Buying Local – Arkansas Grown

Our packed agenda at Moss Mountain Farm included lots of topics, all built around a common theme: Farm to Home. One of the fun events was a shop-around with sampling that included lots of local makers and farmers and their wares. It was so fun to see vendors like Homayd (where I bought a coconut oil-based shampoo bar), Jelly Madness (orange-rosemary jam – yum!) as well as beef farmers and processors, vegetable farmers making probiotic sauerkraut and Grower’s Gift Spaghetti Sauce – a canning operation that gleans extra crops to benefit the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance.

Loblolly Creamery Ice Cream Truck

Loblolly Creamery is so yummy! they were out sampling their tasty ice creams.

Homayd Soap and Body

Homayd hand-makes soap and body products

Arkansas grown produce

An abundance of local farm raised greens, berries and big red onions

Arkansas grown music

Adorable hipsters sang, danced and played instruments next to a cold brew coffee bar. I felt like I was in a Portlandia episode.

Arkansas Made White River Creamery Cheese

White River creamery raises goats and produces goat cheese as well as cow milk cheese. It’s a family operation. The oldest daughter stayed home from Moss Mountain to cheese-make that morning.

There were also lots of baby animals. Angora Bunnies. Goats. Even a baby raccoon!!!!!!!

Lisagayb holds a bunny

I hold the softest angora bunny you ever did see

Baby raccoon hygiene issues

And here’s a baby raccoon. So cute, but I didn’t want to touch it.

All of this fun sampling and shopping was designed to whet our appetites for the next agenda item: a forum on Arkansas Grown. This is a government-funded initiative to make Arkansans more aware of where their food is made, and to seek out local producers and restaurants that serve local product.

argrownLogoHome

I try to shop local, but by no means exclusively. When my wallet is feeling pinched or I’m short on time, I’m not at all above stopping at the big box retailer, picking up some Chipotle….yada yada yada. It can cost additional time and money to shop local. But you get better tasting food and you boost to the local economy. In fact, if we all just increase our local shopping by 5%, it will generate a $5 million increase in revenue for the local economy!

And if you’re on a fixed income, don’t rule out local. Many farmer’s markets accept SNAP (FKA food stamps). In fact, some markets offer double dollars for SNAP that is spent at the farmer’s market. The goal? encourage those on fixed incomes to seek out fresh food, rather than opting for the processed food available at the grocery store.

What to do if you’re wanting to buy more local products? Here are a few suggestions that I plan to incorporate into my market trips and dining-out:

  • Seek out the store manager or the department manager at your grocery store of choice and tell them you make shopping decisions based on availability of local food. I find that Edwards Food Giant does a pretty good job of sourcing local products and their service is the best in Central Arkansas. I’m also told that Kroger is trying hard – but is having trouble finding local farmers who can keep up with the demand.
  • Make a date to go to your local farmer’s market for a fruit and veggie run each week. The Rivermarket Farmer’s Market is open in downtown Little Rock on Tuesday mornings during high season. (If you shop this market, be sure to ask where the food was grown – some vendors are not local.)  During my last trip to the market, I was able to get everything I needed to make a delicious tomato salad with local Kent Walker feta cheese. I topped the salad with some baked chicken and basil from my little backyard garden and we had dinner for the evening. The whole dinner for 4 cost less than $15.

    Ugly Fruit

    Funny, ugly Bradley County Arkansas tomato

  • Look for the Arkansas Grown sign at the local restaurants you visit. Some to try in the Little Rock area: HAM, Cache, Red Door, Trio’s (there are tons more – this is just a starting point). If your favorite restaurant isn’t serving local food, ask them to!

Tomato Salad with Basil-Yogurt Dressing

For the salad:

1 large Arkansas summer tomato, chopped into bite-sized pieces

1 head of red leaf lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces (err on the small side here. it’s annoying to get a large leaf of lettuce in your salad bite)

1/4 lb local feta, cut into small cubes

For the dressing

1/2 cup greek yogurt (I like Fage)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large minced shallot

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup fresh basil, cut into chiffonade

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Toss the salad and dressing together right before serving. To make this a main dish salad, you can add some sliced chicken or some drained chickpeas. You may want to reserve a bit of the dressing to top the chicken and place it on the salad plate beside the salad.

Advertisements

Farm2Home15 – at Moss Mountain Farm

Farm to School

Farm to school brings local food to Arkansas school kids.

You know I love me some P. Allen Smith. And I got to go back to Moss Mountain Farm this June to participate in a really fun event: Farm2Home15. I’m going to cover the event over the course of a few posts, topic-by-topic. We started the day with a really great discussion of Farm to School. It’s a program that works to bring local farm raised produce into the school system. The program is funded by a national grant.

