Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Big 'cue guys coming to Charlotte

I'm afraid to type anything involving the letters "B B Q" for a while. So I'll say this involves outdoor cooking. Call it what you will:

  • Adam Perry Lang is a New York chef with bonafides (Le Cirque, Daniel) who got into outdoor cooking and the competition circuit a few years ago. His second book, "Charred and Scruffed," named for some of his innovative outdoor cooking techniques, is out this summer. Lang will be in Charlotte on June 9 to sign books and demonstrate some of those innovative outdoor cooking techniques. The event is being put on by Park Road Books, but it's happening at 2:30 p.m. in the parking lot next to Carpe Diem on Elizabeth Avenue. It's free and you don't need a reservation. Just show up.
  • Bob Garner is the guy who wrote the book on North Carolina's traditions of, um, outdoor cooking, with the original guide, "North Carolina Barbecue: Flavored By Time," back in the 1990s. He has a new book out, "Bob Garner's Book of Barbecue: North Carolina's Favorite Food" (John F. Blair, $24.95). He'll sign copies of that at 7 p.m. June 12 at Park Road Books.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Barbecue Squabbles: Can't we all just get along?

"Charlotte, once again demonstrating its complete lack of barbecue relevance . . . "

"Fruit in barbecue sauces? It's official, we now live in South New York . . ."

"Slather sweet sauce over generic meat and call it barbecue . . . "

"Think of an out-of-towner coming across this story and thinking that this is what Carolina barbecue is all about . . ."

That last comment was the one that really made me start shaking my head. Seriously? It's actually a betrayal of our state to acknowledge the existence of anything beyond whole pig with vinegar mop?

Are we merely the sum of our Lexington and Eastern Carolina pigs parts?

I'm usually accustomed to the outbreak of hyperbole and hostility that passes for barbecue dialogue around here. I've written in newspapers, magazines, books and online for a couple of decades now and I know that simply typing (even thinking or saying) any word that involves the letters "B," "B" and "Q" is going to be trouble.

But I was still a little taken aback by the comments that broke out when we announced the winners of our barbecue sauce contest Wednesday. After all. we had been pretty clear that the contest was for homemade-sauce recipes. At the beginning and the end of the contest, we were specific that these sauces were for backyard cookouts, not for digging large pits and cooking whole pigs or shoulders.

Interestingly, despite the debate, most of the 30 or 40 recipes entered had some kind of sweet elements, often a jam, sugar or molasses. There were all kinds of styles of barbecue sauces, which is part of what made the contest fun. These are the things that people make when they're cooking at home, and it was pretty clear from the recipes that people make a huge variety of things.

Certainly, barbecue and grilling are not the same thing. I wrote a column on that subject very recently. But it's also true that when we are grilling, we do all kinds of things.

I love the tradition and the history that's represented by the classic barbecue restaurant of North and South Carolina. I've visited well over 30 of them.

But is it true that if we stand on Carolina soil, we're not allowed to rake anything else over the coals?

Sorry. As a cook and a writer and an avid backyard griller, I just can't agree with that.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/05/22/3259367/which-barbecue-sauce-is-the-winner.html#storylink=cpy

Great Read of the Day: Easy Bake Reverie

As a fellow Easy Bake traveler who had the turquoise version pictured, I understood Lisa Sorg of the Independent Weekly of Durham in her essay on the miracle of the Little Oven That Almost Couldn't.

The original headline: Someone Left the Cake Out in the Rain.

By Lisa Sorg
The (Durham) Independent Weekly

Come here, kiddos, and sit on grandma’s knee. I’ll tell you about the hardscrabble times, the lean years, when we Toughskins-wearing moppets, our shoulders scabbed and oozing from our smallpox shots, not only used phones that were attached to the wall by a cord but also baked cakes in an oven using two measly light bulbs. And they weren’t even compact fluorescent!

I see you shaking your head. But these kinds of trials are what made our generation what it is today.

The Easy-Bake Oven debuted in 1963 in a shade of deep teal unseen in nature. In addition to the oven, the plastic appliance featured “burners” and came with a pint-size rolling pin and small aluminum pans in which to make cakes and cupcakes, pies and pizzas.

