Athens Farmer’s Market Toyota Farm to Table Tour–It Sure Was Fun

It was a near-perfect day for a big event at the Athens Farmer’s Market: the late summer sun was bright, the morning air was crisp and the sky was a brilliant cerulean.

And when I drove up with my crew, which consisted of Morganna and Brittney, both well-trained (by me) line cooks who now have held jobs in various restaurants around Athens, we were all shocked at how BIG the crowd was. The parking lot was filled–I had to fight to find a place to park after I let the girls out with our huge stockpots filled with garlic mashed potatoes and the marsala-braised rabbit and wild mushrooms.

I finally had to park at the farthest end of the lot, and jog back to the tent where our tasting was to be held, while dressed in my all-black chef’s gear. (Chef’s jackets are not great workout gear. Just sayin’)

Once there, we waited while Chef Jana of Jana’s Soul Food Cafe wrapped up her tasting of potato leek soup with corn cakes, then with great alacrity and much help, we set up our gear, and within a handful of minutes, started passing out tastes of our food. The generous first tastes I nabbed and ran around to deliver to the farmers whose produce we used: rabbit from Rich at Harmony Hollow, mushrooms from Becky at Green Edge Gardens and garlic from Rich at Rich Organic Gardens. Once again, I must say, chef jackets and bistro aprons are crap workout gear, but I managed to deliver my plates without drowning in sweat, tripping over my clogs or running over anyone in the at times, shoulder-to-shoulder crowd.

When I got back, the girls were deep in plating and serving, so I slipped into the line and started garnishing and passing out plates. While I worked, I chatted up everyone, answered questions about the rabbit, told people that while I didn’t currently have a restaurant, I was planning on opening one in a couple of years after Kat goes to school, and made periodic announcements about the various farmers whose produce was used in my offerings.

Feedback was pretty instantaneous: folks asked for my card, demanded that I open a restaurant, and one self-proclaimed hillbilly scraped his plate clean and reached out and clapped a beefy hand on my shoulder declaring, “Darlin’ you did that rabbit proud.”

One could ask for no higher praise.

We ran out of food within forty-five minutes, and later, I found out that Rich’s rabbits and Becky’s mushrooms that I had used in my recipe were all sold out, and that they had both seen plenty of customers they had never seen before.

I consider that to be a very big success.

All of the chefs I spoke with, as well as the farmers, had a great time–it was fun, the farmers did very well that day and the crowd was filled with excitement to be tasting the creative offerings from the area’s restaurants. And, as one farmer said to me, “It is so fun and exciting to see all the chefs striding around the market in their uniforms, looking all official and wonderful!”

For those of you who were not there, my dear friends Dan Trout, Heather Irwin and I put together a video report of the event so that my readers could “get a taste” of the Farm to Table tour. The interviews you see here are unrehearsed and unplanned–Dan had been taping stuff while I was at work in the tent giving out food, and when I was done, he caught up with me and suggested that I do interviews for our video report. So, I doffed my hat (a black cowboy hat a la Lee Van Cleef because my black skullcap looked ratty and ugly), pulled my hair out of its ponytail and had at it. I used to be a journalist, so I am good at asking questions, although this was my first foray into video–I have always worked in print media before.

Expect to see more video reports in the future–Dan and I have big plans on the horizon for not only video blogging but also for another, more ambitious project.

And, look for a recipe for the Marsala Braised Rabbit with Wild Mushrooms later this week.

7 Comments

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  1. Barbara,
    That looks like an awesome event. Thanks to everyone for providing the video really helped bring the event to life.

    -Kerrie

    Comment by KCatGU — September 14, 2009 #

  2. Ahem. I have to comment, after reading this blog on and off for a couple of years now.

    Barbara, I think you know you are one of my heros. You and your crew of womyn were so beautiful giving out samples!

    I was one of the lucky receivers of a (sneak) plate of succulent and delicate braised rabbit and mushrooms, smooth and creamy mashed potatoes and sharp, pungent tomato confit.

    Everyone should know that this was LIVE FOOD PORN! I’d be so envious if I hadn’t been there. I tried to take a pic, but it was blurry because I was shaking from how good it was (and Bruno and I couldn’t help but savor it, and suddenly it was gone!).

    The self-proclaimed hillbilly was right- you did that rabbit proud!

    Comment by MishFish — September 15, 2009 #

  3. Wow. I should email the Seattle area farmers’ markets to see if they could do something like this. It’s good for the restaurants AND the farmers AND the customers get amazing food. WIN WIN WIN.

    Also if you ever open a restaurant I’m going to have to road trip down there and get some of your grub! I’ve never had a recipe of yours fail on me…always amazing. :)

    Comment by Benjamin — September 15, 2009 #

  4. You weren’t alone, MishFish.

    I DID so want to get more footage of Barbara, Morganna, and Brittany handing out samples of Barbara’s wonderful rabbit, because they were indeed beautiful. The only thing I really managed to get of them during this are the shots you see of Morganna and Brittany’s hands plating the food.

    The problem was that no matter where I stood to get a shot of all three, or how I tried to approach, the hoard of people waiting to get their sample was too thick to get a clear shot. How could I fault ANYONE that?

    It was an amazing day!

    -D

    Comment by Dan — September 15, 2009 #

  5. Great video and story! And a great day for Athens. Many thanks to all who made the video and those who support our local economy.

    Comment by Paige Alost — September 16, 2009 #

  6. Thanks Barbara, Zak, Daniel and Heather for capturing the essence of last Saturday’s Toyota Farm to Table Tour at our Market. Everyone agrees that it was a huge success, and we look forward to future opportunities to show the world that Athens Farmers Market is one of a kind!

    Comment by Sarah Conley — September 17, 2009 #

  7. QUOTING SARAH: “we look forward to future opportunities to show the world that Athens Farmers Market is one of a kind!”

    As Barbara said. She and I have BIG plans, Sarah…and the farmers market is one of the cruxes of that! We’ll talk to you soon! ;-)

    (So Very Excited!)

    -D

    Comment by Dan — September 18, 2009 #

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