Push open the door of the new Farmer's Market Midtown on Union near Belvedere and John Raney is ready with a handshake. "Are you a Midtowner?" he asks. "Welcome to your market!"
Greeter, owner, and Midtown enthusiast, Rainey is a retired commercial broker who believes the neighborhood is ready for a metro market specializing in local products and personal service.
"We like to say, 'Farm fresh to you,'" Raney says. "If you want beef from Neola Farms six days a week, come here. Fresh-frozen shrimp from Muddy Waters in Louisiana? We've got that too."
Raney is still developing his produce suppliers, but his groceries include many vendors who sell in the area's seasonal markets: nuts from Delta Pecan Orchard, grits from Delta Grind, frozen entrées from No Time 2 Cook, baked goods from Big Ono and Backermann's, coffee from McCarter Coffee, and local honey.
The market also sells gifts such as pottery and handmade soups and is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Farmer's Market Midtown, 1632 Union (726-1031)
Van Cheeseman remembers the coldest morning of last winter like only a farmer can. It was 14 degrees outdoors, and inside his cold frame, it was only 9 degrees warmer.
"Everything was frozen," he recalls about his lettuce and arugula. "But by noon, it had thawed and was fine."
Thanks to the cold frame's two layers of plastic, which trap in the afternoon heat, Cheeseman is able to grow produce during the winter months at his Flora Bluebird Farms in Holly Springs, Mississippi. "It's all experimentation, but we have plenty to keep selling. We hope to be here all winter," he says.
Broccoli raab, Asian greens, mustard greens, mesclun mix, sweet potatoes, spinach, cucumbers, kale, and the last of the summer tomatoes are some of the vegetables available now and sold Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Cooper-Young Farmers Market in the parking lot of Tsunami restaurant. Later in the season, bitter greens, Bibb lettuce, heirloom garlic, beets, and onions will join the lineup.
A handful of other growers join Cheeseman at the Saturday market. Dodson Farms from Forrest City, Arkansas, and Gracious Garden, also from Holly Springs, sell vegetables, and Shoaf's Loafs sells baked goods. Donnell Century Farm from Jackson sells all-natural Angus beef on the first, third, and fifth Saturdays of the month.
Since produce availability will vary each week, Cheeseman suggests contacting vendors for weekly e-mail updates. Check the Flyer's Hungry Memphis blog for addresses.
Cooper-Young Farmers Market,
928 S. Cooper, Saturdays 10 a.m.-1 p.m.,
I seem to be the only food writer in America who missed the Lee Brothers' first cookbook on Southern cooking, which garnered all kinds of attention, including the James Beard Award for Cookbook of the Year. Lucky for me, I grabbed their new book off a co-worker's desk, and lucky for you, the chefs are stopping in Memphis as part of their whirlwind tour through two dozen cities.
Charleston natives Matt Lee and Ted Lee will be at Davis-Kidd Booksellers Thursday, November 19th, at 6 p.m. to sign copies of Simple Fresh Southern: Knockout Dishes with Down-Home Flavor (Clarkson Potter). Thanks to Brontë Bistro, the event also will include complimentary appetizers from three of the book's recipes: green goddess potato salad; collard greens with poblano chilies; and cocktail eggs with roasted peppers and country ham.
Davis-Kidd events coordinator Christina Meek expects a crowd. "I just got an e-mail from Matt Lee saying the books are selling out," Meek says.
Appreciated for their creative spin on Southern favorites, the Lees like to update traditional recipes with fresh flavors and seasonal ingredients. I made the book's collard greens soup last week, which calls for red chili flakes and kosher salt to kick up the seasoning and turnips and cannelloni beans to bulk up the greens. The result? A soup so good it's unlikely you'll have leftovers for freezing.