The cake flavors included artificial white, artificial chocolate and artificial devil’s food, while the pie filling was All-American artificial apple. Add (real) water to the mix, slide the pan in the oven and prepare to live your dream, embodied in the slogan “Bake your cake and eat it too!“

The eating part, yes, well, there was that. The heat of two 100-watt light bulbs – fully preheated, the oven reportedly could reach 375 degrees – was ostensibly sufficient to cause molecules to vibrate and to convert starch to sugar. In 4 to 16 minutes, voila! You had a dessert concoction that tasted of industrializated food systems: treacly, mealy and faintly chemical – and oh, so good.

The Easy-Bake Oven was made by Kenner (now it’s Hasbro), the company that also brought you the Spirograph. The appliance was marketed to girls to encourage them to be like their mom: unable to get a credit card in her name, sequestered in the kitchen fixing another drab green bean casserole with Campbell’s mushroom soup and fried onion rings, and by midafternoon, pounding her third Tom Collins (Easy Shaker, anyone?) and reading "Looking for Mr. Goodbar."

There were knock-offs, of course: the Junior Chef Magic-Cool Oven, which resembled an incinerator; and the Suzy Homemaker, which one-upped the Easy-Bake by not only featuring an oven and stove, but also damn near a full kitchen, including a sink and dishwasher, perfect for scrubbing cake pans and rinsing Tom Collins glasses.

By the mid-1970s, the oven’s color scheme had taken on the drab tones of the Nixon/Ford era: burnt umber and avocado. The 1983 model appeared to have been designed by the band Men Without Hats: radioactive yellow and square with an instrument panel that could have powered the space shuttle. By then, Easy-Bake technology had progressed to the point that the oven needed only one 100-watt bulb.

In the last 20 years, the mystique of the Easy-Bake Oven has declined. Blame the drive-thru. Blame the avalanche of snacks in school vending machines, which give kids immediate access to their sugar fixes. Me? I blame the microwave. Easy-Bake had a microwave model, but why would a third-grader accept a substitute when she already knows how to use the real microwave to make dinner?

Here’s the real bummer, the proof that most of today’s toys suck: The 21st-century version, the Easy-Bake Ultimate Oven, comes with games, videos and downloads, but it requires no light bulbs. That’s right, no light bulbs. What’s an Easy-Bake Oven without light bulbs? Well, since it has a heating element similar to a conventional oven, it’s really just a miniature oven.

“Why wouldn’t I just use a real oven?” reads one of the online Easy-Bake Ultimate Oven FAQs.

“The Easy-Bake brand is a fashionable fun food brand that inspires tween girls to bake, share and show their creativity and expertise through an immersive brand experience.”

Now I get it. You can fake your cake and eat it too.

What's so great about farmer's markets?

CNN's Susan Hendricks gives a 1-minute report on the advantages of farmers's markets, including economic:

And if you haven't gotten back into the Saturday morning farmer's market habit, how is definitely the time. With spring (and summer) coming so early this year, the markets are loaded with food.

Need to find a market? Here's our searchable map of markets all over our region: Market List.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

One Great . . . salad dressing

We're coming into the season when salads get really great. Great lettuce, great cucumbers, great radishes, and great tomatoes getting closer.

So why glop it up with bottled salad dressings? If you're going for something creamy, it's easier and it tastes better to make your own. There are a reason classics like Green Goddess have been classics for decades. They have so much flavor, you don't need to use very much.

Green Goddess, for instance, isn't just incredible when you toss it with salad ingredients, you can do things like use it as a base for chicken or seafood salads. Try it with leftover grilled salmon.

I've tweaked this version a little over the years, particularly swapping convenient anchovy paste for anchovy fillets. Don't skip it, though -- a little bit packs a major hit of flavor that balances out the herbs and mayonnaise.

Green Goddess Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (mostly leaves but a few stems are OK)
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
2 tablespoons green onion tops, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons anchovy paste
1 teaspoon vinegar, preferably white wine or sherry
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic (about 1 small clove)

Place all the ingredients in a food processor. Puree until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 4 days. If it's too thick to toss with a salad, thin it with a little lemon juice or water if you like.

Yield: About 2 cups.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Summer reading list: Food edition

The committee that runs the James Beard Foundation's book awards just released a new list, "Fourteen Great Reads for Food Lovers," a collection that focuses on food writing. Following the committee's earlier lists of great books, including 2010's Baker's Dozen, 13 great cookbooks on baking, this one covers memoirs, essays and fiction.

The books were picked by the current committee, including Andrea Weigl of the Raleigh News & Observer; authors Naomi Duguid, Grace Young and Martha Holmberg; food writers Carol Mighton Haddix and Irene Sax; book sellers Matt Sartwell and Ellen Rose; and wine writer Tara Q. Thomas.

