fresh produce.  You’ve never seen such rapture on a guy’s face as when he saw all there was to choose from.  He selected with, so he said, no fixed idea about how the veggies would be used for dinner.  Hmmm, I like that.

Veggie shopping done, next stop was the fish market where beautiful halibut filets and right out of the water scallops were selected.

Then to the kitchen where the real work began.  His wife and I were the peelers and choppers while the fella looked through the pantry for spices, oil and vinegar.  Next thing you know the house was filling with delicious aroma, and still there was no clue about what the finished dishes would be.  Talk about spontaneous!

To keep the chef going, we plied him with plenty of good wine.

All done, and here’s how all the ingredients came together.  First course was sliced watermelon topped with fresh goat cheese, blackberries, basil and a vinaigrette dressing.  Very refreshing on a warm night.

Second course,  seared scallops atop sautéed  chard and finished with a warm bacon vinaigrette.  What an interesting combination of ingredients and beyond good!

For the entrée, he prepared a corn pudding made with lots of fresh cream, roasted beets and purple haze carrots and pan roasted halibut topped with a creamy tomato sauce.  Oh my goodness, by the time we finished this meal the rest of us thought we had died and gone to heaven.  Keep in mind there were no recipes, no measured ingredients, just incredible results.  The only hint he gave for preparing really good food is that the dish should have a combination of sweet, tart and acidic flavors.  Here’s the really big clue: anything with bacon is good.

This guy doesn’t do dessert, and we really didn’t need one, but I just happened to have some tasty, all natural ice cream from the Ice Cream Lady and some freshly baked cookies to provide the finishing touch.  I wish Martha Stewart had been around to sample because I’m sure this meal would make her magazine.

Find lots of good recipes at Foodie Friday 

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Eat Fresh, Eat Local

Eat fresh, eat local has become a mantra when it comes to food in Houston.  That should be easy to do when you consider that, along with Florida and California, Texas has the longest growing season in the country.

Farmers’ markets have sprung up all over the place.  They can be found in parking lots at Rice University, shopping centers and restaurants, around the reflection pool at City Hall, at Discovery Green or in many neighborhoods.

Everything there is fresh and locally grown, meaning it came from somewhere in Texas.  And, of course, it has to be organic.

Fruits (can’t wait to make a pie with fresh dewberries) and vegetables are not all there is.

There is cheese

and olive oil (yep, made in Texas)

and baked goods, which for me means cookies,

and sometimes wine.

Some food is ethnic, ready to take home for dinner.

And not everything you find at the various markets is edible.  There are some clever handmade things like these adorable puppets

and hand embroidered cards.

No matter what is there, the good news is that the markets are getting people out, making them think about what they eat.  The only thing that is a bit troublesome is that the prices are steep which means that  these fresh and local products are not accessible to all, and that makes you wonder how we can do a better job positively impacting the eating habits of a obese country.

What are your thoughts about the way we eat?

Linked to Favorite Things Saturday and Seasonal Sundays.

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On to San Antonio

The Texas Hill Country is a short drive from San Antonio, best known for the Alamo and the River Walk.  Since those sites were familiar, we explored an area new to us, the old Pearl Brewery which is now home to a farmers’ market, restaurants and the Culinary Institute of America.

The farmer’s market was crowded with shoppers.

As good as all the fresh produce is, I must confess that here was my favorite thing.  The Mexican chocolate toffee was beyond good!

To keep the crowd entertained, a band was playing all those songs we love to hear

which made some people feel like dancing.

San Antonio has  an hispanic heritage, especially evident in the food.  

This restaurant prides itself on serving dishes reflective of what you would find on the streets of Mexico, nothing fancy, just good.

Tienda de Cocina is filled with cookware, dishes and foodstuffs for authentic Spanish influence at home preparation.

A few steps away from the market activity is the Culinary Institue of America where students are being trained to become the next top chef!  As part of their training, they prepare food for and run a bakery and an Italian restaurant where the taste tempting treats are tantalizing.

How do you like this chandelier made from frying pans!

As the Hill Country and San Antonio indicate, Texas is a good place to explore.  Come on down!

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