Less than a year after the Sustainable Food Center closed its weekly Wednesday farmers market at the Triangle, the Texas Farmers’ Market announced that it will start a Wednesday evening market at Mueller next week.
“Due to high demand, Texas Farmers’ Market is expanding to provide a convenient opportunity for those who live, work and play in East Austin to purchase a wide selection of local fare,” the nonprofit said in a release. Starting on May 2, the market will be held on Wednesday evenings from 5 to 8 p.m. in Mueller’s Browning Hangar, 4209 Airport Blvd.
More than 40 local vendors will be at the new market, and many of them will be familiar to people who already shop the Sunday Mueller market, which takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the hangar. The market will also accept SNAP Lonestar dollars, and they have the SFC Double Dollars program, which effectively doubles the worth of the SNAP benefits that you spend at the market.
“Not only does the market carry a variety of unique homemade products for purchase, but the bounty of locally grown, seasonal fruits, vegetables, sustainably-raised meats and gulf sea food is constantly changing, so there is always something new to try,” said Kate Payne, executive director of the Texas Farmers’ Market. “We’re really looking forward to providing the community a mid-week opportunity to buy locally-grown food and providing them with a full farmers’ market experience.”
Texas Farmers’ Markets also hosts a Saturday farmers market at Lakeline Mall from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. You can find out more about the organization at texasfarmersmarket.org.
Strolling through a farmers market on a Saturday morning is a beloved weekend activity for many Austinites, and now we have another market to check out.
Since December, dozens of local artists and makers have been gathering from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays at 1511 S. Congress Ave. for the SoCo Select Farmers & Makers Market. They don’t have many farmers and food vendors yet, but Johnson’s Backyard Garden sells some produce there and Austin Orchards is scheduled to start coming on April 21 with their locally grown fruit.
Several vendors also sell vintage clothing, but the most interesting product I found on a recent visit was Canna Bees Rescue Blend, a CBD-infused honey.
The parent company that makes Canna Bees, Bee Delightful, is a Central Texas bee rescue organization that will soon collect its millionth bee. There are several similar organizations in the area, but what makes Bee Delightful stand out is that it’s the first CBD-infused honey from Texas on the market.
Here’s how it works: Bee Delightful removes unwanted bees for free from homes and businesses around Central Texas and then relocates them to hives where they can continue to produce honey. That’s when the cannabidiol, or CBD, comes in.
CBD is one of many cannabinoid molecules produced by cannabis, but unlike THC, it doesn’t result in feeling “high.” According to Canna Bees: “These naturally occurring cannabinoids, or phytocannabinoids, are characterized by their ability to act on the cannabinoid receptors that are part of our endocannabinoid system. While THC is the principal psychoactive component of cannabis, CBD is naturally occurring in industrial hemp and another familiar plant product, flax seed.”
From talking to several CBD vendors at the Wellness Expo at this year’s SXSW, I learned that CBD has always been legal, but only in the past few years have we seen consumer products and supplements more widely available. Millions of Americans now take CBD, sometimes by pill and other times through CBD tinctures, gummies or CBD-added products, like this honey. The CBD extracts used in Canna Bees come from domestic hemp farms, and the honey is unpasteurized.
Although there are few government-approved claims you can make about CBD, many people who take it claim that it helps with their arthritis and other forms of chronic pain, and researchers are studying its effects on people who have diseases, including Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and cancer.
Bee Delightful sells two kinds of Canna Bees honey: one with 250 milligrams of CBD and another with 500 milligrams ($50 and $80, respectively). In addition to buying the honey at the market, you can also find it at several local retail outlets, including Peoples Rx, Thom’s Market and Sunrise Mini Mart, and online at beedelightful.com.
If you’re a backpacker, you know you can’t live on peanut butter crackers alone.
Pam LeBlanc is the resident backpacking camper in the features department. I’m an avid car camper, which means I usually have a food box *and* a cooler to cook from while I’m outdoors.
But if you are eating breakfast, lunch and dinner on a trail or anywhere you have limited access to cooking tools and supplies, which is what Pam did during her 15-day hike on the John Muir Trail, you will likely pack trail meals. These are usually dehydrated meals that only need hot water to “cook.” One of the leading companies in this space is Austin’s Packit Gourmet.
This month, the company, which started in 2008 and is still based off Fitzhugh Road, released a new type of packaging that allows you to pour the hot water directly into the bag, which makes it more functional when you’re on a trail. Another benefit of the new packaging is that they retain heat better than a bowl, so your food will stay hot. The square-shaped bags are color-coded by type of meal with easy to read instructions.
The late Virginia B. Wood would have been happy to know that her memorial service will be at a restaurant that serves queso and margaritas.
