December 16, 2010

One Farmers’ Market Enthusiast Reflects on City Market South

As autumnal weather continues to become more frequent in Western North Carolina, some of our favorite outdoor activities are drawing to a close. One farmers' market enthusiast, however, is still taking advantage of the City Market South, which runs through October. Paul Szurek shares his observations about why the market should not be missed:

"Almost every father I know in Asheville wants to create inspiring and instructive memories for his family. Our beautiful mountains, lakes and rivers provide choice settings. But one can still be surprised by an opportunity that is simple but still deeply authentic. One of those opportunities lies in the local farmers' market.

I love cooking for the family. We like food, and we always have great conversations around the table. And with competitive cooking shows like "Top Chef" and "Iron Chef" around, even my three sons and I find something edgy and exciting about pushing the envelope and moving beyond the standard "Dad fare" of steak and potatoes.

But there's only so much time in the day. How can one stretch the menu–and the imagination–under the time constraints most of us encouter? Here's a suggestion: go to one of the local ASAP-sponsored farmers' markets, like the City Market held every Wednesday afternoon in Biltmore Park Town Square, and buy something totally different and random to bring home and cook for the wife and kids.

In less time than it takes for a normal coffee break, or whatever it is you do when you lift your head up briefly from the mess on your desk, you can pick up all the fixings for a memorable meal. I've grilled naturally grown and processed steaks, pork chops, kielbasa and bratwurst (Hickory Nut Gap Farms has a great selection), and fresh trout from Sunburst Farms. I've even butterflied and broiled some incredibly tasty French heirloom chickens. That particular meal may have stretched me a bit far into Julia Child territory, but the results were worth it.

As for accompaniments, it is almost confounding how many different potatoes there are, each with its unique taste and all with more taste than you are used to from potatoes that are shipped from far away. Ditto for beets, which have become a family favorite. And I could go on and on about the more than thirty varieties of vegetable–many of which are not available at the grocery store–that I seem to see every week. I've also a weakness for the incredible locally-handcrafted cheeses from Three Graces Dairy and Spinning Spider that I usually pair with chopped fresh fig and the freshly baked artisan bread for dessert. The possibilities are endless!"

Paul Szurek