The list:
1. "The Art of Eating," M.F.K. Fisher (John Wiley & Sons).
2. "Between Meals: An Appetit for Paris, by A.J. Liebling (North Point Press).
3. "Blood, Bones & Butter," by Gabrielle Hamilton (Random House).
4. "Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love and War," by Annia Ciezadlo (Free Press).
5. "A Debt to Pleasure," by John Lanchester (Picador).
6. "An Everlasting Meal: Cooking With Economy and Grace," by Tamara Adler (Scribner).
7. "The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food," by Jennifer 8. Lee (Twelve).
8. "Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany," by Bill Buford (Vintage).
9. "Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen," by Laurie Colwin (Vintage).
10. "The Man Who Ate Everything," by Jeffrey Steingarten (Vintage).
11. "Oranges," by John McPhee (Farrar, Straus & Giroux).
12. "The Oysters of Locmariaquer," by Eleanor Clark (Ecco Press).
13. "Simple Cooking," by John Thorne (North Point Press).
14. "The Tummy Trilogy," by Calvin Trillin (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). (Of course, that last one actually counts as three books -- it's really three of Trillin's earlier books, "Alice, Let's Eat," "American Fried" and "Third Helpings.")

What do you think? It's there a book of great food writing that they left off the list?

Matthews market adds Tuesday night hours

Need more fresh fruits and vegetables? Of course you do -- and we all know Saturday mornings get kind of busy.

So the Matthews Community Farmers' Market is adding a Tuesday Night Twilight Market from 6:30-8:30 p.m., starting this week.

The plan is for the Tuesday night market to run through July 24. Expect live music and chef's demos along with the usual fresh produce, grassfed beef, pastured chicken, prepared entrees, baked goods, flowers, crafts and goat cheese.

Of course, the Matthews market will continue its regular hours as well, from 7:15 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, at 105 N. Trade St. in Matthews. Details: www.matthewsfarmersmarket.com.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Local sweet potato chip scores a win

Those popular Sweet Potato Crackers from Polka Dot Bakery have earned one award from the National Assocation of Specialty Foods and is a finalist for another.

The cracked black pepper version won a silver sofi -- Specialty Outstanding Food Innovation -- and is a finalist for a gold. According to Michelle Miller, a Polka Dot co-owner, winning a silver makes the cracker one of the top three in this year's sofi competition. The cracker goes up for the gold for Best Cracker at the summer Fancy Food show in Washington in June.

Polka Dot's sweet potato crackers are made with N.C. grown sweet potatoes. They're available at Fresh Market, Reid's Fine Foods, Charlotte Earth Fare stores, Eco-Licious, Simply Local at the Atherton Market, on Saturdays at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market and at the bakery, 1730 E. Woodlawn Road.

Southern Living's picks for best barbecue

I tease the Southern Living folks for their surveys of places in the South, which often seem to skip our area. So I should praise them for their latest, "The Smokin' Hot List: 10 of the South's Best Pitmasters."

For once, several worthy Carolinas stops land on the list. Of course, if they were really doing it, the entire list would be Carolinas barbecue -- and it would take a lot more than 10. But still, I'm happy to see these guys get the love, for long hours doing some hot, dirty work:

1. Rodney Scott, Scott's Bar-B-Q, Hemingway, S.C.
2. Sam Jones (although they should include his uncle Jeff and their helper, James Howell, who also do the long hours at the pit -- Samuel himself will tell you that Skylight is a family affair), Skylight Inn, Ayden.
3. Ed Mitchell, The Pitmaster, Raleigh. Ed doesn't currently have a restaurant (he split with The Pit), but he tours and does events as The Pitmaster.
4. Avery Payne, Cook's Barbecue, Lexington. (That's my picture of the chopped 'cue plate at Cook's, above.)

In the same issue, SL's picks for best barbecue places include Allen & Son, Chapel Hill; Bunn's, Windsor; Jim & Nick's, all over, including Charlotte; Lexington Barbecue, Lexington; and Red Bridge's Barbecue Lodge, Shelby.

You can get the whole package, including a pitmaster quiz, a list of good bottled sauces, recipes and more, here: 'Cue Awards.

Friday, May 11, 2012

One Great . . . weekend brunch dish

When you're a food writer, food companies flood your desk like rice fields at harvest. Brochures, press releases - they even send rubber versions of foods to try for attention.

