Saturday, December 31, 2011

Cowart Ranch, Pastured Poultry in Sumterville, Fla.

Pastured poultry hen sitting on eggs at Cowart Ranch, Fla.

I'll eat eggs if there is nothing else to eat but I rather not. They are slimy, smelly sources of protein reminding me more of brimstone than food. But this year my mind got changed by some eggs from Cowart Ranch, a pastured-poultry farm in Central Florida. I was on a tour, in January, with 40 or so people from Agritunity, an event put on every year by Sumter County Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) to raise awareness of local farms and ranches in the central Florida region.

Cowart Ranch was the last stop on a multi-stop tour. As we drove up hundreds of chickens ran to greet us. We learned later that there were 1000 birds on the 1500-acre farm, roosting in two solar powered, mobile, chicken coops (converted Miami-Dade classrooms). The coops got moved every two to three days giving the chickens, new open spaces of grass and bugs to eat along with their commercial feed.

Jake and Danny Cowart, the ranch owners, were our hosts. They said the commercial feed was free of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides. Jake said the grass acted like a natural form of antibiotics and gave the eggs a unique flavor. A uniquely delicious flavor, in my opinion, sort of like butter added to them, yum.

Free-range pastured poultry at Cowart Ranch, Fla.,

The ranch also raises meat birds, and grass-fed beef. They will be moving and expanding their poultry operation into a new 50-acre property with 450 more hens. Currently eggs can be purchased directly on the Cowart Ranch by the honor system. There is a lock box upfront (with posted prices), to put money in and a freezer and a walk-in cooler in the back to pick up eggs and frozen meat birds. Or the eggs/chickens can be purchased through Florida Fresh Meat Company.

Cowart Ranch, LLC is located at: 355 U.S. Highway 301 N., Sumterville, FL  33585

Delicious Drinks and Dishes of 2011

Here are some pics of my favorite drinks and dishes of the year, around the state of Florida.

Food Network South Beach Food and Wine Festival, Miami
From The Garden To The Glass, (cocktail clinic) with Zane Lamprey.
Grilled pineapple margarita, sweetened with Agave and tasting of smoked pineapple.

Swank Specialty Produce (hydroponic farm), Loxahatchee
Luncheon with chef Dean James Max

Francois Montand, Blanc de Blans, brut sparkling wine with floating herbs and edible marigolds.

The Fruitful Field Community Garden, Pompano Beach
Home grown and made Lemongrass iced tea

Community Food Summit with Earth Learning, Miami
Vegetarian lunch
Hani's Gourmet goat cheese bread, made with the mildest goat cheese I have ever tasted.

Vegan caviar on pasta
Share Our Strength's Taste of The Nation, Ft. Lauderdale
Sublime Vegetarian Restaurant booth
Vegan Caviar (made with sea vegetables) on pasta. It had the same popping texture of fish caviar.

Share Our Strength's Taste of The Nation, Ft. Lauderdale
Joe's Stone Crab Restaurant booth
Frozen dots dessert, a treat just as fun to eat as to watch being made.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Chef Greg Williamson Cooks At D and D Farms, Palm City, Fla., Updated

D and D Farms, Palm City, Florida, embraces agrotourism.  

Chef Greg Willaimson at D and D Farms, Palm City, FL

It's the second Sunday in December. It is raining. A small crowd is gathered in a newly constructed pavilion at the back of D and D Farms. They are here to be entertained and educated by chef  Greg Williamson, a farm-to-table convert, "I used to not care how long a distance it took to get an ingredient if it tasted good. Now, I want to keep it seasonal," says Williamson.

Chinese cabbage, swiss chard, and herbs at D an D Farms

In 2010, Williamson became a regular D and D customer at the Palm Beach Gardens Green Market. He would often chat to other customers, and help them choose produce. "Pretty soon, every time I went to their stall their sales would go up," Williamson says, with a smile.

D and D Farms stall at PBG Green Market

This relationship led to a four-hour cooking demo at the stall, followed by interactive cooking demos this year on the farm. After each demo, customers have the choice of purchasing produce from the onsite market or going into the fields to pick their own.

Chef Greg Williamson at cooking demo at D and D Farms

Today's menu includes a pickled beet salad, and a hot pasta dish with kale, walnuts, and blue cheese. Someone asks a question about the mold in blue cheese and chef answers, "It should be on the inside. If blue cheese has mold on the outside, then throw it out, unless you want to go to the hospital."

