Monday, January 30, 2012

Now Serving Uptown Charlotte: 7th Public Street Market

Last Friday, I took a walk with another local foodie to the new 7th Street Public Market. Located in the old Reid's location across from 7th Street Station, this consolidation of many small businesses opened in early December. The market's mission is to bring fresh, regional food to the city center and help quench the "food desert" that many urbanites find themselves in.

On Friday at lunch, the following vendors were alive and kicking at the market:
Other vendors include:
The produce section of the market is dubbed The Farm Stand and is a collaboration with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. On Friday, they had a wide selection of mid-Winter produce including butternut squash, apples, greens like bok choi and kale, some delicious carrots and turnips. They also had local products including milk, jams and other canned items, butter, salsa, hummus, eggs and lots more. 

All in all, this is a very exciting development for those that work and live in Uptown!

7th Street Public Market
224 E. 7th St.
Monday-Friday: 7am to 7pm
Saturday and Sunday: 9am to 4pm
*Individual vendor hours may vary. Parking is validated at 7th Street Station for up to 90 minutes.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Spices and Seasonal Vegetables

If you're like my household, by this time of the winter you're getting a teensy bit tired of the standard fall and winter produce favorites. There are only so many ways to cook a potato or turnip before you start having weird dreams about them. I love all of the current seasonal hits more than most people but even I need to spice things up by this time in January, pun definitely intended.

Spices, spices, spices. Salt and pepper can get you a long way but what about chili powder, cardamon, and ginger? How often do you reach for cinnamon when you're making carrots? Not very often, I bet, but these spices and so many others can really liven up your midwinter meals. 

A great store that just came to Charlotte is the Savory Spice Shop. The Savory began as a mom and pop store in Denver, CO, but has been franchised in a handful of cities across the U.S. A group of friends recently opened their own franchise in the Atherton complex just across the parking lot from the market. They have everything from sugars, cinnamons and other sweet flavors to pretty much any savory spice you can think of. As an added bonus, all spices are sold by the ounce so you can chose how much you want.
My current favorite way to use one of their products is for sweet potatoes and butternut squash, both of which you can buy all over North Carolina right now. The Lomax Farm, Coldwater Creek and several vendors at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market are selling sweet potatoes and the butternut squash I got from Houston Farms. Add some olive oil from Ohh-lio Express and either the Bohemian Forest Rub or the Tandoori spice from the Savory Spice Shop and you've got a vegetable side dish worthy of an entree!

Butternut Squash and Sweet Potatoes (V)
1 butternut squash
1-2 sweet potatoes
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Spice of your choice
1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Cut potato and squash into 1 inch pieces and place in a 9x13 pan
  2. Drizzle olive oil on top 
  3. Sprinkle your favorite spice and salt
  4. Heat at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until potato and squash are at your desired tenderness
Note: Salt can really bring out the flavor of spices that otherwise might fall a little flat so add just a dash, especially for international flavor profiles.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Restaurant Review: Harvest Moon Grille

When I tell people that I blog about local food, they usually spout off a list of local restaurants that source much of their menu from local farms and producers, most of which I've either never heard of and/or I want to try but haven't. Unfortunately, a lot of these restaurants are out of my weekly meal budget but are perfect for a special occasion.

This blogger’s birthday was last week and I was lucky enough to be taken to one of Charlotte’s premier locally-sourced restaurants, Harvest Moon Grille. Nestled in the historic Dunhill Hotel in Uptown, this restaurant may not be big but it has so much to offer.

Executive chef and owner Cassie Parsons not only cooks up unique recipes highlighting local ingredients but also operates Grateful Growers Farm in Lincoln County. Thus, many of the dishes showcase her farm's pork, including the soup of the day which was an amazing minestrone. Since I am a sucker for a good cheese plate, especially if it’s local, we also ordered their cheese sampler that included a house-made ricotta, some chipotle chevre and cured ham served in a way similar to prosciutto. These were excellent starters not only because they were local but because they are seasonal comfort foods perfect for the cold weather we've been having.

