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SXSW Farmers Market Report: March 16-17

Inexpensive, authentic locavore brunch at the markets!
Kate Thornberry, 9:00am, Fri. Mar. 15, 2013

Fantastic tamales by The Gardener's Feast
South by Southwest has completely taken over Austin, so naturally it has commandeered the Farmers Market Report as well! And what gorgeous weather we have been having, sunny and warm with cool nights and continual fresh breezes; you can practically feel SXSWesters from the frozen North deciding to move here! The directors were very canny when they decided to have SXSW during the gentlest weather of our year.

If I were advising any SXSW visitors about where to have a totally Austin experience of great local food for cheap, the first thing out of my mouth would be, “Try to have Saturday or Sunday breakfast at the farmers market!” The fare doesn’t get any fresher, the ambiance doesn’t get any lovelier, and the skills of the cooks/chefs are world-class (in fact, I believe the Downtown SFC Market (Saturday) and the Mueller Market (Sunday) are the only venues SXSWesters can experience the cooking of James Beard Finalist Chef Jesse Griffiths.)

First let’s talk about Saturday: I am just going to assume that the farmers market most conference attendees will be closest to is the the Downtown Sustainable Food Center Market located at Fourth and Guadalupe. An easy walk from most of the Downtown hotels, the breakfast choices at this market are outstanding.

Locally roasted fair trade Brazilian coffee by Casa Brasil

First things first: coffee! Casa Brasil sells fresh hot coffee at this market every week. Their coffee is fair trade, fresh roasted on St. Elmo Road in South Austin, and the finest money can buy. If you would prefer hot chocolate, Fete Accompli (recently lauded in the New York Post) sells intoxicating hot chocolate made with Venezuelan El Rey chocolate, local low-temperature pasteurized Mill-King milk, and home made marshmallows. But what if you are hot from all that walking? Fete Accompli mainly sells fantastic aguas frescas, such as carrot/ginger/pineapple lemonade, arugula/mint/limeade, and pure watermelon juice.

Another coffee alternative is to buy a cup of Cafe A La Olla from Jesse Griffiths’ Dai Due Butcher Shop table. Boiled in a clay pot, Cafe a la Olla is boiled Mexican coffee with sorghum syrup, brown sugar, anise seed and cinnamon, served with Mill-King milk. 

This Saturday Chef Griffiths is also serving:

Pambazo Burger- a chorizo patty, fried egg, refried camotes, charred onion relish and crema on a chorizo bun.

Strawberry Jelly Doughnut proudly fried in lard.

 

Pon Haus with a fried egg and molasses.

 

Bratwurst and Cheddar with sauerkraut and Fireman's #4 Mustard on an onion seed roll.

Shrimp Migas Taco with cactus, PepperJack cheese, and parsley salsa.  Citrus Agua Fresca  Grapefruit, lemon, tangelo, and orange with fresh mint and organic sugar. 

Chef Jesse Griffiths manning his stand, Downtown

If you prefer to go the less expensive Mexican tamale route, local tamalera The Gardener’s Feast sells their stellar and perfect tamales at all of our area Farmers Markets, including downtown. Gardeners Feast not only makes the spiciest and most authentic tamales available in the world today (in my opinion), but they also are Austin enough to offer both Vegetarian and Vegan tamales, an option that is probably not all that easy to find (and the vegetarian ones are fantastic! Though I am a carnivore, I almost always opt for their Poblano and Cheese Tamale, it is a revelation.)

Meat Tamales: Pork Tomatillo, Chicken Mole, and Pork Pastor;

Vegetarian Tamales: Bean and Goat Cheese, Poblano and Cheese, Spring Veggies and Feta, and Xochitl;

Vegan Tamales: Spinach and Caramelized Onion, Mushroom, and Nopalito.

The Cake and Spoon stand, flanked by an Individual quiche

Should you be craving merely a baked item with your beverage of choice, the Downtown Market has several notable options. Red Rabbit Cooperative Bakery offers fabulous vegan doughnuts in a variety of gourmet flavors that must be tasted to be believed: Lemon Sugar, Mexican Chocolate Glazed, Maple Glazed with Candied Walnuts, and sugar Vanilla Glazed to name a few.

Local bakery Cake and Spoon offers Chelsea Buns (sticky cinnamon buns), fresh seasonal scones, miniature pies and lemon curd tarts, individual quiches, and shortbread. Their Double Ginger Cream Scones are pretty much the Scone Gold Standard: rich and soft with a delightfully crisp crumb.

Texas French Bread also has maintains a bakery table at the Downtown SFC Market, and their scones are wonderful for breakfast as well (my favorite being the Orange, but the Walnut Scone is a close second.) Texas French Bread offers loaves of wonderful bread as well, including baguettes, in case you opt for fresh bread and cheese from one of our local diaries. Dos Lunas and Mill-King Dairies both have tables at the market selling locally produced cow’s milk cheeses, and CKC Farms sells locally produced award-winning goat cheese, as does Swede Farm Dairy, who (in my opinion) make the most fabulous chevres to be had anywhere (a particular favorite is the Red Pepper and Pesto, although the Spicy Chevre is gaining!)

Swede Farm Dairy's outstanding Red Pepper Pesto Chevre, and while we are at it, their Chocolate Goat Milk!

But what about Sunday?

Many, indeed, most of the vendors I have described herein also peddle their wares at the Mueller Market on Airport Boulevard on Sunday mornings from 10am-2pm. Chef Griffiths maintain a Dai Due table there, and Gardeners Feast Tamales sells at Mueller as well. Cake and Spoon sells at Mueller, and although Texas French Bread does not, another legendary local bakery, Sweetish Hill, sells a variety of baked goods there. If you can’t make the Saturday Downtown Market, by all means get over to the Mueller Market on Sunday for a wonderful outdoor brunch.

Should you be a SXSWester staying in the residential area of our fair city, the Barton Creek Farmers Market, the Sunset Valley Farmers Market, the Cedar Park Farmers Market and the HOPE Farmers Market are all viable brunch options as well, and will probably be far less crowded. All of our markets offer coffee,juices, tamales, local cheeses, milk, and baked goods. All offer seating and, you guessed it, live music! Every weekend throughout the year. Because … we are the Live Music Capital of the World, after all!

See you at the markets!

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