Sunday, April 26, 2009

farm tourin' and jammin'

Greetings Friends,

As you know, the glory of this season motivates many a gardener to cancel other plans for the chance to spend precious hours working with the soil, anticipating its nutritive returns. In fact, one friend of ours stopped in the store yesterday--long after she might have otherwise arrived at work--beaming over having taken two days' vacation to have time to spend caring for her fledgling plants.

Many folks who have made a vocation of their relationship to the growing season will be opening their farms to us this Saturday and Sunday during the annual Piedmont Farm Tour (the link to the brochure is below). You can visit the farms of many fantastic growers, including several farms whose food will be available to us at the Saxapahaw Farmers' Market next weekend. This event provides us an opportunity to create a vital relationship with the people who grow our vegetables, ferment our wine, and tend the animals who become our meat. In a sense, I think of visiting farms as a sacred experience; in a time when mass markets have bastardized our food sources and alienated us from growers, stepping onto a local farm feels like a homecoming.

[And if you do join the farm tour, you might plan your own home-coming to coincide with Paperhand Puppet Intervention's community dance jam tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. (until. . .) at the Community Center. Call the store if you're not sure where that is and want to attend. This will be a very nice family event.]

One direct benefit we at Saxapahaw General Store have enjoyed from our farming friends is the crescendo in the tone of locally grown greens, tomatoes, strawberries, and other produce finding its way into our dishes after the winter break. Even the goats took hiatus for a time, but we have Goat Lady Dairy and Celebrity Dairy goat cheeses available again. And just a few minutes ago, Rob Tolbert of Aimless Farm brought a box of shiitake mushrooms for Jeff to use for his pork chop gravy tonight--a batch he had hand-picked moments before leaving to deliver them to us.

We're delighted to know that by the time of the Wine Tasting Dinner May 15th, we'll have access to even more local goods to use in preparing dinner for our guests. So far, we've planned a cheese course courtesy of our local creameries, a dessert featuring seasonal fruits you're sure to see at farmers' markets, lettuce greens from Aimless Farm, and meats with farm names you will recognize. I'll add more details as we know what will be available. The dinner, as I mentioned last week, will feature six tasting courses with Benjamin Vineyards' wines--for $35 per person.

Jeff, Dirk and Dave are just now finishing their preparation for this evening's dinner, and Jane has tidied the dining spaces. They are all delighted by bustling evenings, so I know they'll be happy to see you in for dinner today or tomorrow.

The menu will include--
Cold Melon Soup
Cane Creek Pork Belly
Local Beef Short Ribs
Ziti Bolognese, baked (also local beef)
Grouper, seared and braised and topped with pineapple and applewood bacon chutney
Salmon Croissant
Blue Cheese and Applewood Bacon Burger (local beef)
Mussels, a big bowl of--with grilled baguette
Sea Scallops
Cane Creek Pork Chops (with that local shiitake gravy to which I referred before)
Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

--and there will be sides. I have seen asparagus in the kitchen being trimmed, and I feel certain there will be Brussels Sprouts too. Mashers, of course. Spinach likely, as we have a bunch of beautiful local spinach with bright red stems.

Dessert includes a Chocolate Torte with strawberry glaze and a local berry to top, and a Peanut Butter Cup Tart with shortbread crust.

The usual stuff is there too.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Fridays and Saturdays in Saxapahaw

Greetings Friends,

As you know already, this is a wonderful time of year to be in Saxapahaw. I mentioned The Haw River Canoe and Kayak Company last week; Joe and Lawrence have planned some very nice trips and events to allow folks to experience the river during this resplendent time.

And May 2nd marks the first Saturdays in Saxapahaw Farmers' Market and Music event. Heather LaGarde is working just now to finish the bands list for posting on the Rivermill Village website. We are looking forward to an especially good year of markets and music, and Saxapahaw General Store is honored to be sponsoring the event and serving snacks and sandwiches over at the market! Look for us to join the festivities beginning May 9.

