Sunday, May 17, 2009

Something's Brewing...But It Ain't Beer!

I use the calendar on my blackberry for important things I don’t want to forget.
Birthdays, scheduled appointments, seminars, upcoming social events…you get the picture. But when I read in the paper that the Iconic “Pearl Brewery” was debuting its Farmers Market on May 16th…you know it had to make it to the blackberry calendar. This was something I didn’t want to forget.

Why is that, you ask??? You know the saying…

“You never miss your water till your well runs dry!” My well almost tried up in Texas!

Maybe it's just me, but when I envision Texas in my mind's eye, I see cattle ranchers, oil rigs and FARMERS. I immediately think BBQ, Tex Mex Food and Margaritas! (Of course, I see Texas Wine Country too…but I can also appreciate that this is MY vision, NOT yours!) ATL-aliens don’t know just how good they have it, as it pertains to having access to the freshest foods. Dekalb Farmers Market (and other smaller farmers markets, & regional ethnic foods too) Whole Foods, and yes, my beloved Trader Joe’s. Even New Yorkers can appreciate it when the farmers from Upstate NY & the Garden State of NJ come to their city to give them access to the good seeds they’ve sown. Sure, Texans have the Gulf Shores, but I’ve gotta tell you…after what happened during Katrina, there is nothing about Gulf Shrimp that gets me excited about being a seafood lover. (I really don’t mean to offend anyone, but that’s just how I think about it…Sorry!)

The Pearl Brewery originally began in 1887, (then known as City Brewery), and built it’s facility on the banks of the San Antonio River (also home to the River Walk). This only gains significance to me because during the year I graduated from high school, this facility was purchased by Pabst Brewery. I distinctly remember mentioning this to my Dad, who was in fact the only person I knew, who still enjoyed a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. My father was probably the only person on this earth who was pleased that Pabst was expanding. (For the record, my father was also a “Bud-Man”, so I’m a little blurry about where his loyalty stood.) Then, I remember reading in a trade magazine (shortly after I graduated from college, and the death of my Father,) the same property was purchased by an investor / entrepreneur, who had plans to renovated both the brewery as well as the stables. I didn’t know that the property had stables…but it all became clear why my Father was both a Bud Man and a Pabst Blue Ribbon Fan. As it stands, Pabst stopped brewing in 2001, a few years after my Father’s death. I am quite sure that he was turning around in his grave, when he heard the news in heaven.

My blackberry buzzes at me. (because that is all that it will do since I haven’t replaced it from the water boarding torture it sustained back in December). MAY 16th IS FINALLY HERE! Literally, I was warm and fuzzy inside with excitement. Since this is the day of the official opening, I decide to forgo the ceremonial pomp & circumstance that is scheduled for 9am, and I make the decision to arrive at 10am. BIG, BIG MISTAKE!

As luck would have it, it appears that I am clearly not the only person to recognize that this city is a little lacking in the fresh foods arena. When the exit off the highway is blocked, and there are police in the streets directing traffic like there is a festival going on…you just know that you’ve missed out on something wonderful. Imagine my delight when I finally make through the carnage, find a parking space, and walk completely through the entire campus (which was very nicely restored, I might add,) only to discover that there are only a handful of vendors that even had goods left to sell. Let me remind you that it is only 10am…and it just opened at 9!

Determined not to be defeated, I wrestle my way through the crowds to discover a long line for one of the few farmers who had anything left. I decide to wait…and wait…and wait. As I am waiting, I can see that there could have been an interesting variety of items available for sale if I had not arrived so late. I see bison, lamb, lavender, olive oil…and yes GULF SHRIMP! (For the record, he has quite a line as well, but I am not the least bit moved to change positions) But finally, persistence paid off, as I was finally greeted by a young girl with a friendly smile. Her smile surprised me based on the number of people she helped BEFORE she got to me.

“What can I get you?” She asked with all her Texan charm.

“Is there anything left?” I joked. Despite the all the people behind me, still waiting to helped, she chuckled.

“I’ve got some beautiful red and golden beets…oh, and the leeks and fennel are really great this year!”

"Great, I’ll take them."

“$6.00,” she announced. (What a bargain, for all that I got!) I paid her, and was on my way! My persistence paid off and I was happy to have been one of the few to still be able to walk away with something! Not once did it occur to me that I didn’t know how to make beets, leeks or fennel. Hell, I don’t even know if I liked fresh beets, leeks and fennel. But does it really didn’t matter? I was practicing “Healthy Hedonism,” I was elated and ready to explore my culinary options, for my seasonally, freshly-farmed delights. For $6.00…what did I have to lose???

Although, I have yet to decide what to do with leeks and fennel, tonight for dinner I have decided on a Roasted Beet Salad topped with fresh goat cheese and toasted pistachios along side a Pan Seared Salmon in a thyme garlic butter (and yes I will go light on the butter.) But even more importantly, do I bridge the gap with an oaky Chardonnay that is expected to highlight the butter, garlic and toasty, earthy flavors from the beets and pistachios? OR... do I choose a highly acidic Pinot Noir to cut through the richness of the salmon while accenting the thyme and the beets?

Decisions, decisions…no one said “healthy hedonism” would be easy! My Father, on the other hand would be quite proud of my persistence!

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