I ignore most of it, although I've been known to turn a rubber blueberry into a projectile on a Friday afternoon. Most of the recipes are about as interesting as a rubber blueberry. But flipping through a brochure from a group called Avocados From Mexico a couple of weeks ago, I had to stop and look at this one.

Steamed avocado? With an egg in the middle? It sounded too weird to be ignored. There's a good reason most recipes don't cook avocado, so the audacity of this begged to be tried.

The result: Slightly softened avocado with a little soft egg yolk makes a combination that's indulgent and surprisingly tasty. The original dish called for making a spicy tomato sauce, but I skipped that in favor of a little salsa from a jar.

It's a neat dish to keep around when you need a special breakfast. Just don't overcook the egg. Rubber isn't good for blueberries or eggs.

Avocado Poached Egg With Diablo Sauce Adapted from Avocados From Mexico.

1 large avocado, ripe but still slightly firm
2 medium eggs
Smoked paprika
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoon salsa, if desired (optional)

Bring about 1 inch of water to boil in a saucepan large enough to hold a steamer basket. Place the steamer basket in the pan (use a colander if you don't have a steamer).

Cut the avocado in half lengthwise and discard the pit. Leave the peel on, but cut a very thin sliver from the bottom of each half to make a flat bottom. If the hole where the pit was is small, use a spoon to make it just a little larger.

Place each avocado half peel-side down in the steamer. Crack an egg into each indentation.

the pan and steam until the eggs are poached but still soft in the middle, about 5 or 6 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove each avocado half to a plate. Sprinkle the egg with a little paprika, salt and pepper. Serve with a little salsa and toast.

Yield: 2 servings.

Who won the Mother's Day cookbook giveaways?

Mother's Day is a big holiday, so it deserves a big giveaway. This time, we had two cookbooks to share after Andrea Weigl's Wednesday story on cooking tips for busy parents.

The winners are:

Connie Bollick Lee of Williamston won the copy of "The Mom 100 Cookbook," by Katie Workman. If you're struggling with weeknight dinners, this might be the book you need, filled with solutions for fast, everyday cooking for families.

Pettus Lilliott of Charlotte won "Gourmet Weekday," everyday recipes picked by the editors of now-defunct (but still missed) food magazine.

Thanks to all of you who entered (wow, you guys really wanted those books!), and thanks as always for all the support for my blog and our Food section.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Multi Top Chefs and other events coming up

Our calendar is full of "Top Chefs" and other things. Consider these:

  • Season 2 "Top Chef" finalist, New York chef and Charlottean Sam Talbot will be at Park Road Books in the Park Road Shopping Center (Park Road and Woodlawn) at 11 a.m. Saturday to sign copies of "The Sweet Life," his cookbook about life with diabetes. Actually, you can make that ex-New York chef. The New York magazine blog Grub Street recently reported that Talbot is leaving Surf Lodge on Montauk and says his next project will be in the Caribbean.

  • May 17 will bring "Top Chef: The Tour" to Charlotte. Contestants (Bravo calls them chef'testants but that doesn't mean I have to) Hector Santiago (season 6) and Nikki Cascone (season 4) will hold an interactive cookoff (meaning you might get asked to sit down and be a judge) across from the 7th Street Public Market at 225 E. 7th St. You also get to play games, vie for prizes and buy "Top Chef" gear. Shows are at 10:30 a.m., noon and 1:30 p.m. Charlotte is the first stop for this year's 15-city tour.

  • The annual Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger food drive has to be the easiest way to feed the needy there is. All you do is fill a paper bag with nonperishable food (canned meat, canned fruit, canned vegetables or cereal) and put it by your mailbox this Saturday. Your postal person will get the food to Loaves & Fishes and Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina. AARP delivered specially printed paper bags to many homes in Charlotte, but if you don't have one, you can use a regular paper grocery bag. Don't forget - this Saturday, your front door. Easy.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

James Beard Awards weekend: The Fab 4

The annual James Beard Foundation Awards weekend is over, with the usual and the unusual. (The usual: Anthony Bourdain's snippy tweets criticizing things he wasn't there to see.)

I'd rather remember the highlights:

First, that picture at the top. In honor of the 25th anniversary, the foundation released a cookbook, "The Best of the Best," featuring the outstanding chef winners over 25 years. To celebrate, there was a small cocktail party Sunday night at the Beard House on West 12th Street. The guest list was small - the house is so tiny, you have to take a deep breath to turn around - but it was select. Standing out on the second floor landing, I snapped a picture of a remarkable foursome: Thomas Keller, Alfred Portale, Patrick O'Connell and Jeremiah Tower, with foundation president Susan Ungaro (right).

