The notice for this year’s Arcadia Farmer-Chef Speed-Sourcing Happy Hour reminded me that I needed to post about last year’s event. There was also a similar (but less structured) happening later in the year, so I thought I would combine them in one article.
Imagine, if you will, a large, many-windowed room in a formerly-industrial building, now repurposed to a trendy, 21st century usage. This describes the venues of both events. The Happy Hour was held at the Bluejacket Brewery, and the Good Food Mercantile at Union Market. At both of them, the room was filled with purveyors of produce and groceries, hoping to attract purchasers.
The difference was in the customers. At the Happy Hour, farmers and producers sat behind tables and in booths and waited for matches (like speed-dating, get it?) with chefs from local restaurants. There was much business being done, but for some reason, many more farmers and producers than chefs showed up. Still, there were reports of matches being made, of products finding good homes in restaurants across the region.
I can attest to the excellence of several of the products myself. Zeke’s coffee, long a tent pole of the Olney Farmers and Artists Market (OFAM) and many others around the area, was there. So was True Syrups and Garnishes, with a line of hand-made syrups meant to be used in cocktails. I found that their grenadine syrup works very well in cooking, as a substitute for pomegranate molasses. It contributes a pleasant, floral taste without heavy sweetness.
The syrup doesn’t usually foam – I think it got a little agitated in transit!
Good Food Mercantile is presented as a showcase for artisanal producers to introduce themselves to retailers. There were many beverage, cheese and chocolate makers, also charcuterie and snack foods (but healthy! or at least “whole”!), with a smattering of olive oil and pickle makers. I admit I was drawn to the oddballs in the catchall “Pantry” category, while trying to cover the whole room. I just managed it.
True Syrups was the only company that I noticed were present at both events. I took the opportunity to get a picture of the True Team.
But there were other familiar folks. Dolcezza had brought their excellent gelati. I learned that they use Askinosie cocoa powder, an excellent choice.
Caputo Brothers Creamery is another source of excellent products, some of which are often available at OFAM. They make the best ricotta I have ever tasted, and I have sampled a few. Their factory is located in Spring Grove, PA, and I am planning a field trip up there soon.
Vendors came from all over the country, as far away as California. Point Reyes Cheese, some of the country’s best; Blue Bottle Coffee, now with an outlet in DC; Zingerman’s from Ann Arbor; and Victoria Amory were a few of the nationally-known brands on parade.
Browsing the chocolate, I pondered the possibility that there are too many chocolate companies in the world. Then I saw Nathan Miller Chocolate, which had many interestingly flavored bars. I think the camel’s milk bar took the weirdness prize. Yes, real camel’s milk. At least that’s what they told me, with straight faces. It was actually not as bad as one might think.
And those oddballs? Sugar Bob’s smoked maple syrup from Vermont (where else?) advertised “sweet smoky goodness” and recommends not using it on pancakes, but in marinades, glazes, and cocktails. This stuff is wonderful, and Bob is a hoot.
Oliver Farm oils, from Georgia, proudly noted that their products were “gluten free.”
One of the small coffee roasters was sort of scary. With varieties labeled “Zombie Desert,” “Cocaine,” and “Defense Against the Dark Arts” (actually I would totally drink that), Cafe Kreyol from Manassas took the concept of outlaw coffee to the max.
Sort of from around here, the J.Q. Dickinson Salt Works produce salt from springs originating below the Appalachian Mountains, in the most appropriately named Malden, West Virginia. I haven’t been able to ascertain whether Malden was named after Maldon, the famous salt-making town in England, or if there was serendipity at work, but I am determined to find out! Maybe with another field trip.