It is only Saturday night, so we still have a good portion of weekend left. But Sunday night doesn’t seem like a good time for me to sit down and blog. Besides, I’ve already got plenty to talk about, and loads of pictures to share. So settle in and enjoy a little mini-tour of Charlotte. (And by “mini,” I mean two places. The length of this post would qualify as mega, though.)
Her weekend started Friday—she only teaches Monday through Thursday. (Though starting this week, she’ll be in class from 7:30 am until 6 pm for three of those days.) Anyway, I can’t tell you a lot about her Friday, since I myself had to work a regular day. From what I hear, there was a lot of screen time. And it wasn’t all work, by any stretch of the imagination.
To be fair, she started some laundry, cleaned up her car, etc. After I got home, we swung into action as a team, and by the time we went to bed we had cleaned the whole house. That’s a nice way to start your weekend, isn’t it? (Don’t worry, we’ll be running around Sunday night cleaning it all over again.)
Saturday morning started with a 5:45 am alarm, so we could get to the farmers’ market in time for Miss Chef’s demo at 7:30. Since she had so much time Friday to prepare, it was a relatively easy out-the-door. She had even prepared a yogurt parfait for each of us to take along for breakfast.
We parked behind the restaurant, and I helped carry the equipment into the market, then left Miss Chef to set herself up while I went shopping. I had two lists—one for us, and one for the school restaurant. Yup, she gets up early on her day off to get supplies for the school, because she wants the students to see all the local food they have available to them. Last weekend she even brought some students with her—and one of them showed up again this week, with his wife and child in tow!
Back to my shopping, here are a few of the vendors I bought from…
This is Aaron from Bosky Acres. (Yeah, he blinked…and he’s not the only one, as you’ll see!) From him I bought 8 oz. of feta cheese for the restaurant and 4 oz. plain for us.
Aaron is only 15, but he’s a big help to his mom Michele. Miss Chef used to work at this farm, making cheese, soap and especially the seasonal goat-cheese chocolate truffles Michele’s customers buy up like…um, candy in the winter. Today Michele had to stay at the farm to host a cooking class, so his dad Matt dropped him off to man the booth on his own, while Matt went to the big regional farmer’s market in Charlotte.
Mindy of Tega Hill Farm sells all kinds of lettuces, as well as squash blossoms and hothouse tomatoes in the late spring. I bought a couple heads of French crisp and one of red oak lettuce. (Betcha didn’t know there were so many varieties of lettuce!) Miss Chef loves to use her micro greens as garnishes. These are bigger than sprouts, but only have a couple of leaves each. Mindy grows all kinds of micros—celery, basil, beets, amaranth—but my favorite is micro popcorn greens! They really taste like corn.
Carl blinked too, dangit. I’ve shown you him before, though. He and his wife Lea run Carlea Farm, where he raises our Thanksgiving turkey. Today I picked up 5 lbs of fingerling potatoes and 1 lb green beans for the restaurant, and a dozen eggs for the house. I think it would be fun to make another batch of pasta with his eggs and bring him a sample.
Pat Sain of Pat’s Pickin’s is a favorite of Miss Chef’s. Just look at the character in that face. He’s a sweet guy, and occasionally comes into the restaurant with his wife for special dinners. Miss Chef likes to buy from him because he has arugula all through the summer, which is quite a feat in the North Carolina heat. He also grows potatoes, figs, blackberries, all kinds of beans, beets, corn…andabunchofotherstuff. Today I got a pound of arugula for the restaurant and a bag of lima beans for the house.
I didn’t get pictures of Kim and Doug Hinson, where I picked up tomatoes and cucumbers for the house. Or of Sammy’s gaggle of kids from New Town Farms, who sold me peppers and cherry tomatoes. Or of Milt of Baucom’s Best beef, where I picked up some chicken leg quarters.
I did get a picture of some of their kids, though…
That’s Mindy’s daughter, Milt’s son Hayden, and Jeremy (another blinker, dangit!), whose moms own the biggest pastured-pork farm in the area—as well as a food cart and a restaurant in the heart of Uptown Charlotte. Here the other two are keeping Hayden company while he mans the complimentary pepper-roasting station. (Those of you in New Mexico, no, not that kind of pepper roasting; much more tame!) Early in the market, Hayden was begging for business, so Miss Chef took advantage of his eagerness and had him roast some eggplants for her demo.
Oh, yes, I almost forgot, she was doing her demo while I wandered around taking pictures and shopping.