Pickled beet salad and kale pasta at D and D Farms

Chef Williamson loves to talk and educate people about food. He cautions the audience about the practice of overfilling blenders with hot ingredients, saying, "Only fill it half way because the steam will expand the contents and blow it out."  A hot, blended, broccoli soup ends the cooking demo.

Hot broccoli soup at D and D Farms

D and D Farms is a 57-acre farm in Martin County, Florida. Free cooking demonstrations are being held on the second Sunday of every month until April 2012. The menu changes monthly depending on what's in season.

UPDATE 2017: D & D Farms is now closed.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Locally Sourced Salad: Florida Style

Continuing my locally sourced meals list, I add a salad made of items grown in Palm Beach County, Florida.

It includes: heirloom cherry tomatoes, broccoli, red bell peppers, yellow zucchini, spinach, and a spring mix all purchased from Seed to Bloom, LLC, at the Wellington Green Market last Saturday, December 24th.

To find out more about Seed to Bloom you can contact Laurie Raid at or call 561-790-3169

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Fun At Rosa Fiorelli's Wine and Food Festival, Bradenton, Fla. Updated

Wine, song, and food made with wine, was enjoyed at Rosa Fiorelli Vineyard's first ever wine and food festival back in November, 2011.

Sausage with lemon tarragon Aurora white wine mustard,
Rosa Fiorelli Vineyard, Bradenton, Fla.
Copyright 2011 by Helen A Lockey

Located in Bradenton, Rosa Fiorelli Winery and Vineyard is a little slice of Sicily in a Floridian setting. This 10-acre property is lined with rows of Florida native muscadine grapes, and hybrid grape varieties developed by both University of Florida and Florida A and M University. Owner, Antonio Fiorelli grew up on a vineyard in Sicily and has brought his family passion for winemaking to his vineyard in Bradenton. He and his wife Rosa started growing grapes, using organic-growing methods, back in 1998 as a hobby.

Walking through the rows of grape vines, Rosa Fiorelli Vineyard,
Bradenton, Fla.
Copyright 2011 by Helen A Lockey

The day I attended could not have been more perfect. There was a $20 entrance fee and an ID check (how nice) at the front of the vineyard. Five drink tickets in hand and a chance to win a free bottle of wine drove me to the bar to look at the large selection of wines.

Selection of Rosa Fiorelli wines, Rosa Fiorelli Vineyard,
Bradenton, Fla.
Copyright 2011 by Helen A Lockey

A DJ pulled a ticket stub out a jar near the line of wine bottles while I made my first selection: Red Noble Muscadine wine. As the attendant poured, she told me to hold onto my Rosa Fiorelli etched wine glass, it was both my tasting glass and a souvenir.

Glass of Red Noble Muscadine wine, Rosa Fiorelli Vineyard,
Bradenton, Fla.
Copyright 2011 by Helen A Lockey

The Red Noble had a stronger than expected musky flavor for me, so I went in search of food to temper the flavor. Seven Continents Catering Company had a pasta dish made with Blanc du Bois wine (made with a University of Florida hybrid grape).

Pasta made with Blanc du Bois wine, Rosa Fiorelli Vineyard,
Bradenton, Fla.
Copyright 2011 by Helen A Lockey

They also had a salad made out of greens from certified organic Geraldson Community Farm, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm in Bradenton, Florida.

Salad made with local organic greens, Rosa Fiorelli Vineyard,
Bradenton, Fla.
Copyright 2011 by Helen A Lockey

Jim from Transatlantic Sausage and Bakery company was selling four items made with Florida sourced meats and Rosa Fiorelli Winery's wines like this Wine Whip tart ($2) made a with Aurora wine. It has just a hint of fruitiness from the wine.

Wine Whip Tart made with Aurora Muscadine White wine,
Rosa Fiorelli Vineyard, Bradenton, Fla.
Copyright 2011 by Helen A Lockey

A good sized crowd turned out and stayed the whole day not surprising considering the lovely surroundings, the weather, the generous pours of wine, and the music.