Another first experience for us is a Wine Tasting Dinner, which we and Benjamin Vineyards and Winery will host at the winery on May 15. Saxapahaw General Store will provide six tasting courses to complement Benjamin's wines. We are delighted to offer this event to the community, and we hope you'll join us that third Friday in May at 6:30 p.m. for dinner and wines. You'll enjoy six tasting glasses of wine paired scrumptiously with tasting portions of cheese, salad, three entrees, and dessert--all with local emphasis. Vegetarian options are available when you let us know of that need. If you can join us, do let us know right away so we can begin looking forward to your visit! You can reserve a space by responding to this email with your name and telephone number. I'll call you and arrange the details.

Many folks will be enjoying the Shakori Hills Festival of Music and Dance this weekend; if you'll be among that crowd, we'd be happy to provide supplies or a break for a meal. If Shakori isn't in your plans, we'll be here as usual with Friday and Saturday dinner specials, Saturday and Sunday brunch, and beautiful Saxy weather. Along with our usual menu, which is always available, we'll have the following between 5 and 8:30 today and tomorrow:

Dessert First--Apple Tart with Local Chevre, and Carrot Cake.

Braeburn Farms Beef Short Ribs with Mashed Potatoes and Saute of Spinach.
Duck confit with Sweet Potato and Apple Hash
Cane Creek Pork Belly with Seafood Gumbo Gravy over Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Brussels Sprouts
Eggplant Provencal with Mashed Potatoes and Asparagus (vegetarian)
Mussels with Grilled Baguette
Sea Scallops with Fried Local Green Tomatoes and Asparagus
Halibut with Sweet Potato and Apple Hash and Saute of Spinach
Blue Cheese Burger with local beef and Applewood Smoked Bacon
Pan-seared Salmon on Croissant with capers and lemon-garlic aioli
Quiche with saute of artichoke and three cheeses (vegetarian)
Beef Minestrone
Seafood Gumbo (this is full of scallops, shrimp, tasso ham, andouille sausage, applewood bacon, and poblano peppers)

We have declared Monday night to be TACO NIGHT at Saxapahaw General Store. Beginning Monday coming, we'll offer tacos as our main dinner special on Mondays. Jeff is plotting his taco schemes as I write you, and I know there will be pork carnitas involved. Veggie options too.

Friday, April 10, 2009


We have been fortunate over the last few months to experience a steady increase in the number of folks who visit Saxapahaw General Store. On one recent busy weekend afternoon, noting the energy in the store, a customer said to Jeff, "You guys aren't participating in this recession, are you?" At the time, I think Jeff laughed and made a witty reply to the gentleman. But we have thought a great deal about the idea of a recession--a state of decline, temporary or permanent--as something in which one could actually choose not to participate.

Certainly there are elements of economic decline that individuals cannot avoid, and I need not enumerate those here. But as a business--an economic entity--I have decided that, to an extent, we actually must choose not to participate in recessive trends, lest they should become part of the downward spiral to which they are reacting. Applicable here is the old idea that attention causes growth. At Saxapahaw General Store, we are intentionally paying attention to the community. Rather than finding ways to take cover in this difficult economy--to perform the retail business equivalent of hiding our pennies in a coffee can under the bed--we have been looking for responsible ways to serve the community so that we can meet its needs while growing our business. We listen to customers' requests for products, we look for local suppliers for the groceries we carry, and we seek to provide choice in food--close to home.

Of course, we cannot operate in a vacuum. I have written already of ways in which supporters of our store have contributed to our identity. Importantly, there are also other businesses in our wee village who are choosing to attend to community growth in lieu of scrutinizing their potential losses. This is where synergy enters my picture. The Greek roots of synergy, to my basic understanding, are "syn" (group, union, association) and "ergos" (work). And in Saxapahaw, I've been experiencing the results of the working together of united entities almost everywhere I look.

Here's one example, among many: Next week, the Haw River Canoe and Kayak Company is taking a group of folks on a paddle. They will be taking boxed lunches from Saxapahaw General Store with them, and they'll pay a visit to Benjamin Vineyards for a glass of wine at the end of their trip. Some may choose to stay the night at The River Landing Inn just down Whitney Road from the winery. On this day, our paddling guests will not overextend their budgets. They will not travel great distances to have an enjoyable afternoon. They will not feel stressed or burdened by the details of their experience. Instead, they will support four local businesses who associate with one another to provide meaningful, nourishing experiences for the people of the piedmont.

In these economic times, that's progress.