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Monday, October 21, 2013

FGCU Farmer's Market, Permaculture and Chef Brandon McGlamery

One of the events of Fort Myers Restaurant Week (Fort Myers Restaurant Week) was a farmer's market (FM) at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU). The number of participants at the FM was fairly small in all likelihood because of this being it's first year. Small is not a bad thing as there were some really interesting vendors there.
Sol Urban Farm (Sol Urban Farm) and The Unruly Gardner (The Unruly Gardner) had microgreens (Microgreens) and  various seeds, respectively.

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Pine Island Botanicals (Pine Island Botanicals) is a hydroponic growing operation on you guessed it, Pine Island.

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They use a different hydroponic (Hydroponics) growing system than Rabbit Run Farm (Rabbit Run Farm). They were sampling squash blossoms, and they were over the top.

Andy's Island Seafood (Andy's Island Seafood) had a seafood truck.

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Maverick Meats (Maverick Meats) is a meat processing facility in Lehigh Acres, FL. The owner was giving out samples of rib eye steak and bratwurst (Bratwurst)

and had a good selection of meats for sale.

I picked up some bratwurst and sweet Italian sausage. They were very good.

Rabbit Run Farm was a participant as well, but more on that later.

FGCU sponsored tours of their food forest (FGCU Food Forest). This organic farming operation was designed with the concept of permaculture (Permaculture) in mind. This is basically a food forest designed with natural components placed so that they complement each other. The main goal of this system is for it's growth and output to be greater than each individual component.

Solomon, who led the tour, was quite knowledgeable. He explained the the barrier of the forest was a living fence using plants that provided wind and bug protection. These grasses for example were very good bug repellants. Designs such as these eliminate the use of pesticides.

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The lattice of the fence was also used as a trellis to grow beans, gourds and grapes.

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We also got a tour of the inside.

Plants such as bananas provided shade and drainage. This created micro climates for other plants. Nitrogen fixing plants (Nitrogen Fixing Plants) were scattered throughout the inner forest to eliminate the use of fertilizers. I thought this whole arrangement was very interesting.

I cut the tour short as I wanted to talk with Chef Brandon McGlamery (Chef Brandon, CB). He was at the Rabbit Run Farm (Rabbit Run Farm) booth talking with attendees and providing tastings of some of his dishes.

For background for a moment, the James Beard Foundation (James Beard Foundation) is a member organization that provides information on foods, sponsors food-related events and recognition for it's members in the form of awards. These awards are determined through nominations and votes of it's membership.

Besides being featured chef for restaurant week, CB was a semi-finalist for Best Chef South 2013 (Best Chef South) from the James Beard Foundation. He was gracious enough to spend 20 minutes with me to prepare some samples of his creations and give me his thoughts on food, which were very interesting.
CB is quite the food stylist, and the tastes he put together would definitely pique most people's interest.
Cobia ceviche (Ceviche), jicama (Jicama), avacado, Thai basil, Serrano (Serrano Pepper) chili and lime,

Mote caviar (Mote Caviar) with creme fraiche (Creme Fraiche) egg salad

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Key West pink shrimp, artichoke aioli (Aioli) and pickled green tomatoes from Rabbit Run Farm

and to finish up a bit of pickled carrot.

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What was interesting were his thoughts on food. "Food is fun (I second that). I love cooking and working with farmers and getting fresh raw ingredients from them". 
Perhaps unwittingly, CB is giving the public a luxury good as Chanel or Hermes would. These retailers control every aspect of their product from the farms that cattle are raised on to the tanneries that produce the hides to the craftsman that craft their goods into a finished product. By developing relationships with local farmers/fisherman, etc. that can consistently provide high quality product he is in effect doing the same thing with what comes out of his kitchen. If what I tasted that day is well represented of what comes out of his kitchen I can only imagine.
CB is also coming out with a cookbook, 9 Courses. You can view a snippet of it here - 9 Courses

All and all an interesting day. Well that's that for another post on forks.
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