Out door dining at Rosa Fiorelli Vineyard, Bradenton, Fla.
Copyright 2011 by Helen A Lockey

Fiorelli and Robert A. Kluson, Extension Agent at Sarasota County Extension and University of Florida/IFAS office, planners and organizers of the festival were pleased with the turnout for the weekend.

Antonio Fiorelli and Robert Kluson,
Rosa Fiorelli Vineyard, Bradenton, Fla.
Copyright 2011 by Helen A Lockey

Rosa Fiorelli Winery plans to have another Food and Wine Festival in March 2012. They plan to invite Keiser College culinary students to attend and put on cooking demonstrations using Rosa Fiorelli wines and local produce from surrounding farms.

4250 County Road 675 E, Bradenton, FL 34211
Tel: (941) 322-0976         Fax: (941) 322-8208 

Standard Tour $10; Cheese & Crackers or Sandwich & Salad Tour $25; Italian Buffet Dinner Tour $45

Wine & Dine In The Vines is a five to six course meal with a three hour open bar of Rosa Fiorelli wines, it costs $65 a person. Go to their Rosa Fiorelli's website to see dates for 2016.

Closed Tuesdays
M,W, Th, F, Sa 11-5:00 p.m.
Sunday 12-5 p.m.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Union Square Holiday Market 2011: A Floridian's Review

Wrapped up like an Arctic-bound snow woman, I bumped and pushed my way through a bleary-eyed throng of people at the Union Square Holiday Market, in New York City, on Saturday morning. I was there to find some locally made treats.

It was 30-something degrees, when I arrived and I needed something hot and caffeinated.  I came across Dallis Bros. Coffee, based in Ozone Park, N.Y. and established in 1913. I bought a festive Cappuccino topped with decorative holiday foam.

Dallis Bros. Coffee booth

Next, I needed some cookies to go with my coffee. So, I bounced my way to Rubyzaar Baked of Brooklyn, for some Kashmir cookies made with earl grey tea, smoked almonds, and dark chocolate.

Rubyzaar Baked booth

Chomping on a cookie the size of my face, I walked slowly toward another booth with an interesting name: Liddabit Sweets also based in Brooklyn. They had bags of home-made caramels with ingredients like ricotta cheese. I bought a bag of fig-ricotta caramels and a bag of apple cider caramels with real pieces of apple in them

Liddabit Sweets booth

Then I realized apples and coffee don't mix. I needed another drink to go with them.  I bumped my way down another crowded isle to Breezy Hill Orchard and Cider Mill's booth for a hot cup of apple cider.

Breezy Hill Orchard and Cider Mill booth

Sipping the sweet, tart beverage I realized the cider needed a little gingerbread to help improve the flavor. And Breezy Hill had a huge selection. I bought a cellophane bag of six little men, neatly tied with a yellow ribbon.

Gingerbread at Breezy Hill Orchard

Once all my sweet treats were consumed I needed a pallette cleanzer of dark chocolate. I rolled down another isle and bumped into Raaka, a vegan, stone-ground, nut-free, gluten-free, virgin-chocolate company based in Brooklyn, N. Y.

A very friendly attendant, named Catherine, fed me delicious samples of her chocolate. My favorite was the Bourbon cask aged bars. She said the raw chocolate nibs were aged in Bourbon barrels before being ground up and made into bars. She added the reason the chocolate was called virgin was the nibs were never roasted, so they retained all their flavors. I bought four mini bars of chocolate.

Catherine at Raaka Chocolate Company booth

After my experience at the market I understood why New Yorkers walked so much. It was to burn off all the calories from the delicious foods created in the city.

The Holiday market is held from November 18th to Dec 24th. So there are only two days left this year to taste the delicacies.
for more info go to :

Updated Sept. 2016 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Palm Beach Gardens Green Market, FL: Farmers

Finding a real farmer at a Florida open air market can be hard.

All too often, the booths that most look like farmers ones are actually run by resellers who sell produce sourced from around the country or world. Just looking at the boxes under the counter can tell where the produce is actually from.

In Palm Beach County, one of the more impressive markets for farmers presence is the Palm Beach Gardens Green Market, held on Sundays from 8 am to 1 pm.

This year, the number of booths has doubled from last year putting a bit of a strain on parking locations. I landed up parked so far away, I felt I deserved a pastry reward when I finally walked back to the market.