Even though Wood didn’t drink alcohol, she loved the interior Mexican food from Yves Macías and Marisela Sanche, whom she met when they opened El Meson taqueria on Burleson Road and, later, El Meson restaurant on South Lamar.
From 3 to 6 p.m. April 8, El Meson is where friends, family and fans will gather for a memorial service for the longtime Austin Chronicle food writer and restaurant critic, who died in early March. The event will be open to the public.
After H-Mart opened a few weeks ago, I mentioned that a second national grocer, 99 Ranch Market, would be opening in March.
Earlier this week, I visited the newly opened store to see how it compares to H-Mart and the other Asian grocery options already here. The 33,090-square-feet supermarket at 6929 Airport Blvd. in North Austin is “the new flagship store of the Lone Star State,” according to 99 Ranch Market’s website, its 47th store in the nation and the sixth store in Texas.
That’s a smaller space than H-Mart, but not even H-Mart can compare to MT Supermarket on North Lamar Boulevard, which remains the largest Asian grocery store in Central Texas. The new 99 Ranch Market is across the street from Han Yang, another prominent Asian grocery store that has been locally owned for more than 20 years. Hana World Market on Parmer Lane has been open since 2011 and is another great option for a locally owned Asian supermarket.
As the Austin Chronicle pointed out in a recent story, the locally owned stores, not to mention the dozens of smaller shops, including Asahi Imports on Burnet Road, are going to face serious competition from these national chains, but as several Austinites have pointed out when H-Mart opened, you know a city has made it when both of the country’s biggest national Asian grocers open within weeks of each other.
Although the store is technically still in the soft opening stage this week until its grand opening festivities this weekend, the store had piles of shining produce, tanks filled with live fish and seafood, shelves lined with both international and domestic goods and plenty of — but not too many — shoppers.
When you start shopping, you’ll notice the bar of frozen fish balls, the freezers fully of thinly sliced meats and the brightly colored fish on ice, but the store feels more like the other options that we already have here. Not that it’s not a welcome addition to Austin. A friend texted this morning to sing 99 Ranch Market’s praise for having a good selection “without being completely overwhelming.”
In the inner aisles, you’ll find find typically “American” products alongside the Asian products, such as this selection of soy milk just a few doors down from cow’s milk, or the shelves of Lucky Charms and Cheerios or Campbell’s soup next to their international counterparts.
H-Mart has been jam-packed since it opened, and though this weekend’s grand opening will surely be crowded, I don’t get the sense that we’ll see quite the same crowds at 99 Ranch Market. The food court is much smaller, with only one hot food option — a very basic Chinese buffet with dim sum on the day I went — and a fruit/smoothie/boba tea counter. They do sell Peking duck in the food court, which I have only seen hanging at First Chinese Barbecue and other restaurants like that.
The best part of my shopping trip on Monday was meeting a sweet Taiwanese couple who wanted to explain how to use some of the ingredients I was inspecting. I didn’t end up with one of those black silky chickens, but I did some home with frozen fish, fish balls and hotpot soup mix to try my hand at some new dishes.
What do you think of the new 99 Ranch Market? How does it compare to your other favorite local stores? Leave your comments below!
But why wait until September? Today is Texas Independence Day, a widely accepted day to proudly proclaim Texan heritage and the state’s sprawling, if complicated, history, and although the Texas Capitol Visitors Center isn’t as comprehensive as the Bullock Texas State History Museum, this free museum near the southeast corner of the Texas Capitol has enough exhibits to keep a family entertained for at least an hour or two.
The food exhibit is particularly fun. Curators set up the space to look like a kitchen, with a table in the middle of the room, an old fridge, oven and cabinets to showcase early kitchen tools, historical cookbooks and recipe cards. On the walls, you’ll find lots of quick pieces of info about the state’s food festivals, agricultural history and even the food companies that call the state home, including Whataburger and Blue Bell.
If the Bullock is too busy this weekend, or you’re looking for a less-intense (or free) place to learn about Texas history, including its foodways, this is the place to do it. It is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
In the mid-1990s, when Katie and David Pitre planted their first crops at their land just east of Austin, no one had heard of a community-supported agriculture program or an email newsletter or a locavore, but that didn’t stop them from starting what is likely the longest-running CSA in the state of Texas.
The CSA officially started in 1994, and despite all the ups and downs that come with running a farm, the Pitres have kept the CSA going, even as more farms, farmers markets and CSAs opened in the area.
Boggy Creek Farm, considered one of the earliest urban farms in the country, opened in 1992 and still operates with several farmstands a week. Hairston Creek opened near Burnet in 1990 and got its organic certification in 1993. In 2006, Green Gate Farm opened its organic farm on the other side of what is now the SH 130 toll road.
