Berries

I’ve been wanting to get out to the U-Pick for a year or so and just missed it last year due to other things coming up.   I really wanted to go and pick (and eat) sunshine warmed blackberries but they aren’t quite in season.  As a little kid in the Seattle area we picked giant juicy strawberries that are an imprint on my memory.  I phoned Chapman’s on Friday and they verified that blueberries are just at the end of the season but there were still lots to be had for the small price of picking them myself and a few dollars a pound.  I headed out before the heat of the day kicked in on Saturday morning armed with little more than sunscreen and some cash to pay for my pickings.  Chapman’s is straight down Narcoossee Road in St Cloud Florida.  mupchapmans.jpg

As you walk in past sheds and potted plants for sale you get little direction other than to grab a bucket and go for it.  Only a handful of other pickers were in the fields and I chose to go left since everyone else seemed to be right.  I walked to the back corner and put my back to the sun and picked my way down a couple of rows.  The berries are so ripe, so blue, and simply tumble off the bush into the bucket.  I couldn’t believe how easy it was to just keep going.  I listened to the birds and the breeze whispering past  The solitude was fantastic.  I found myself thinking it would be a shame to let any go to waste and just kept going.  Then I almost started to feel greedy–something like–should I tell anyone about this?  What if there are no berries left for me?  What if the word gets out?  I came to my senses and I got over it.  I’d rather share the blueberry love.  After an hour or two I took but brimming bucket up to the shed and they quickly checked me out ($24) and dumped my berries into an embarrassingly big bag.   When I got home I put the bag on my kitchen scale and found I had over seven pounds!  At about $3 per pound you just cant beat it  They are grown without chemicals and you are encouraged to eat a few as you go–they promise not to weigh you in or out.  I got home and made a small batch of Blueberry jam – about 4 hours from picked to jarred.  That’s what I call farm to table.  I also made a batch of blueberry Aigre-doux, a red wine, vinegar and sugar concoction that is supposed to be good with cheese and in cocktails so I’m looking forward to trying that out.  So much pleasure and relaxing holiday in that sun warmed picking.

Chapmans |  75 Nolte Rd St Cloud, FL | Call Nancy in season to find out what is available and when they are open.  321.624.9482

 

the poor porker

poorporkerwe were driving on I-4 heading to the beach a month or so ago and I was reading magazines (bliss right?).  I saw that a semi-local place was featured in Food and Wine magazine (May issue.)  It’s called the Poor Porker and while I kind of have a love – hate with their name, I am certainly chuffed too have a hipster beignet and chicory coffee food truck in the Central Florida town of Lakeland.  I immediately tried to find it on my phone to see if we could swing by but we had zoomed down the road before I could find where they might be.  But, a couple weeks ago we were making a quick trip to Sarasota to see my sister before she skipped town/go to the aquarium/see my parents for pre-fathers day that happened to coincide with the Lakeland curbside market so we stopped by for some fresh beignets.   Their cart (because truck isn’t really what it is) is a trailer with a sort of shack cobbled together on top housing a few people pouring coffee, taking orders and rolling out and frying dough.  It has that new old style of industrial reclamation of Coleman coolers, old wood and artfully rusty industrial signage.  The staff/owners are cool cat types with work aprons, tats and artful dustings of flour.  We ordered an iced chicory coffee and two orders of beignets.  One was what I would call the original variety, shaken in a bag of powdered sugary goodness and the other was in a little tray and doused with maple, bacon and a drift of sugar.  They are made to order and HOT.  The dough is really great, soft and pillowy and crisp in all the right ways.  While you might think I’d love the bacon I was really all about the orginal.  They were just so good with that cold coffee.   If you are ever in the neighborhood I would recommend this as a good detour.  You get the small town vibe with a healthy dose of hipster and a darn good treat.  I hope they are around a long time.

breakfast in the pasture

a couple of weeks ago we had the joy of getting up early on one of the coldest days (that is relative I know) of the year and heading off to parts unknown (Ocoee) to tour Lake Meadow Naturals Farm and eat breakfast prepared by local chefs in the pasture.  I had bucolic images of sitting at a white tablecloth listening to a brook gurgle past while I sat all dainty-like in white flowing dress with Hunter boots a la Beekman….. oh my word.  Get real.  I did have an image of something other than it turned out to be but it went a bit like this… lakemeadownaturals

We drove up to the farm and parked in a field where some adorable goats and their donkey shepherd usually live.  We saw one of the little goats escape out the fence and wander around the cars until he freaked himself out and squoze back in.  We walked down the drive seeing small chicken houses, bunny houses, a large garden and a little store and a big house with a well kept ornamental garden.  We met our farmer-guide who walked us through the premises explaining all they do there on their little farm.  They garden and tend the animals and this is fun, have u-pick eggs.  We had a little talk from a local seafood purveyor called Wild Ocean told us about the shrimp we would be eating a little later and how they wild catch them off the eastern coast near Cape Canaveral.  The tour continued in the egg washing room where they clean up the eggs and then to see 100 or so newly hatched chicks…fuzzy and peepy in big heated washtubs.  Then into the main free-range open to the great big chicken house.  The chickens swarmed around our legs and pecked at my jeans.  I love those birds.  They do have a terrible reek but they are so friendly and interested in visitors.  Then out the door to the field where we shared breakfast with the birds.  Tables set up in the yard with mason jars filled with rosemary, eggs, and straw, each table supplied with locally bottled hot sauce by Fat Cat.  We went through the line and picked up shrimp and grits smothered with a tomato sauce, fresh Maldon salted biscuits with fresh kumquat and strawberry jalapeno jam and roasted vegetable and egg frittata.  I think the biscuits and jam where my favorite taste of the morning besides hot coffee-so fresh and bright.  It was one of the few times I have been cold in Florida so far.  While we ate, the chickens ambled around our feet and gave little innocent pokes with their beaks.  We watched the more timid geese, ducks and guineafowl who kept their distance. We finished off our visit with a trip through their little farm store where we picked up some blood oranges for marmalade and a slab of crazy bacon.  Then home to dump all those clothes straight in the washing machine.

 

easter

went to Sarasota for the Easter weekend.  Along with the requisite trip to El Toro Bravo for Santa Fe style cooking, we also made a couple of new stops – just to scope out the territory.  My parents visited us for Christmas and brought giant cinnamon rolls thickly buried in frosting from Troyer’s Dutch Heritage Bakery.  I hadn’t been there before and we made a brief stop to check out the bakery and gift shop.  It is an Amish style restaurant, one of five or six in the Sarasota area-apparently the winter hotbed of Amish-Mennonite warmth seekers from Lancaster County PA and beyond.  They gave us samples of orange cream pie and provided our Easter dessert of raspberry pie.
We also made a stop at Yoder’s Amish Village to browse their farm stand.  I was impressed by the variety and price points.  They had everything from Florida sweet onions to fresh chick peas still in their shells alongside Pennsylvania Dutch Birch Beer. jellies and local honey.
We didn’t see any horses and buggies but there are a lot of ladies in plain clothes with the white small bonnets associated with the sect shopping in local stores.