If I point out the jar of tahini next to the food processor, can anyone guess what she made? Well, the second thing she made was baba ganoush—thus the roasted eggplants. What she’s taste-testing in the photo is hummus. Now, if you’ve never heard of these dishes, they certainly don’t sound promising from their descriptions—mashed eggplant or chickpeas? But of course, if you’ve ever tasted them, you know the sum equals more than its parts! Miss Chef went the baba ganoush one better by adding goat cheese. Totally unorthodox, but definitely a winner. A Turkish vendor who grew up with baba ganoush came over to ask if she could get a recipe because it was so good!
After Miss Chef’s demo, it was time for the demo in the main chef’s tent. Oh, and who is our surprise guest today?
Why look, it’s Chef Adam! Notice he’s got the same flashy red chef jacket as Miss Chef? That’s because he bought hers, too. It was a “five-years-too-late” going-away gift. It’s got the restaurant’s name embroidered under her name, so he was happy to see her representin’, even though she was officially there for the Art Institute.
There was a bit more marketing after this—we ended up going to the big Regional Farmer’s Market to get blackberries and some other things not available at the smaller Matthews market. Then we had to go down over the border into SC to pick up some very special mushrooms at Chef Luca’s restaurant. No, not those kinds of mushrooms…these:
These were brought to Charlotte by a forager Chef Luca knows, who gets his mushrooms from the foothills in the border area of South and North Carolina. There are about five different varieties here, most of which I’ve never seen before. Some of them are wood ear, lobster, borrata and chanterelles (which I have heard of). Their colors are wonderful, but I forgot to take a picture while we still had daylight. I adjusted lighting and tint in the photo above, but the one I took with a flash, while harsh, gives a more true idea of the colors.
So, are you all foodied out yet? We were, because once we got home and unloaded all our marketing into the fridge, we had to take a break. Miss Chef took a nap and I puttered around a bit. Around two o’clock she woke up, and we decide on our next adventure for the day. Don’t worry, though, it’s not food-oriented!
Nope, this time we turned to beer.
Anyone remember our Microbrews Cruise at the Whitewater Center several months ago? That’s when Miss Chef and I decided we wanted to visit the tap room and tour the brewery at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery. Now that Miss Chef’s got her whole Saturday to play with, it seemed like an appropriate time to follow up.
The tasting room is a very open, pleasant space with a very high ceiling and lots of wood and warm colors.
As you can see, they were fairly busy on a Saturday afternoon. There’s an outside seating area too, complete with cornhole games. Miss Chef and I liked the flags from various German cities hanging from the rafters inside. You’ll notice the demographic here is pretty narrow—generally between, oh, 23 to 50-something years old, white, college-educated, slightly affluent. Limited, but as Miss Chef pointed out, a good demographic to target.
Behind the bar at the end of the room, you can look into the brewing floor.
As I mentioned, we were there also for one of their free tours (they do about three each on Saturday and Sunday). Here are a few shots from inside the brewing area.
First, here are the brewing tanks, where barley, hops and water are combined in separate steps to create wort. (Remember our friend Wort from Miss Chef’s own brewing?)
The guide told us the copper housing is strictly for aesthetics, which is okay by me. What a rich, glowing color!
Olde Meck uses authentic German brewing traditions, observing the 500-year old law of Reinheitsgebot. This was a German beer purity law established to assure the quality of beer that up to that point had often been adulterated or cut by other liquids for profit’s sake. The Reinheitsgebot states that only four ingredients can be used in beer: water, barley, hops and yeast.
It doesn’t say anything about robots, though.
Nor about the use of spaceships.
Actually, this is a filtering unit, the last step before bottling. (Or is it a secret government project for a manned mission to Mars?)
Behind the bottling area, you can see some of the massive fermenting tanks. The tour guide was telling us how many barrels and pints each could hold, but when he got up to the thousands, all the numbers fell out of my head. Besides, I’m more comfortable drinking half-pints, and I don’t care to count that high on a weekend. :D
If you’re a big beer fan, you can buy your own growler—the standard is 64 ounces, but they have different sizes—and bring it in for refills. We saw a lot of empty growlers come in while we were there…and there are plenty more looking for new homes.
After the tour, we returned to the tap room and decided we needed some grub to help us finish our second glass of beer. What else would a German-inspired brewery serve but brats and kraut?
The brats were pretty good, I enjoyed the beans, and the German potato salad would have been good if it had had any salt in it. We also had a big soft pretzel, which was good for being pulled cold out of a plastic bag. Miss Chef is tempted to contact the owners and tell them she can cook a heckuva lot better food for them.
Phew! That’s a lot of excitement for one day. Now can you see why I decided to just go ahead and write this post now? Tomorrow morning we’re planning on going paddling at the Whitewater Center, and then it’ll be boring homework, lesson planning and ironing. So at least you got the interesting half of the weekend.