Saturday, April 25, 2009

Market Report: April 25, 2009

First of all, yes, I've made a few changes around here. I've been thinking for awhile about changing the name of my blog, ever since I coined the name "Flartopia" in some post or another. I thought it would be more fitting, since I've moved away from a sort of editorial focus to more of a daily journal describing what goes on in my little corner of the world.

Besides, it'll make the URL easier to remember.

I also wanted to freshen up the look a little, though honestly, I'm not so sure about this green background. Maybe it will grow on me--if it starts giving you all headaches, seizures or nightmares, please let me know and I'll switch it back!

Ok, on to the report!!

Yes, today was the Biscuit Bakeoff! Miss Chef and I signed up as market volunteers over the winter, and today was our first "gig." We were asked to arrive at 8:30...which, since we needed to get some shopping done, meant we had to show up even earlier. Please keep in mind that we live about 30 minutes away, so as to get the early-morning perspective right here.

I set my alarm for 6:30--6:00 would have been better, but I just couldn't face another morning getting up in the dark. We were aiming for a 7:30 arrival time, and got there about ten 'til eight. Not too bad, considering Miss Chef and her Chef went out after work last night to a 24-hour pastry shop. I think they had a good time, but Miss Chef and I were both pretty sleepy when she was telling me about it this morning, so that's about all I'm able to tell you about that.

Anyway, there were two sets of biscuit-baking honors up for grabs today. The first was to be awarded by four professional judges: two area pastry chefs--Christine from Down Home Baking and Laura from By Lucille--along with Kathleen Purvis, the food editor of the Charlotte Observer; and Peter Reinhart, pastry chef, restaurateur, author, Chef Instructor at the Charlotte campus of Johnston & Wales, and--I just recently learned--a James Beard Award winner for his book The Bread Baker's Apprentice. So, he's pretty much a national expert on all things bread. I kind of wished I had entered, just so I could say Peter Reinhart liked my biscuits.

The second set of prizes was to be awarded via a "People's Choice" vote by any market-goer who cared to participate. That's where Miss Chef and I entered into the picture, along with two other volunteers. Our job was to cut up the biscuits in bite-sized pieces and put them into tiny paper cups for voters to sample.

The biscuits were divided into two categories: traditional and specialty. There were only seven entries total, down from twelve last year. Here's one of this year's entries in the traditional category:

And yes, they did taste as good as they looked! That nice white towel sure didn't hurt appearances none, either. Click on the picture to biggerize it; they look even better up close.

Here's one of the specialty biscuit/scones:

I think these were called chili cheese scones, or some such. I didn't want to try them, because you could see the bits of green chili in them, and I am a total wuss about spicy foods. But Miss Chef really liked them, so I had to give them a taste. I don't know how the baker did it, but it had all the flavor of a chili and absolutely none of the heat. And believe me, I would have noticed.

So after all the entries arrived, we four got to work cutting 'em up, while Peter Reinhart gathered quite a crowd at the next tent. As far as I could hear, he was explaining what makes a Southern biscuit a Southern biscuit, and what makes a good biscuit good. Other people kept wandering past our growing piles of biscuit bites, reaching out for samples while we politely informed them--over and over again--that we weren't ready yet. I mean, we did have knives in our hands; it could have gotten ugly.

Then, finally, Peter released the wolv--I mean, public to come sample and vote. I was glad to be inside the ring of tables; even with four of us, it was still less crowded than out there.

I have to say, I wondered at 8:30 why there were four volunteers called in for this event, but by 9:30 I saw the wisdom in that decision! We worked pretty steadily keeping up with demand, answering questions, and failing to stop the little boy who stole two whole biscuits right under our noses. He was darn cute, and if I hadn't been so busy, I would have demanded he let me take his picture as repayment.

These scones above were in the specialty category. I don't know what their official name was, but they had lots of spices, particularly ginger. As you can see, they were very popular.

This was not the biscuit thief, but I loved how serious he was about making his final selection.

It seemed only about 10 minutes later when Mr. Reinhart told the voters to finish up; we were still completely surrounded by people lined up with ballots in their hands. The organizers rushed folks through, gathered up the ballots, and went off to an empty corner to tally up. We stopped cutting and started tasting, once we knew all the votes were in.

After a little confusion and hustle, Peter Reinhart announced the winners. Here he is below, in the center of the group. I don't know who the guy on the far left is, but I'm sure you can tell the two pastry chefs there (from whom I generally buy my market-morning breakfasts--thanks for the brioche!). To the right of Peter are Kathleen Purvis and Pauline Wood, the official Market Manager.

We didn't get any numbers, but I'm thinking the traditional category was an easy win--those towel-wrapped buttermilk biscuits I showed you at the top took home the prize, both from the judges and the public. The ginger-scented scones won the specialty category, again from both sets of voters. I can't remember who got 2nd and 3rd prizes; the sun was getting kind of hot and we still had some cleaning up to do!

On our way out of the market, we stopped to say hi to Miss Chef's whom I will now just refer as Chef Adam, because it's getting annoying writing it the other way. We headed over to the restaurant, which is across the street from the market, so I could find out if they were going to need me to bus tonight--the regular busser got busted by her parents for running up her phone bill, so they yanked her out of her job. (No, it doesn't make sense to me either--how's she supposed to pay the bill now?) I still don't know if they'll need me, but they've only got another hour to call and let me know, so hopefully I'll be able to chill tonight.

After all, I used up all my naptime messing around on my blog!

Epilogue: Yep, I got to stay home tonight and entertain the dog! Plus, I found some other pictures I took this morning, so I'll toss in some beautiful radishes, free of charge. The farmer at the booth was so sweet; when I told her I wanted to take a picture of her radishes, she grabbed a spray bottle to mist them for me. I tell ya, it's no wonder we enjoy the market so much!


  1. I would have loved to have been there for the biscuits, yum. I'm watching Iron Chef as I write this, an olive competition with Chef Simon.

  2. Beautiful post Flar.

    I LOVE Flartopia. Is it a real place or a state of mind, I wonder?

    Love the green too. Green is calming. Green is fresh. Green is springy. Green is the new pink.

    Loved the biscuit competition commentary. I would have loved the chili cheese scones - hot or not. They look delish.

    And the photos all looked warm, sunny and lovely. Hello Spring! Finally!

  3. A 24-hour pastry shop, biscuit competition and Peter Reinhart?? You live a charmed life, my friend.

    Love the new name and tagline. Perfect.

  4. Your changes are good! And now I'm hungry for fresh, hot, homemade biscuits. But I don't bake. Oh, what will I do?!!!

    Nancy in Atlanta

  5. I love biscuits, actually bread type dishes are always my favorites. They looked delicious!

    I love the great new blog name, unique, interesting and very you!

  6. sigh.

    Please send biscuits AND cookies.

    Fred and family.

    PS - Love the new look. Flartopia Forever!


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