Next, Charlotte sightings: Chef Joe Bonaparte of the Art Institute's International Culinary Program was hanging out late Sunday night at the Chef's Night Out event at the Chelsea Market. And in the sequin-to-satin sardine-tight crowd at the chef stations after the awards gala, I shuffled past Mark Allison, dean of culinary affairs, and Patricia Del Bello, both of Johnson & Wales University Charlotte.

The best Southern hugging and eating: Since the Beard Awards presentation goes on for hours while you wait to get something to eat, members of the Southern Foodways Alliance have a tradition of gathering at Alex Guarneschelli's restaurant Butter to eat and drink as much as possible to sustain us through the long night. It's such a good time that chef Bill Smith of Crook's Corner, who wasn't even going to the awards, still flew up to New York for the weekend just to enjoy the lunch.

Carolinas nominees were in short supply this year. But Hugh Acheson of 5 & 10 in Athens and Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta scored a shared win: There was a tie for Best Chef Southeast. Andrea Reusing of Lantern in Chapel Hill, last year's winner, was cooking at the gala, and Ashley Christensen of Poole's Dinner/Beasleys/Chuck's in Raleigh was around at a bunch of events, even pulling the pork shoulders at a Derby Party in Park Slope given by Kat Kinsman of CNN and Eatocracy.com.

Female winners were not in short supply, I'm happy to say. Maricel Presilla of the delightful restaurant Cucharamama in Hoboken, N.J., won Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic; Christini Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar won Rising Star Chef (particularly nice to see a pastry chef get treated like a "real" chef) and Mindy Segal of Mindy's HotChocolate in Chicago won for pastry chef.

And yes, after a four-day weekend of chef events, awards shows and food, this is my new slogan (right). Maybe I'll make it my new Twitter profile picture.

Get the full list of winners of all the awards, including the Book, Broadcast and Journalism awards given Friday, at www.jamesbeard.org.

And in disclosure: After serving as a member and then chair of the James Beard book awards, I was asked to stay on to chair the JBF Leadership Awards, announced in the fall, which honor food sustainability and food policy. As a chair, I'm also a member of the awards committee that oversees all the awards events.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mother's Day cookbook giveaway

How about a double giveaway for Mother's Day? Along with Andrea Weigl's story on cooking advice for mothers, we have two books on the subject go giveaway.

"The Mom 100 Cookbook" by Kathie Workman, has 100 recipes and meal solutions, while "Gourmet Weekday". Is a special imprint from editors of the old Gourmet magazine.

The hard part? You have to pick which book you want to try for. To enter, put the name of your pick in the subject line and send an email with your name and address to me at kpurvis@charlotteobserver.com.. We'll pick two winners by random drawing. Deadline: 9 a.m. Friday.

Happy cooking.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Next up: Reporting from New York and Beard Awards

I've got my portable fork packed and ready for an eater's trip to New York. Raleigh food writer Andrea Weigl and I will be at the James Beard Foundation festivities this weekend, along with anything else we find that's interesting in the food world.

If you want to follow us on Twitter, we'll use the hashtab #NCtoNYC for general food adventures, both together and separately. On Twitter, I'm @kathleenpurvis and she's @andreaweigl. During James Beard events, particularly the Book, Broadcast and Journalism Awards on Friday night and the big gala Sunday night, we'll use the hashtag #jbfa.

If you'd like to follow the official Beard Foundation Twitter feed during the awards on Monday night at Lincoln Center, check out these directions. They'll stream it live on jamesbeard.org.

What's your N.C. fantasy food tour?

The web site Grub Street has a slide show up this morning with their picks for the 52 best places in the U.S. to make a summer food pilgrimage .

It's worth a run-through if you're traveling to another state this summer, although I'll save you the clicks and tell you the Carolinas picks: Gullah Grub on St. Helena Island for South Carolina, Price's Chicken Coop in Charlotte for North Carolina.

Now, while I make no secret of my fondness for Price's, I admit I was a little disappointed. It's not that Price's doesn't deserve it, it's just that so many other places do, too.

