Houston Goes to Market
H-Town gets bumper crop of specialty food stores
When it comes to farm-fresh food in the heart of a major metropolitan city, Houston is joining the likes of San Francisco and Portland. As more specialty markets emerge across H-Town, devout foodies can now find fresh, organic produce, meats and other foodstuffs any day of the week.
Buying sustainable and organic is a growing trend nationwide. U.S. sales of organic food and beverages, already up more than 200% over the last decade, are expected to climb another 14% by 2017. In Houston, increasingly eco-conscious consumers also recognize the benefits of supporting area businesses and farmers.
THE HOT SPOTS
Carrying more than 6,000 products from more than 50 countries around the world, Phoenicia Specialty Foods Downtown is a haven for foodies, chefs and downtown dwellers. Catering to the cosmopolitan clientele who live and work downtown, Phoenicia is a one-stop shop carrying gourmet foods and household basics. Here you will also find a posh wine and beer bar, a gelato bar to satisfy your sweet tooth, a modern dining area with comfortable seating and designated cooking demonstrations.
Conveniently centered in the Heights neighborhood, Revival Market serves up everything from produce and dairy to specialty coffees and artisan breads. Owners Ryan Pera and Morgan Weber wanted to revive the concept of the old time corner market, where people could pick up everything they would need for a meal, plus a few extras, without dealing with a big grocery store. At Revival, you'll find such interesting items as stoneground polenta and corn grits, homemade preserves, honey from local beekeepers and breads from Houston baking company Slow Dough.
The Houston Dairymaids is a unique venture from seasoned cheese professional, Lindsey Schechter. Part business and part exploration, thegoal of the shop is to bring the work of Texas cheesemakers to Houston.In addition to cheeses, the shop offers a wide array of specialty foodsincluding Slow Dough bread, cured meats, olives, jams, honey, crackers, chocolate, butter, yogurt and more. And if you really want to learn, there are even regular cheese tastings.
Benjy Levit--the mastermind behind both of Houston's forward-thinking benjy's restaurant locations--has expanded his business with the opening of Local Foods. The fast-casual, walk-up counter concept features locally-sourced items in the 3,300-square-foot space next door to Benjy's in the Village. The venue boasts a simple yet flavorful menu, offering Houstonians an ever-changing menu of grab-and-go items and made-to-order sandwiches, salads and sides. Almost every ingredient utilized in the restaurant's menu is available for sale, including local produce, homemade artisan snacks, as well as other Texas-derived products.
There are a growing number of farmers markets popping up across Houston. From fresh produce to prepared foods, here are some popular places doing the mobile market concept right:
Urban Harvest Farmers Market offers products from many of the same vendors as the Saturday market in the same location, as well as several new vendors like Pine Valley Produce, Proverb Farms and Airline Seafood. The Sunday market also gives shoppers the opportunity to sleep in--it takes place from noon to 4 p.m.
Located in the Christ the King parking lot, the Houston Farmers Market at Rice Village is lit up Tuesdays 3:30-6:30 p.m. Here you will find seasonal produce, micro greens and herbs from Gundermann Farms and other area farms, bread from Kraftsmen Bakery, chocolates, preserves, hot pepper jellies, handmade soaps and flowers.
The City Hall Farmers Market takes place Wednesdays (with seasonal breaks) from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. around the reflecting pool outside Houston City Hall. The City Hall market is part of a broader local foods initiative launched by Mayor Annise Parker designed to encourage Houstonians to eat fresh and eat local. Downtown office workers and area residents can also pick from a large assortment of prepared and hot foods for lunch--making the market a destination.
Every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon, the Urban Harvest Farmers Market offers fruits, vegetables, coffee and meats from grass fed cattle and honey, among the many other products. There are weekly events ranging from live music and culinary demonstrations in which local products at the market are used.
The open-air Airline Farmers' Market, located behind Canino's, is not your typical locavore-friendly farmers' market. Very little, if anything, here is organic or local--it's a resale market. Featured products are typically items like chilies, mangoes, corn and hominy.
By AJ Mistretta