Thursday, September 18, 2014

Local markets stay hot even when the temperatures drop

Posted By on Thu, Sep 18, 2014 at 9:30 AM

Sometimes it's hard to predict what you'll find at the farmers market on any given day. This time of year you'd expect tomatoes, okra, squash and maybe corn. But someone in a white jacket sautéing grouper? Hmm, that might be worth setting down the tote bag to stick around for awhile.

Adam Reed of Santé and his then-sous-chef Terra Ciotta host a cooking demonstration.
  • 2012 File Photo/Alison Leininger
  • Adam Reed of Santé and his then-sous-chef Terra Ciotta host a cooking demonstration.

If you think shopping at Charlotte's grower-only farmers markets just means looking over pretty piles of produce, think again. As community hubs, these foodie magnets have become vibrant sources of learning and entertainment.

Cooking demonstrations by locally minded chefs are a common theme among Charlotte's more popular producer-only markets. Most Saturday mornings find at least one chef reporting for duty, scanning the booths to see what's fresh that day, then showing eager bystanders creative ways to turn seasonal foods into delicious meals. Courtney Spears, manager of the Davidson market says, "It's about local food education; having people try new things."

Matthews' market manager Pauline Wood adds, "It also gives our customers access to the best culinary minds in Charlotte."

Both the Davidson market and South End's Atherton continue to host chefs as we transition from summer to fall. "It's a crucial time of year for our produce vendors," Spear explains. "Two seasons are colliding, and it's a great time of year to eat." Davidson's demonstrations run twice a month, and Atherton's Saturday morning "Chef in the Market" series continues through Nov. 15.

While the cooking demonstrations have wrapped up for the season in Matthews, the events calendar hasn't ended. Each year sees a roster of popular events, such as a spring baking competition and summer tomato tasting day. On Saturday, Sept. 27, the market gives a boost to those interested in raising their own ingredients with its annual fall Plant & Garden Day. Members of Mecklenburg County Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer questions, and several vendors will have plants for sale, to help home gardeners kick off North Carolina's third growing season.

If you'd rather leave the growing to the professionals, Davidson's Taste of the Market on that same Saturday might be what you're looking for. From 8 a.m. until noon, market-goers can sample food from each vendor, which might be anything from a bite of baked goodness to a mini-course whipped up by a farmer-invited guest chef. Spears recommends tasters arrive early for this popular event, to have the best chance of sampling everything.

Sometimes there's so much going on at market that events overflow onto non-market days. On Sunday, Sept. 28, Atherton opens its new series of "Gather" events with "Hoops and Hops," bringing together locally made cheeses paired with locally-brewed beers. It's an unexpected combination that may educate your taste buds as well as introduce you to some new local food (and drink) producers. See the market's events pages for ticket details.

The markets will keep rolling along as the temperatures drop. On Oct. 12, Atherton's Market Brunch continues the "Gather" series, and Davidson's annual Winter Chef Challenge will draw in the crowds to taste and vote on Nov. 1.

Most of the larger market events are annual, but every year is different, so it's a good idea to add yourself to the mailing list of your favorite local market to keep up with all the happenings. Because Charlotte's market scene isn't cooling down anytime soon.

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