One of my food-writer fantasies has always been to put together the ultimate N.C. road food tour (preferably by Greyhound, which feeds into my lingering country singer fantasies). I'd have a mix of restaurants and food places, stores and experiences. I'd have places like the Old Mill of Guilford, Skytop Orchards on a clear early fall morning, Mott's Channel Seafood in Wrightsville Beach and Yoder's Amish Market in Blanch.

Sure, I'd have a barbecue restaurant or two, but no more - barbecue gets as much attention as Price's.

So I'm throwing it open to you: If you were putting together a fantasy food tour of North Carolina, what would you include (Greyhound station not mandatory)?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Matthews market holds annual baking contest

This year's annual baking competition at the Matthews Community Farmers' Market is wide open: You can enter any baked-from-scratch baked good, from a dessert to bread. Entries are judged on flavor, appearance and creativity.

The contest starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 5. Judges this year include chef-instructor Peter Reinhart, cooking teacher Heidi Billotto and Sam Stachon, executive pastry chef at King's Bakery. Market customers also can vote on a People's Choice award.

For a list of the rules, go the market web site, www.matthewsfarmersmarket.com. The market is in downtown Matthews on North Trade Street.

An early Mother's Day tip

You could go the card route. You could go the Sunday brunch route. I hear some mothers even get flowers, not that I have seen it happen in my house.

But here's a gift idea: Rescue Gifts is sort of like Heifer International, which lets you give gifts of livestock and other practical things to people in Third World countries.

There's a section on women and girls that lets you pick gifts that feed people or make the lives of women better. You can donate to things like the Community Garden rescue kit (donations go toward helping put in community gardens in immigrant communities in the U.S.) or Emergency Food for Children, which distributes high-nutrition therapeutic foods in places that are experiencing famines.

Much nicer than a card. Although I hear some mothers do like flowers.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Really big news for Atherton Market

It seems like new things are happening every week at the Atherton Market in SouthEnd. With manager Lynn Shanklin Caldwell's energy, something is always in the works.

But this one makes me really, really happy to announce: Starting Tuesday (yes, that's today), the Atherton Market has EBT readers, allowing people with government-issued food benefits (AKA food stamps) to shop at the market.

Maybe that doesn't sound like a big deal, but trust me -- it is. I've reported a lot over the years on food access and food regulation. To get this one, a market has to navigate all the mazes of the USDA, it has to have electricity and infrastructure, and it has to have vendors who agree to work with the program.

But when it comes to solving the issue of food deserts - neighborhoods with little or no access to affordable, fresh, healthful food - having small markets with EBT access is important.

"It was a year and a half in the works," Caldwell said Tuesday when I called to congratulate her on her tenacity. "It took a year and a half for the stars to align." With the Atherton Market's urban location, close to at least two low-income housing developments, it has the potential to get fresh, locally grown food in the hands of people who really need it. As far as I know, the Atherton Market and the Davidson Farmers Market are the only local farmers markets that have the EBT program.

In the meantime, Caldwell is charging ahead with other things at Atherton. In addition to several new stores, including the Spice Market and Simply Local (which now carries low-heat pasteurized milk from Homeland Creamery, btw), they're finishing construction on an expansion and getting ready to announce expanded hours. The market, 2104 South Blvd., is currently open 3-7 p.m. Tuesdays, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday.

To keep up with all the new stuff happening over there, friend the market on Facebook. And if you see Lynn Caldwell, tell her she did good.

Levine has 2 great food events

Need a better taste of the city and the region where you live? Tom Hanchett and the Levine Museum of the New South have you covered:

Munching Tour: Central Avenue, noon Saturday, May 5. Hanchett will lead a "Jane's Walk," in honor of urban scholar Jane Jacobs, around the neighborhood at Rosehaven and Central. Expect Vietnamese, Salvadoran and Somali food. It's free, but you need to bring $10 to $20 for purchase snacks. Limited to 15 people, so you have to RSVP to get a spot. Call 704-687-1203 or email mnewsom@uncc.edu.

New South for the New Southerner: Eating Local, 5:30-7:30 p.m. May 15 at the museum, 200 E. 7th St. The museum has been doing these lectures for years (I've spoken at a couple) and they're fun evenings. This time, the subject is "Eating Local," with Cassie Parsons of Grateful Growers Farm and the Harvest Moon Grill and county extension agent Kristin Davis. It's free for museum members or $10 for nonmembers and includes wine and a Southern buffet dinner. Again, you need to reserve a spot. Call 704-333-1887, ext. 501, or email rsvp@museumofthenewsouth.org.