Strolling through Charlotte's diverse farmers markets makes for a great Saturday morning pastime. Yet, as you peruse the aisles and stands brimming with colorful ingredients for dinner, you might find yourself wondering, "Yeah, well, what's for breakfast?"
There was a time, not long ago, when ready-to-eat options at our local markets were confined to sugary muffins and dessert treats. Today, many vendors have stepped up to fill the gap, and you'll have a much easier time finding a hearty, healthy breakfast to match the healthy stuff in your tote bag.
Now, there's no reason to poo-poo the delicious pastries available. Renaissance Patisserie, selling at Charlotte Regional and Gastonia farmers markets, has traditional French croissants. But if you're not into a morning sugar rush, opt for one with ham and cheese, or choose one of chef Sylvain Rivet's savory quiches. If you're at his Regional market booth, step around the right side to serve yourself some coffee out of an old-school percolator.
Another French import, Chef Charles Catering sets up shop at Davidson and Matthews markets. Along with sweet pastries and quiches, chef Charles Semail's changing menu may include savory single-portion soufflés or the occasional flammekeuche, a sort of Alsatian pizza with sweet cheese and caramelized onions. And here's a crazy idea — pick up some of his pimento cheese to enjoy with a baguette. Yes, this Frenchman's take on the classic spread is worth trying.
OK, so maybe cheese and bread isn't your idea of breakfast food. If you're at the Davidson market, stop by the Queen of Oats for some wheat-free protein bars and granola made with non-refined sweeteners like honey and fruit paste. Or try Beverly's Gourmet Foods. She sells quiches and breakfast casseroles, along with her specialty tomato pies. Much of her line is gluten-free and vegan-friendly, too.
At Atherton Market, Cardais Gourmet prepares seasonal quiches, like feta with roasted tomatoes. Owner Wendy Cardais also offers yogurt parfaits made with local greek yogurt and her own gluten-free granola topping.
Finally, if you want to spoil yourself with something hot off the grill, don't stop by Denny's on your way home. Food trucks are popping up at several of the area's markets. While the line-up at the Regional market varies from week to week, it's worth checking out the parking lot on the far side of the sheds to see who's serving on a given Saturday. In Davidson, The Homegrown Crêpe truck and Bleu Barn Bistro take turns feeding the morning crowds. Depending on which one is there, you can dine on sweet and savory crêpes, or traditional American fare like breakfast sandwiches and eggs with grits.
Both Bleu Barn and Roots — which parks every weekend at Atherton market — source their food locally, so they fit well with the market's mission. Roots offers a more eclectic menu, but you can count on finding a breakfast hash, a frittata and two other morning-friendly hot dishes to wake up your palate.
This Saturday, go ahead and give some of these tasty eats a try. After all, you deserve to reward yourself for getting up early to support your local farmers.