For our main courses, we ordered the pumpkin risotto and the special of the day, mahi-mahi. The risotto needed a tiny bit of salt but was otherwise excellent. The mahi-mahi was cooked to absolute perfection and served over a bed of rice. It looked monochrome but was incredibly tasty.

Like Halcyon, Harvest Moon is not your everyday dinner location in price nor quality. It is, however, an incredibly unique dining experience where you can tell the chefs have put a lot of effort into creative ways to complement local products and make amazing meals!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Recipes: Fun with Cabbage!

I know what you're thinking: cabbage and fun don't belong in the same sentence. Au contraire! Though true cabbage season isn't until May, Atherton Market vendors have had loads of this leafy vegetable. The Lomax Farm and Houston Farms have had both the traditional green cabbage as well as some beautiful purple and red cabbage. Other ingredients that complement cabbage are also readily available right now: Houston Farms has had really flavorful green onions; Lomax and Cold Water Creek Farms have had carrots; and Simply Local's Lusty Monk Mustard and local butter are also great additions. Here are some easy recipes using this local staple.

Cole Slaw (V)
Great for barbeque sandwiches or as a side dish, this is a super simple way to make lunch a little more exciting.

1 head of cabbage, sliced into 1/4 x 1 inch strips
1 carrot, shredded
1/4 cup green unions, diced
2 teaspoons spicy mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine all vegetables and mix well
  2. Combine wet ingredients in a small cup or bowl and mix well
  3. Cover the vegetables in the wet ingredients and toss thoroughly

Cabbage and Tofu Stir Fry (V)
Trying to stick to the vegan lifestyle? Here's a really easy recipe that you can throw together to get your protein intake for the day.

1 head of cabbage, sliced into 1/2 x 1 inch strips
1/2 pound tofu, sliced into 1/2 x 1 inch strips
2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 onion, sliced into 1/2 x 1 inch strips
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Heat oil in large wok
  2. Add onion cabbage and saute until slightly tender
  3. Add soy sauce and tofu and heat through
Just Cabbage (v, <5%, LPO)
My personal favorite, just cabbage, butter, salt and pepper. Can't beat the original!
1 head of cabbage, cut into large squares
1-2 tablespoons butter to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Just steam cabbage in double steamer or toss in a large wok!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A New Year's Resolution: Take Time for Food

Happy New Year, CLE readers!

A friend recently remarked that I spend a lot of time thinking about food. I only feed myself and my boyfriend on any given day but I spend a lot of energy planning, getting and cooking meals. Why should I bother when I could get pre-made food at the grocery store or pick up fast food on my way home from work?  The answer is this: that’s not good food.

Think about our ancestors. They spent most of their time hunting, gathering and, if they were any good at those two things, eating. Most of their energy was put into procuring more calories. Any hunter will tell you it takes a lot of time and patience to get your food directly from nature. Cavemen had to walk miles and spend days just looking for food. Not to sound too philosophical but, besides breathing, eating is pretty much all we have to do in life.

So why should we be any different? Clearly there are other things that a modern human has to do in order to survive but is what we eat any less important now than it was millions of years ago? I argue it isn’t. The quality of food that we consume is just as significant today as it was back then. In fact, in many ways it is more important that we carefully consider what we eat these days because there are so many easy options that aren’t necessarily good.

In a recent documentary I saw about obesity, an expert estimated that the average human makes over 200 food-related decisions a day, twenty or so before we even sit down in front of a bowl of cereal in the morning. Another argued that we love fast food and prepared foods because they take the guess work out of eating because they tell us both what and how much to eat.

Admittedly, eating local takes a lot more time than swinging by McDonalds. The market isn’t open 6am to midnight like most grocery stores so you have to plan ahead what you want to make for the week. You’re also not guaranteed to get what you need or want at a farmers market but that’s the fun part about smaller markets. You didn’t have fresh carrots on your shopping list but when you see the tasty morsels at the market, all of a sudden you are planning to make carrot top soup instead of butternut squash.

So this year, I challenge everyone to take more time for food – carefully consider what you eat and where it comes from. I bet you’ll find that you enjoy your food more and feel better when you slow down and eat!