Kai Kai Farm, Indiantown

Diane Cordeau, Owner, Kai Kai Farm

Diane Cordeau, the farmer of Kai Kai Farm said, "I grow organically without being certified and we are proud to be pesticide free farm. I use a lot of companion plantings and beneficial insects to do the work."

Her farm is a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm, meaning people can buy shares in next season's crop and then get the fresh vegetables. Kai Kia has been attending the Palm Beach Gardens Green Market for two years.

They sell salad greens, herbs,vegetables, and strwberries when in season. "My strawberries grow big and juicy," Cordeau said. I bought some spicy salad mix ($3), a head of romaine and a head of Bibb lettuce (both $3).

D and D Farms, Palm City, NOW CLOSED

Marcus Quirino, Produce Manager, D and D Farms

They also use organic growing methods on their farm. They are a CSA, u-pick, and produce market farm and have been at the Palm Beach Gardens market for three years. They sell regular and specialty vegetables like low-acid chocolate heirloom tomatoes, sweet yellow tomatoes, and white beets.

This past weekend D and D Farms, had a sign up for a free on-farm event titled A Day At A Farm with chef Greg Williamson, for Dec 11th starting at 11 am. I asked Marcus Quirino, produce manager, if this was a new event for the farm. He said, "no, we've had these events every second Sunday of the month for some time." He added that Wednesdays are special too. They are marked Senior Citizens U-Pick Days, where a tram picks them up and takes them to and from the fields, so they don't have to walk as far.

I bought some of their farm-grown vegetables: golden zucchini ($0.70/lb), white beets ($1.50/lb), red heirloom tomatoes ($2.99/lb), and chocolate heirloom tomatoes ($1.75/lb).

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My Locally Sourced Dish: Florida Style

I don't just write about sourcing locally for meals, I eat that way too. Here is the first of many locally sourced meal examples I plan to include in my blog.

Florida sourced chicken dish, Copyright 2011 by Helen A Lockey

Slow-cooked, free-range, pastured-raised chicken from Cowart Ranch, Sumterville, purchased from Florida Fresh Meat Company at Tequesta Green Market.

Steamed swiss chard from Terra Verde Farms (certified organic), Ft. Pierce, purchased at Tequesta Green Market.

Steamed mustard greens from Seed To Bloom LLC, West Palm Beach, purchased at Wellington Green Market.

Boiled Jackfruit seeds extracted from a jackfruit I bought back in October from Seasons Farm Fresh, Homestead, purchased at South Miami Farmers Market.

I washed it all down with a glass of avocado wine (made with Homestead avocados) purchased from Schnebly Redland's Winery and Brewery in Homestead, Florida.

Updated April 2016

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Fruitful Field Community Garden Transforms Lives in Pompano, Fla.

The birds chirp, the sun blazes, and I weed a garden plot at the Fruitful Field Community Garden in Pompano, Florida. There is the constant chatter of a four year old boy, Ryan, by my side. He's here with his Dad, Glenn Monroe, to give them a chance to bond, and to give his Mom a Saturday morning break. They come to the garden every weekend. I'm here just for the day.

Kevin "Flavio" Sloat and Glenn Monroe

Monroe is a hardware engineer for Blackberry. He likes to build things with his hands and is helping design an irrigation system for the garden. He says drip irrigation is exempt from water restriction laws. So, its the best system to put into the garden. There is also an 1100 gallon cistern system linked up and collecting rain water from the roof Parkway United Methodist Church.

Dee and Sonmia Everette

This garden has transformed families, like Dee Everette and her daughter Sonmia, who share a plot with another family. Before the garden, Everette and her husband, a chef, struggled to get their daughter to eat vegetables. Now, Sonmia eats all her vegetables. "I really feel it has connected my daughter with growing and eating vegetables," Everette says. This year they will be growing broccoli, peas, carrots and lettuce. “After we come here we just feel better. It’s kind of like a spa in a way,” Everette adds.

Food Forest's banana plants

The garden also helps homeless families by setting aside land for food pantry growing. "We like the idea of getting fresh fruits and vegetables into their diet," says Kevin “Flavio” Sloat, Executive Director and Founding Member of the Fruitful Field. He says many homeless children never get access to fresh fruit. The food forest, based on permaculture techniques, helps with this. "We have over 60 tropical fruit trees growing year round in our food forest," Flavio says.