local food

Sean and I are foodies. This should come as no surprise to any of our friends and family since usually when we’re socializing it’s in a kitchen and at least one of us is fixing food at the time. Over the past three or so years, Sean and I have taken our love of food to yet another level. We’ve started making a concerted effort to buy more local food. That’s not to say that there isn’t Italian pasta sitting in my pantry or cheese that comes from Oregon (you’ll never get me to give up Tillamook cheese). What we do buy, though, we attempt to buy locally when possible.

Queen Creek Olive Mill
We found a local olive mill that sells everything from olive oil to fancy stuffed olives and other locally produced goods. You can even buy olive oil soap from here. On cooler days, they’ve got a large lawn amidst some of of their olive trees with picnic tables to dine at. There’s a delicious restaurant on site that makes really terrific locally produced food. If you have time, they even do tours so that you can see how olive oil is produced. Yes, you really can grow olives in Arizona.

The Pork Shop
The name is rather self-explanatory on what they sell. Pork. The pigs are locally raised and butchered at the shop. They make they’re own sausages and bacon in house and the sausages range everywhere from mild Italian sausage to bratwurst through salami. We usually go here every few months and just stock up on various types of pork, including all of the bacon that’s consumed in this household. Prices are very reasonable and the staff is incredibly knowledgeable. If you’re not entirely sure how to prepare a cut of meat they will be more than glad to give you a few ideas. They also make they’re own green-chile pork which they sell in burritos. Out of this world is the only phrase I can think of for these burritos.

Ahwatukee Farmers Market
This is the true treasure of local food buying. Many local farmers and food producers gather every Sunday at the corner of 48th and Warner in Ahwatukee to sell their goods. This ranges everywhere from fresh fruits and vegetables to fresh baked bread to cheeses, flowers and locally raised meats. This is where Sean and I drop the majority of our weekly grocery budget at. Every Sunday morning we wake up and head down to the market.
We start at two of the vegetable stands and pick up everything from lettuces to fresh peaches. We even get our eggs from one of two stands here. We move on down the rows, past the tamale maker, the silversmith, on to What’s Your Grind coffee. Iced coffees (and perhaps a pound or so of coffee) in hand, we move on to Breadsmith to pick up whatever breads we need for the week. The bread is usually still warm from coming out of the oven that morning. Most of our bread is for toast in the morning, so we usually pick up a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread. If we have paninis on the weekly menu, though, we’ll pick up a loaf of ciabatta. We might vary up our morning toast with sourdough or country buttertop or the rustic Italian loaf. We have about 10 varieties to choose from, so we never get tired of our options. As we keep moving, we pass by the local honey producers, Made By Bees that also make great pickles. There’s another bread baker and then the kettle corn and onwards to Siam Gardens where we can pick up more exotic Asian vegetables if we’re making a stir fry or any other Asian meals that week. This is where we make our one stop that we look forward to all week. Good friends of ours have a food truck called Truckin’ Good Food where Jeff makes crepes, panisse, frites and awesome frozen custard. We even occasionally get treated to baked goods of macarons or eclairs. The crepes, though, are the star. Savory or sweet. There’s so many choices and I’ve never been disappointed with any of the options. Each crepe is freshly made and then filled with delicious ingredients. Jeff and Erin are truly a blessing the Phoenix with those crepes. After munching down on a crepe for breakfast, we finish wandering the market, past the goat dairy, Crow’s Dairy and the Arizona Cheese Company with their fresh cheese curds. Past the couple of stands selling grass-fed beef raised just up in Wickenburg or other local areas. We’ve finally made our full round of the market and we usually have two grocery bags full of goodies to get home and stored away in anticipation of our weekly dinners.

There’s lots of other local shops that we’ve either read about or friends have told us about. One of these days, we’ll make it down to The Meat Shop. The magazine Edible Phoenix is devoted to promoting local foods in the area. Arizona Farmers Markets is dedicated to promoting farmers markets in the area.

I’m not going to say that this way of shopping is easy. It takes planning. I don’t think we’d be able to do it if we didn’t plan our meals on a weekly basis. It’s also not the cheapest option. I know that I can go down to Fry’s (also known as Kroger’s for our southern readers) and pick up a head of lettuce for $1.50 rather than spending $2.50 on a bag of spring mix at Big Happy Farms at the Farmers Market. There is some special connection, though, that Sean and I’ve gotten from talking to the farmers and hearing them speak so proudly of they’re foods. Each week, there’s recognition at each of the stands as they remember what we buy and they point out new produce that wasn’t there last week. It’s worth it to us, though for all of the reasons I’ve given above to shop locally for the foods that we eat. It also means that we make that much more of an effort to consume all of the food in our fridge instead of letting any of it go to waste.

If you’re interested in trying to eat more locally produced foods in your area, it’s as simple as starting by searching online for farmers markets in the area. It’s a good place to start and you’ll be amazed at how many other places you soon discover by talking to the other people at the farmers markets. Enjoy!