|PURPLE bell peppers??? Another good thing!|
First things first, did you know that the Raleigh Farmers Market is one of five owned by the State of North Carolina as hubs for local farmers from all over to deliver the freshest, most in-season produce, meat, poultry, seafood, breads, treats, wine, jams, jellies, plants, and knick-knacks around?? Yes, they sell ALL of that there! It's seriously overwhelming, especially for someone who can easily take an hour just meandering around Fresh Market or Whole Foods picking up 5-10 things! I admit, I was there for a specific mission - produce and meats - and still spent three hours going through some of the different stalls. I didn't even make it to the Market Imports store or half of the buildings!! Yes, there's more than one building. It's actually an entire complex of fully and partially open buildings, as well as three restaurants, a home and garden decorations store, and more. Have I mentioned it's overwhelming?
I knew I was going to need some fortification to have the energy to explore this amazing complex. At least, this was the justification I gave myself to try out the State Farmers Market Restaurant. It's across the street from the produce market, with lots of tables, quick and friendly service, and down-home comfort food. They get fresh meat and produce from the handy market next door, so everything tasted very fresh. The decor surprised me - from the outside it looks like a standard Southern food joint. Inside, there are murals all over the wall, bright and sunny colors, and a random little buggy from the late 1800s. The restaurant serves breakfast and lunch and is open M-Sa 6:00am - 3:00pm, Su 8:00am - 3:00pm. Since it was after 1:00pm, lunch was my only option. The waitresses are spot on in their recommendations! Be warned - you will NOT leave here hungry. In fact, if you leave here at anything less than groaning in delight and stomach pain, I applaud your iron will. Apparently, I don't have any will anymore.
|Biscuit and hush puppies at the Farmers Market Restaurant. Nom.|
|The produce pavilion|
|The plantings pavilion|
|Seasonal Availability in NC|
Since my shoulder was killing me and my first bag was full, I stopped at the car to drop off my goodies and pick up my insulated bag for the trip through the meat, cheese, and treat market. (I'm not sure of its real name, but that's how I know it since it's home to 4-5 butchers/meat markets, two candy and sundries shops, a couple bakeries, a natural soap and lotion stand, and a wine seller.) Again I started asking vendors about their meats, if they were raised without antibiotics or hormones, humanely, etc. Again, each vendor had a different answer. The lady running the MAE Farm Meats stand intrigued me the most. She assured me that not only were her meats from local pigs, chickens, and cows allowed to roam freely on their farm and then slaughtered humanely by a local butcher. She also handed out recipes for every cut of meat at the drop of a hat and spoke to me about her past as a vegan. In fact, one reason she sold for Mae Farms is because of how humanely they raise and slaughter their animals. She deeply respected the company, and it showed in her knowledge and sales. I love people that can give me a recipe that's extremely simple (i.e. "lay your bacon on a broiler pan, turn on the broiler on your oven, put the bacon in the oven, and leave it for 4 minutes. Pull it out, flip it, and put it back in for another 4 minutes, then if it's not done, check it every minute or so after." This lovely little trick prevented a mess of a kitchen, and had a full package of bacon done in less than 10 minutes!). I ended up loaded down with $50 worth of pig and cow, including two pounds of St Louis cut ribs that I will be cooking for dinner tomorrow, in addition to a wealth of knowledge on the company and a few new recipes and cooking techniques to boot!
On the verge of broke, I wandered away from Mae Farms and checked out the stall full of loose candy by the pound, spices, and cheeses. They had a bacon cheddar that I couldn't resist (and went very well on top of scrambled eggs this morning) and some salt-water taffy that I'd been craving for a while. Then I wandered down a few more stalls to the end of the building. There, I found a new little gem... and a worthy place for an "I survived!" treat. The nice gentleman pictured was making fresh-squeezed, handmade lemonade!
|>Decorating the lemonade|
|Tell me this doesn't look like a glorious reward!!|