P. Allen Smith at Moss Mountain Farm

isn’t Allen cute? and that house…gorgeous

Farmers are super-strapped for cash and schoolkids are obese (20% in 10-17 year olds) and eating too much processed food, ultimately setting them up for an obese adulthood with high risk for diabetes. Moreover, kids don’t understand where their food comes from. The marriage between local farmers and schools is truly a marriage made in heaven.

Everybody wins when schools are supplied by local farmers, rather than factory farms and food processors. Kids learn where food comes from (and it ain’t walmart). And just a 15% increase in locally supplied food can mean $15 million back into our Arkansas farmers’ pockets.

Just like grown-ups, kids can taste the difference, too. When presented with local watermelon vs. the shipped-in stuff, kids actually started eating the fruit – even choosing it over the other non-local foods available!

I was struck by the sincere interest in doing the right thing for kids that the farmers displayed. This program really isn’t just about making an extra buck (though our local farmers need that buck – let’s not fool ourselves). The program does so much more than that. And with most kids being raised in urban or suburban settings where, if you ask them where their Halloween pumpkin comes from, the default answer will be “Walmart”, the program does so much for everyone involved.

Moss Mountain Farm

I showed up for my visit to Moss Mountain Farm with great flair and style. The farm is about 15 miles from civilization, including gas stations. I drove about halfway to the farm on a gorgeous fall morning, then looked down at my gas gauge. It was hovering precariously on Empty. I had no choice but to double back, otherwise there was a greater than zero chance I’d be stuck.

So what started as a leisurely drive in the country, with plenty of time to make my appointment, ended up as a frenetic drive after pumping my gas. I arrived at the farm about 5 minutes late and a little frazzled. Without reading the instructions that came with my invitation, I assumed that the meeting was in the (gorgeous) main house.

Not a bad joint. #ar529

A post shared by Lisa gay bryant (@lisagayb) on

After a quick knock on the door, I assumed that the meeting had already started so I let myself in. I was greeted at the door by a little scottie dog. I was so frazzled I didn’t even note the fabulous-ness of the interior of this impressive house. P. Allen Smith himself walked into the entry hall, coffee mug in hand, & asked if he could help me. When I explained that I was here for a blogger event, a member of his staff escorted me to the barn. When I tried to apologize profusely for barging into the man’s home, he graciously brushed it off & explained that it happens all the time.

Like the rest of Moss Mountain Farm, this was no ordinary barn. The tables were set with a beautiful fall scenes. After we got ourselves situated with coffee, P. Allen came in to kick off the day.

Barn porn. #ar529

A post shared by Lisa gay bryant (@lisagayb) on

He was a real delight and told us about the history of his farm, which was established in 1840. By the time he acquired the land, the farm was in a state of disrepair. 8 years later, he has one of the most prime, scenic plots of land I’ve ever visited and he’s finished it with a variety of gardens, meadows & buildings that make it a joy to explore.

P. Allen Smith Garden Home

P. Allen Smith tells us about the history of his Garden Home

Cause you know. I'm 12.

A post shared by Lisa gay bryant (@lisagayb) on

Initially when he began keeping chickens, he moved a bunch of trailers together to make a giant village. But that required an upgrade after a writer told him the structure looked like a chicken shantytown. The new poultry palace is based on an Italian palazzo. It’s situated alongside a swan pond, just adjacent to a rolling meadow where sheep dogs mind grazing sheep. I’m not making this up or spewing some kind of Martha Stewart inspired poetry.

One of the most interesting parts of the tour for me was the sleeping porch. Not because it afforded some of the most beautiful views of the Little Maumelle River (though it did). Not because of the copper bathtub situated next to the 3 wrought iron beds. No, my fascination with the sleeping porch was because I dreamed about it the night before my visit. In my dream, the sleeping porch had 6 beds of varying heights. In my dream, P. Allen told us that the tallest bed was reserved for the most important person.

In reality, the designer who helped with the sleeping porch designed it with 6 beds. When P. Allen told the designer that it “looked like a tuberculosis ward,” the bed count was reduced to 3. All beds are the same height. But the coincidence is uncanny.

P. Allen Smith Garden Home

The view from the sleeping porch at Moss Mountain Farm

After a simple but delicious lunch of sweet potato & spinach salad with grilled chicken, we began our presentation. I was here to learn about college savings and why it matters. As you may recall, I have some anxiety on this subject, so the timing couldn’t be better. I’ll be blogging about the excellent advice I got on college savings soon, but for now, let’s just enjoy some home design p@rn, shall we?

Sweet potato salad with grilled chicken. #ar529

A post shared by Lisa gay bryant (@lisagayb) on

Moss Mountain Farm

The lovely master bath at P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home

Moss Mountain Farm

A swan presides over silver bowls filled with crabapples at P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home. He collects pre-1930’s wood furniture. This sideboard is an example.

