What do you get when you couple the knowledgeable and creative talents of area chefs with the deliciously fresh and bountiful Michigan autumnal harvest?
Quite possibly the top spot to consummate one of the state’s most perfect pairings is your local farmers market, where enthusiastic, harvest-savvy chefs are more frequently sharing their skills for creating inspired seasonal fare.
Following are a few inviting places to find seasonal inspiration.
The HomeGrown Festival takes place from 6-10 p.m. on Sept. 6 at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market in Kerrytown. Showcasing the best of the region’s locally-grown food and drink, this grassroots community event is set against a backdrop of music, entertainment, food demonstrations and family fun. Its goal is to educate and inspire by demonstrating the vast diversity of cuisines that can be prepared using local and sustainably raised food, with area wineries, breweries, restaurants and chefs offering fare made from locally-sourced ingredients.
This year’s event includes a homebrew competition for beer, mead, cider and wine, with local content required. Although entry to the event and demonstrations are free, wine and food tickets will be sold onsite. (hgfest.blogspot.com)
From 10 a.m. to noon every Saturday through October at the Motor City’s bustling Eastern Market, partake in the Taste of Eastern Market Cooking Demonstration Series (staged in Shed 2).
This series not only introduces spectators to the variety of fresh Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables, but also guides them through preparation of these flavorful seasonal products. Featured chefs and nutrition experts instruct and perform demonstrations that also include proper storage, preservation and varying health benefits of on-hand produce.
Curious cooks can watch chefs as they turn the Market’s seasonal harvest into simple and delectable dishes. Recipes are distributed as the week’s featured dish is prepared, with tasting samples on the spot. (detroiteasternmarket.com)
Tuesdays at the Detroit Eastern Market, Michigan State University Extension’s Michigan Fresh Outreach Kiosk offers a bi-monthly informative demonstration series entitled “All About” between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. through mid-October, with an additional Thanksgiving market on Nov. 25.
“The series is called ‘All About’ because each demonstration is all about how to grow, cook and sometimes preserve a specific crop that is currently in season,” shares Kristine Hahn with MSU Extension. “It’s sort of like ‘one-stop shopping’ for information on a product, from growing and cooking it, to preserving it for future use.” (msue.anr.msu.edu/events)
Sponsored by Local First, the Holland Farmers Market “Chef Series” starts at 10 a.m. every Saturday morning through Sept. 13 and is free to attend. Zeeland-based Visser Farms also supports this series with in-kind donations from their local family farm.
On Sept. 6, the topic is Authentic Mexican Cuisine. Alonzo Salinas, owner and chef of Margarita’s Mexican Restaurant, will teach the audience how to prepare warm, satisfying and authentic Mexican dishes using fresh ingredients straight from the Holland Farmers Market.
The subject for Sept. 13 is Fall Produce. Chef Micky Johnson from Salt and Pepper Pub will showcase a variety of fall produce in delicious and unique salads. Learn to make quick refrigerator pickles too…a great way to save cucumbers from the height of the season well into the fall.
The Holland Farmers Market, in the heart of downtown, has more than 90 local vendors selling everything from fresh fruits, vegetables and plants to baked goods, floral arrangements and dairy products. It also features a food court with dining options for breakfast and lunch, as well as street performers who entertain crowds with music, magic and more. This market — open every Wednesday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. through mid-December, rain or shine — also hosts special events including weekly kids’ activities, a salsa-making and jalapeno-eating contest and a pro pumpkin carving competition. (hollandfarmersmarket.com)
In November, as Michigan’s productive harvest transitions to its cyclical period of rest, culinarians can still avail themselves of informative cooking demonstrations at the International Wine, Beer & Food Festival at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids Nov. 20-22 (devosplace.org).
Meanwhile, however, early winter still yields root vegetables and other crops to explore.
Epicureans will delight in Grand Rapids’ Downtown Market, offering everything from a farmers market to bakeries, butcher shops, fishmongers, dining venues and more, including Downtown Market’s own MSU Extension Fresh Market Kiosk providing food preparation and preservation demonstrations.
“Chefs at the Market” demos take place on the market terrace every Saturday from 10-11 a.m. through September and feature a different local chef or food artisan each week. Upcoming events include:
•Jenna Arcidiacono, chef/owner of Amore Trattoria: “Impromptu Italian” on Sept. 6;
•Chef Mario Cascante from Tacos El Cunado: “¡Salsa!” on Sept. 13;
•Kathleen Schiefler, chef/owner of Kathleen & Company: “Sweet and Savory Squash” on Sept. 20 and
•Chef Elijah Lopez from Citys–en Lounge: “Autumn side dishes” on Sept. 27.
For more flavorful festivities taking place this fall, turn to page 66 in this edition of BLUE’s Excursions section. ≈
Freelance writer Julia Burch resides in Grand Rapids.
Photography Courtesy MSU Extension-Wayne County Health & Nutrition Institute (Bottom); Thinkstock (Top)
Photography by Michael Buck