Burgundy okra from Perry-winkle Farm was the hit of the Wednesday Carrboro
Farmers' Market. The market and its farmers are featured in the October Bon
Appetit in "The Foodiest Small Town in America." Guess which "town" won.
Were you surprised to hear that Bon Appetit picked a locale known as “Durham-Chapel Hill” as “America’s Foodiest Small Town?” (October, 2008, pp. 96-103)
Actually I was.
I was also surprised to learn that Durham and Chapel Hill “are to many considered one and the same.” So much so, that the magazine decided to turn them into one hyphenated burg.
Having lived in New York for 11 years, let me say that’s a bit like lumping Manhattan and Queens together. Only an out-of-towner would do it.
Restaurant editor Andrew Knowlton breezed through the Carrboro Farmers' Market where—can you believe it?—top chefs Andrea Reusing (The Lantern), Scott Howell (Nana’s) and Bret Jennings (Elaine’s on Franklin) were all shopping at the same moment. Later he supped at Magnolia Grill where his wife blissed out on “cornmeal crusted Carolina flounder in spicy crab sauce with creamy lemon grits,” exclaiming “I don’t think I’ve ever had Southern food as sophisticated as this.” Knowlton hastens to add that it wasn’t “a backhanded compliment…” Uh-huh.
Bon Appetit based its choice on our area’s “density of farmers' markets, concerned farmers, first rate-restaurant scene, and talented food artisans.” Apparently we had enough of that to beat out competition from five other serious foodie towns: Eugene, Oregon; Paso Robles, California; Boulder, Colorado; Louisville, Kentucky; and Rhinebeck, New York.
In fairness, Knowlton got the real story: This could never have happened without central North Carolina’s abundance of small farms—120 within a 50 mile radius of Chapel Hill—and a critical mass of customers who care enough about who’s producing their food to create a vibrant farmers' market scene. It’s farmers, like Alex and Betsy Hitt (Peregrine Farm), Cathy Jones and Mike Perry (Perry-winkle Farm), Bill Dow (Ayrshire Farm), and others who grow the gorgeous, often organic produce and raise the heritage livestock that make it possible for our restaurants and food artisans to thrive. A handful are verging on local “rock star” status, with restaurants staging farm fresh dinners starring Fickle Creek eggs and Cane Creek Ossabaw Island pork.
Knowlton’s grand finale was a potluck dinner at Ken Dawson and Libby Outlaw’s Maple Spring Gardens with a few friends, including Elise Margolies of Elysian Fields Farm (full disclosure: I have been a member of Elise’s CSA since the beginning), George O’Neal (Lil' Farm), John and Cindy Soehner (Eco Farm), and Alice and Stuart White (Bluebird Meadows). On the menu: “freshly picked and roasted asparagus, fried chicken from a bird one of the farmers had raised, and collard-greens pesto on bruschetta.”
“Eat local?” he wrote. “I was practically eating out of the farmers’ hands.”