Saturday, hubs and I wanted to get out and about a bit. The eldest child was staying with my folks, so we just had the 2YO munchkin. Popped him in the truck and off we went.
I wanted to get some veggies at the Argenta Certified Arkansas Farmer’s Market, so we went there first. I had forgotten that Saturday was the Big Dam Bridge 100 bike race, with the finish line right next to the market. With a very loud and annoying DJ type, I should add. The market tents had been scooted down one block for the festivities, but all seemed well, with a good crowd and the beginnings of beautiful fall displays.
At the Argenta market, I purchased some shiitake mushrooms from a rowdy character I’d never met before, David Owens from Three Buddies Berries and Mushrooms of Higginson. He said that next year they hope to produce copious quantities of blackberries, huckleberries and gooseberries. Can’t wait. Also got some super neato radishes from Robert Lashley
of Willow Springs Market Garden in Little Rock, although I never really liked radishes before. I’ve found that market shopping encourages you to try new (and old) things. These were called “Watermelon” (or “red meat”) radishes, and he threw in a couple spicy black “Nero Tondo” radishes, apparently fairly rare. Anyone got any cool recipe ideas for all those?
I also bought some more fairy tale eggplants from Hardin Farms, since you, my loyal readers, seem to be so crazy about them. The fairy tale eggies land in my “top searched terms” data every day. Weird. Not sure yet what I’m going to do with them, but I’ll be sure to let you know.
And we had to get some obligatory pasta from Argenta Market. This time we got handmade garlic fettuccine and fresh pesto. It was really good! Just a tip, though, if you get this pasta…let it come to room temp before boiling for 2-3 minutes, or you’ll have a glob. Did that last time. Erg.
We weren’t quite ready to go home yet, so we decided to trek over to the “other” market at the River Market. Not being a morning person, I had never actually caught this one when it was still going, and after meeting the Argenta folks I was a little partial to them. And there was the whole “is it really from Arkansas” thing. I decided to go ahead and investigate.
I was surprised at the plentiful tables of produce, often much more than the Argenta growers had. But this made me wonder…is it really local? Of those with overflowing tables, I wasn’t sure. But there were also some proud farmers who wanted us to be sure, with bright signs declaring their local origination. “All our produce is from Arkansas,” or some such. One sneered to me about the table down the way that still had PLU stickers on the veggies. Clue!
For some reason, in Little Rock I ended up with non-perishable treasures. The first was some coffee from Kona Cloud Coffee Estates that, while obviously not grown in Arkansas, was roasted in Jonesboro. Apparently the owner, a surgeon, had lived in Hawaii and purchased some coffee farms, then moved to J’boro to practice. A cutie patootie young guy, Andrew Williamson, runs the shipping, roasting and marketing operations from the Arkansas State U town. (Go Red Wolves!)
The other treasure was swooped upon partially because of my hob-nobbing at the Arkansas Hospitality Association convention. There, I had the privilege of chatting with Chef Donnie Ferneau of Ferneau. *swoon* His equally charming dad was at the River Market, selling Donnie’s trademark spice mixture and bragging about all his children. Too cute. We bit, and although it seems a tad gimmicky, the mix really is pretty unique and yummy. We think it’s the fennel seed.
I really wanted to hate the River Market’s, er, market, but it has some really great vendors. Several are truly local, and even the ones that may not be are fun to look at. But as for a weekly habit, I’ll stick with Argenta. It’s absolutely local, I love the people, and just feels like home. So there.