Tuesday, September 21, 2021

My Visit to the Houston Farmers Market on Airline Drive

Fruit at Houston Farmers Market

"...I learn something every time I go to a market. On this trip I learned that raw cinnamon in all its bark-like glory can be quite large..." (Virginia Billeaud Anderson - BoudinandBourbon.com checks out Houston Farmers Market, the new building, long-time vendors and in-coming culinary hotshots like Chris Shepherd.)

My Visit to Houston Farmers Market on Airline Drive

On Saturday morning Donnie and I went to the Houston Farmers Market on Airline Drive. We had not visited the Market in several years, so we decided to go check-out the new building, which was completed earlier this year, and to look for lemon grass for Donnie’s Thai food recipes.

I learn something every time I go to a market. On this trip I learned that raw cinnamon in all its bark-like glory can be quite large. I’m familiar with whole cinnamon, Donnie cooks with it often, and I’ve had many opportunities to see cinnamon in spice markets when I traveled. The spice market in Antakya (ancient Antioch) on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, six miles from the Syrian border, comes to mind. Gawking at spices in that place helped me appreciate how valuable cinnamon was in ancient times, and I knew from an inscription found at the Temple of Apollo at Didyma that cinnamon was gifted to the god. Nevertheless, I’ve never seen pieces of cinnamon as large as the ones I saw Saturday morning at the Houston Farmers Market. (thehoustonfarmersmarket.com)

Raw Cinnamon at Houston Farmers Market
Inocencia Barrera - 40 years at Houston Farmers Market

Another notable thing at Houston Farmers
Market was the hole left by the produce-vendor Canino. After 60 years in business, Canino’s owners retired. Other old-timers however are still at the Market. Inocencia Barrera, for instance, who has been hustling fresh produce for over 40 years. And Digna Bonilla, who has been hawking fruits and veggies since the early 1980s. Digna is known for her mangoes, beets, radishes, fresh peppers, and oranges. If you want roses, begonias, hibiscus, pepper plants and herbs, go see Cilia Curiel who has been selling flower and fruit plants for nearly 20 years.

Culinary hot shots are joining the old-timers. Chris Shepherd who owned the trendy “Underbelly” will partner with chef Nick Fine to open “Underbelly Burger.” For any blog reader who is clueless, Shepherd won the 2014 James Beard award, and worked a nine-year gig at Brennans before busting out on his own with a series of joints. Three of them, “UB Preserv,” “One Fifth” and “Georgia James” are near our house in Montrose neighborhood, so we can walk. Along with “Underbelly Burger,” Nick Fine is opening “Wild Oats” at the market.

Chef Trong Nguyen leased 3,298 square feet for his new restaurant “Crawfish & Noodles.” The James Beard Award semi-finalist who opened his original location in Houston’s Asia-town in 2008 calls his food “Viet-Cajun cuisine.” Although I respectfully quibble with claims that Nguyen pioneered the fusion of Cajun and Vietnamese cuisines because Vietnamese immigrants began doing that in New Orleans in the 1970s. Perhaps it’s correct to say Nguyen introduced the concept to Houston. Since Vietnamese and Cajun are two of the most exciting cuisines on the planet, I’d say Nguyen is doing Houston a favor.

“The Egg House” has been at the Market for nearly 30 years. Excited about the Market’s brand-spanking new building, the owners plan to expand into a retail shop that offers “Everything Breakfast,” including farm fresh eggs, country sausage and bacon, jams and local honey.

Real cowboys lassoed space at the Market. “R-C Ranch Texas Craft Meats Butcher Shop” will be a high-end meat market. Ryan Cade & Blake Robertson operate the R-C Ranch out in the boonies in Brazoria County, in a tiny place near Angleton and West Columbia called Bailey’s Prairie, founded in 1818. They raise Wagyu cattle and Heritage hogs to offer farm-to-table beef and pork to website customers, restaurant and food businesses, and at local weekend markets. These dudes put out interesting cattle-ranching chatter, discussions about rotational grazing for example, as well as images of cattle being herded to remind people they participate in their ranch’s grunge work. Their plan at the Farmers Market is to open their first brick-and-mortar butcher shop, and to partner with other local ranchers to provide chicken, lamb, goat, wild game, and more, in an “old-school butcher shop” environment, with farm-to-table authenticity.

Houston Farmers Market began operating in 1942. I remember when the neighborhood surrounding the Market was run-down and less desirable. Now it’s gussied-up with new construction, which makes the new building hardly dumb. We failed miserably at finding Donnie’s lemon grass. A vendor had lemon grass, but insisted it wasn’t for cooking, it was solely medicinal. What?

R-C Ranch - Ryan Cade and Blake Robertson
opening at HFM

If you want to discuss this blog article or chat with me, please email me at billeaudanderson@gmail.com. Would love to hear from you - Virginia 
Also, find my recent mag articles - Intown mag.  Author link : https://www.intownmag.com/author/vbanderson/ 

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