But this year, they are taking a “semi-sabbatical” to take a “breather,” and that includes stopping the produce delivery program. “We won’t be doing our CSA this year, so production will be lessened,” they wrote. “Our kitchen garden will be a farmer’s version of one, so we will definitely have surpluses from time to time in the next year ahead, and will show up at market at those times. We are excited for this opportunity to reassess the farm’s direction. We are not retiring, simply looking at how best to shape Tecolote moving forward.”
This news comes just a few weeks after Springdale Farm announced that it had sold to developers and would close at the end of summer to make way for some new buildings on the property that is now used to grow food for the farmstand.
Keeping 20 to 30 crops growing sufficiently well at any given time so as to ensure diversity, plan for abundance, as well as anticipate loss (bugs, weather, pestilence, disease) is an amazing feat here in Central Texas. Don’t mind if we do admit that we do it pretty well. We will continue growing this year on a much smaller scale, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you hear that we’ll be at a farmers market here and there via our email newsletter, or that we’re supplying a local restaurant with some of our surplus produce. However, the CSA and large scale market production is definitely on hold for 2018, and we will let our future plans be known after we scale back, step back, and assess our plans, hopes, and dreams for the next 25 years.
We appreciate y’all so very much. We will miss seeing you every Saturday in 2018: it’s what we’ve been doing since we were as old as our son Zachary is now! However, there is much work to do on the farm that gets neglected when we’re busy 24/7. Our fall/winter “off-season” has been shrinking every year, as our wholesale and restaurant business has grown, and the projects are piling up. We will be playing catch up on those projects, taking on some odd jobs (David’s already lining up work doing electrical wiring and mechanical repairs), and venturing into other sustainable farm projects. You have fed us with your loyalty and support, and we will miss feeding you in 2018. Thank you for your understanding, and please stay connected with our other farm endeavors in the meantime. Please keep your Tecolote loyalty intact until further notice! We hope to host some celebrations this year on the occasion of the farm’s Quarter Century Anniversary.
“We’re so appreciative of Odd Duck/Barley Swine’s support of the SFC Farmers’ Markets and vendors,” Joy Casnovsky, deputy director of SFC, said via email. During this tough time of the year, not having to pay booth fees can be the difference between a farmer or rancher making a profit at a market or not.
Chef/owner Bryce Gilmore and his team have long been dedicated shoppers at the Austin-area farmers markets since he first opened a food truck in 2009.
“It’s our way of saying thank you to all the farmers for their hard work, especially when the challenges of the winter can result in less produce available to bring to the markets,” Gilmore said via email. “I figured it’d be nice for them to not worry about the booth fee when they have less to sell along with fewer customers shopping at the market.”
If you’ve ever lived in Houston or New York or Los Angeles or Chicago, you know what a big deal this is to have two of the country’s biggest and best-known Asian grocers opening within a month of each other.
“When H Mart comes to town, that’s when you know your city has graduated to the big leagues of Asian groceries,” Peter Tsai said on Instagram.
“Grocery shopping game changer for sure,” is how @theburgervore put it. “This is even nicer than the one in Houston or Dallas!”
Having been to both a 99 Ranch Market and Austin’s new H-Mart within the past week, I can concur: These are the biggest grocery openings since Whole Foods’ 365 or even when Trader Joe’s first opened in Central Texas in 2013.
On Friday, when I was visiting family in California, I went to a 99 Ranch Market in San Diego and bought mochi, thin slices of pork belly and pineapple drinking vinegar. On Monday, I shopped at H-Mart at 11301 Lakeline Blvd. in Northwest Austin for sashimi, kimchi, miso and baby octopus. These were my first visits to both of these chains, but from what I’m hearing on social media, my first impression aligns with what longtime shoppers already know: These grocery chains mean serious business.
They cater first and foremost to shoppers with cultural roots in the nearly 50 countries that make up Asia, but they know that there are millions of shoppers like me who didn’t grow up eating and cooking very much authentic Asian food but are increasingly familiar with the ingredients and culinary styles. Both stores have figured out how to sell thousands of products to people along all ends of this spectrum, not dumbing down the marketing materials or store presentation to cater to non-Asians while also making the shopping experience inclusive enough to be enjoyable to someone who has never shopped in an international market before.
The first Austin location of 99 Ranch Market doesn’t open until March 3, but this new H-Mart is slick. It’s housed in a huge, 68,670-square-foot space that used to be a Sports Authority and Bed Bath & Beyond. The owners painted the ceiling black so it doesn’t look so cavernous, and each section is well labeled to help shoppers sort through the products. The aisles are compact with end caps selling the hottest items, from canned lattes to frozen fish balls.