Moss Mountain Farm

A fall setting on the kitchen island at P. Allen Smith’s Garden home

P. Allen Smith's Garden Home

The children’s wing of P. Allen Smith’s Garden home, where his nieces and nephews stay when they visit. The children’s wing is in a finished attic.

Moss Mountain Farm

A scary bear lays over a chaise in the book-laden reading nook at P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home.

What keeps me up at night

So, I CAN’T be the only mom who spends waking moments hours some nights staring at the dark ceiling iPhone? Some little noise in the house will wake me up. If I’m lucky, I’ll drift right back into dreamland. But some nights, that just doesn’t happen. Those are the nights worry creeps in.

So many things to worry about! So little time! Why not use the hour from 3-4 am to fill in? Brilliant!

Top of the list: money! college! kids performance at school!

Caramel apple🎃👻🍁🍏🍎

A post shared by Lisa gay bryant (@lisagayb) on

This “little” girl goes to college in 3. years. Lord willing.

That’s where this great contest comes in.

securedownload

Cajun’s Wharf – a new discovery in Little Rock

Thanks to Arkansas Women Bloggers for the invite to a blog event at Cajun’s Wharf – on the Arkansas River in Little Rock. I’ll get to the food & drink experience in a bit, but first I must say – the ladies at the event were a real treat! I’m happy to have met some fun people & hope to see them all again very soon. As a bonus, I sold the shirt off my back to one of my new friends. So there’s that.

But we weren’t only invited to Cajun’s to socialize. We were there to eat! and drink! The day started with a wine tasting (I mean it was 12:10 pm, so at least we weren’t morning-drinking, just day-drinking) 2 whites (a reisling and a sauvignon blanc) and 2 reds (a pinot noir and something else I didn’t get to) for each of us. We got a quick talk from the head of beverage service, where I learned that Cajun’s and its sister restaurant Capers are both regularly recognized by Wine Spectator for their wine cellars.

After our quick sampling, we tucked into our first meal of the day – lunch off of Cajun’s daytime menu. We started with an insane sampler plate of appetizers. When I missed out on the oysters bienville, one of my new friends made some magic happen and a brand new platter of oysters appeared. They were magic.

@deltamoxie makes sh@t happen.

A post shared by Lisa gay bryant (@lisagayb) on

Nevermind that I was already full and had moved on to iced tea by the time our entrees arrived. Had to soldier on with a delightful Kentucky Hot Brown, served open-face with swiss cheese, sliced tomatoes and a bechamel sauce. During lunch, the head chef & partner in the restaurant group told us her philosophy on food: cook with real food & start from scratch. And that philosophy showed. The food was beautiful and tasty.

We ended up with a platter of gorgeous desserts. I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves here.

Good god. Bread pudding.

A post shared by Lisa gay bryant (@lisagayb) on

Pretty pumpkin cheesecake

A post shared by Lisa gay bryant (@lisagayb) on

Then we waddled on over to the open kitchen for a demo. Chef Mary Beth prepared some clams & mussels in a white wine sauce that was redolent with fresh herbs and talked to us about Thanksgiving techniques, including turkey brining. I don’t think I’ll ever take that on – it’s just too much of an ordeal – but I do enjoy a cooking demonstration and talking technique with a professional, so it was great fun.

Fresh herbs at the ready.

A post shared by Lisa gay bryant (@lisagayb) on

Along with a swag bag,  Chef Mary Beth sent us on our way with recipes, which I appreciate.

Yay! Recipes and a cooking demo!

A post shared by Lisa gay bryant (@lisagayb) on

After a sample of the mussels, we moved into the bar (Cajun’s is ginormous! They offer catering as well as restaurant service & can cater groups from 20-500 or more). Here’s where things got (even more) fun. A local whiskey expert brought some bottles from a distillery in Nashville. We got little samples of whiskeys, ranging from “traditional” to “more complex”. I’m FAR from a whiskey expert, but this stuff was great. And the fall light played into the bar so beautifully – a really pleasant space to wind down the afternoon.

Pretty whiskey. #daydrinking

A post shared by Lisa gay bryant (@lisagayb) on

With no designated driver and a full slate of mom-duties to return to, I plopped back to reality a little early while the rest of the group moved on to a pretty Christmas drink & social hour. Rest assured, I’ll be back.

Christmas Martinis!!! @cajunswharf #CajunsCC14

A post shared by Ricci (@riccialexis) on

My newest project

I’ve been thrifting vintage shirts lately & customizing them. The results are super-rewarding! I’m selling them at a local boutique. I’m also able to sell direct. You can always pay $300 for a similar product at Barney’s. Check out my instagram – I post favorites & styling ideas every so often.