Sunday, January 27, 2008

Slow food, stone crabs and farmers markets

As I mentioned in passing in my last post, I spent some time at the Coral Gables farmers market after picking up my CSA share yesterday. I picked up a few interesting items and attended a Slow Food stone crab picnic.

Personally, I'd call the Coral Gables farmers market and pretty good street fair, but with only a couple of produce stalls amongst the caterers, bakers and candlestick makers it's not quite a farmers market to my mind. And can anyone explain the appeal of a guacamole stall? Even if guacamole was hard to make, who wants some out of a giant tub that's been sitting out for the last four hours?

I had expected to make some rapid recipe decisions on my CSA share but this week's selection didn't require it. The only produce I picked up was a pint of strawberries which I'll probably end up eating straight instead of making the ice cream topping I meant them for. I also got a couple of rather impressive foccacia: one artichoke and one sun dried tomato. They definitely beat the wares of the foccacia vendor at the Union Square farmers market in Manhattan. I picked up a little bit of tea as well; I'm generally happy with Theine, but Kyra doesn't stock as good a variety of fruit green tea blends or candy-enhanced black teas as I'd like. I don't like the open bowls the tea and spice vendor stores his wares in, but I got there early so I don't think the tea lost too much zip. I picked up a caramel black tea and a blend called Sunny Sencha with a tropical fruit and flowers mixed in.

At Karen's Kreations I picked up Garlic & Raspberry Jelly and Cranberry & Chipotle Jelly. I've had garlic and hot pepper jellies before and while they're nice novelties it's hard to find real uses for them and most of the bottle ends up going to waste. The fruit additions Karen used makes them more than ingredients; they can actually be used as jelly. I have to carefully consider the next loaf of bread I bake to make the best match, though.

And, as I was running out, I got a jar of honey. I chose gallberry honey which is exceptionally light and should be good for tea. In the slightly blurry picture, you can see that the label looks quite similar to the Bee Heaven label on the honey I got in my share a few weeks back. So if Miguel Bode, who packed the gallberry honey, isn't associated with Bee Heaven, you guys ought to have a word with him.

After my shopping it was off to the picnic. There was a demonstration of a stone crab and avocado recipe by Chef Roberto Ferrer, but just as I sat down for it the head of Slow Food Miami, Donna Reno, shanghaied me into helping set up. (I wasn't surprised that she recognized me given my distinctive hat and the knack the heads of these sorts of groups tend to have for that sort of thing, but she remembered my name and knew where I worked which I knew I had never mentioned to her. It seems she noted my lack of sociability back at the Slow Food wine tasting in October, followed up by talking to the couple I had sat next to at the Ideas dinner and now has taken a particular interest in introducing me around and making sure I mingle. Is it so wrong that I'd prefer to eat my lunch in peace while reading a book?) Check the Slow Food Miami webpage for more pics likely including one of me mingling.

The picnic featured stone crabs supplied by Judy the Stone Crab Lady and sides from Chef Brendan Connor (left) and Kristin Connor who run a catering company called Whisk Gourmet. It was pretty good on the whole.

This was my first experience with stone crabs. Any local folks reading are probably familiar with the Miami tradition of gathering in public places to brutalize crustaceans with blunt instruments. I generally prefer to dismantle crabs in a more precise and considered manner, but just whacking away with a hammer makes some sense when it's just claws. (Stone crabs are caught in traps, de-clawed, and then thrown back to grow a new one which they can do several times. All very ecologically sound if you do it the proper way Probably nobody does as the wrong way is significantly faster and cheaper, but I'll assume the best of Judy the Stone Crab Lady until I learn otherwise. She seemed nice enough, anyway.) A pound of claws gives enough meat for lunch and, since it's particularly sweet and succulent crab in unusually large chunks, is definitely worth the ten bucks.

The sides were good but nothing too outstanding: a standard coleslaw, beets, a greek salad sort of thing, potato salad with bacon and key lime pie. The best was the beets although I would have liked to have identified the creamy white substance they were coated in. Personally, I thought they all (bar the pie) could have done with a bit more salt.

From what I heard, the picnic was a new venture for Slow Food Miami although I would have thought some presence at farmers markets would be one of the first things they'd try. It may have been too successful as it was overbooked in reservations so interested passers-by couldn't drop in and see what Slow Food is all about. But at least half of the people who did reserve weren't Slow Food members so there may have been some new interest there. Maybe not though; all of the events are open and announced to the public and there's no membership discount so you don't really get a lot for that extra expenditure.

Still, a good time was had by all (bar the crabs) and that's something even if nothing else was accomplished.

1 comment:

Margie from Bee Heaven Farm said...

Miguel is Bee Heaven Farm's beekeeper- (we have around 25 hives on the farm), so YES! the labels DO look similar. He takes great care of our bees!