The store has a different vibe than the 100,000-square-foot MT Supermarket over on North Lamar, which opened in 1984 and will continue to maintain the title of “Austin’s largest Asian store,” but it’s more similar to Hana World Market on Parmer Lane or Han Yang on Airport Boulevard, two large Korean markets that some longtime shoppers, including Tsai, say are likely already feeling the pressure to compete with H-Mart. Hana World Market opened in 2011, and Han Yang has been around since the mid 1990s.
One of the biggest draws to both Hana World Market and H-Mart are the food courts, where you can grab a bite to eat. The Austin location of H-Mart is home of the company’s first Market Eatery concept, where you’ll find sushi, Korean barbecue and fried chicken, Taiwanese shaved ice, a Tous Les Jours bakery, as well as live music and a craft beer bar. You’ll also find a cosmetic counter and a place to buy window treatments, including blinds and curtains.
North Austin was an obvious location for both new supermarkets, but as a resident of South Austin who lives not too far from several Korean churches and often laments the lack of Asian and Middle Eastern markets south of Lady Bird Lake, I asked the company if South Austin was on their radar for a possible second location.
“We explored all options when looking for a location. However, this specific location [in North Austin] gave us the best opportunity to create a huge, redesigned H-Mart and 25,000 square feet for the Market Eatery,” Stacey Kwon, president of H-Mart and daughter of the chain’s founder and CEO Il Yeon Kwon, said in an email. “Right now, we are focusing our efforts on making this location have one of the best and most customer-oriented experiences, so we are devoting 100 percent of our attention to that. But, that said, we certainly see the potential for expansion in Austin and are excited to be a part of the community.”
To take you on a virtual tour of the space, here are ten things to look out for when you get there:
Dragonfruit greet you at the door. Turmeric, purple potatoes, pomelos tease your cart. Greens, green onions, carrots line the wall.
2. Ceramic nonstick cooking pans, called Eco-Tech Pots, take up much of the kitchen section, but you’ll also find all the fun bowls, tea sets and kawaii kid stuff you’d expect at an Asian houseware store.
3. You won’t find quite as many live fish tanks as you’ll find at MT Supermarket, but they do have fish swimming in beautiful blue tanks in the back corner of the store. Most of the shoppers were buying frozen and fresh fish, shellfish and octopus by the pound from fishmongers stationed in the middle of two rows of seafood.
4. Also in the seafood section, you’ll find sashimi-grade sushi to make your own poke, sashimi or nigiri. You can find the whole filets so you can practice cutting it at home, or you can buy a pick tray of sushi that looks fresher than any other you’ve seen at a grocery store.
5. Whole Foods’ 365 store just up U.S. 183 wins the mochi game with its mochi bar, but H-Mart has the same self-serve setup with more than a dozen kinds of frozen fish balls, which can be fried, simmered, steamed or sauteed.
6. Few grocery stores, if any, sell dry aged prime T-bones and ribeyes, especially those that the butcher will slice fresh for you, but you’ll find both at H Mart. Also in the meat section, you’ll find rolled-up frozen meats, thinly sliced, ready for Vietnamese pho or the Japanese hotpot called shabu-shabu, as well as slightly thicker cuts for Korean barbecue.
9. The food court is hoppin’, and my gut tells me it will be for some time. With more than half a dozen eateries, including Tous les Jours bakery, SnoMo shaved ice, a Korean fried chicken place and a craft beer bar, it’ll compete with just about every other lunch option in the area.
10. The crowds will be thick for weeks to come, but this store is a great place to take your kids. When we go to international markets, I always let mine pick out products that appeal to them, even if it’s a candy sushi-making kit or a $4 dragonfruit. For dinner last night, they made the “sushi” while I assembled poke bowls. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get them to try the octopus that’ll be on the menu tonight, but they are already asking when we’re going back to H-Mart.
Abby Love, the former baker for Dai Due, is having a good Valentine’s Day.
After leaving the lauded Manor Road eatery last year, she’s been teaching classes and making partnerships with other food businesses around Austin, including a special chocolate sourdough with Confituras last weekend. (The classes have been selling out quickly, so keep an eye out for tickets if you want to snag one.)
The bread baker and pastry chef easily met a crowdfunding goal for L’Oven, a brick-and-mortar operation she has in the works, but in the meantime, you can catch her teaching classes at various locations around Austin.
From the about page of her site: “She will bore us with science. Because making good bread is often about understanding the building blocks of your loaf. Be prepared to learn baker’s math, think about the structure of a wheat kernel, and use words like “enzyme” and “protein” for the first time in maybe decades.”
The Louisiana native, who moved to Austin in 2013, is also hosting private classes and pop-ups, which you can learn about at lovenbread.com.