Raleigh Farmer's Market: Sweet Potatoes, Fried Green Tomatoes and Goat's Milk Custard
Around this time of year the Raleigh Farmers' Market in North Carolina abounds in sweet potatoes. The state leads the country in sweet potato production—more than forty percent, in fact, of the national harvest. In addition to the more familiar kinds, farmers sell varieties you've probably never heard of.
Hernandez and Beauregard sweet potatoes, and my favorite, a variety called "White Batus," which a nearby sign described as "very ugly but very sweet." I roasted all three varieties and found that while the Hernandez and Beauregard potatoes were mildly sweet with a moist orange flesh, the White Batus were exceptionally sweet with dense, creamy interiors.
After all that sweet potato shopping, I ate at the State Farmers' Market Restaurant restaurant across the street.
They served a hefty portion of fish but sadly, it was dry. The real attraction was the vegetable platter. Deep-fried green tomatoes had a perfectly flavored and crisp coating. I asked the waiter what was in the batter (apparently, an all-purpose Atkinson's mix). The tomatoes themselves were juicy and refreshingly tart. The field beans and pickled beets rounded out the platter.
For dessert, the peach cobbler was deeply crisped on the bottom, giving it a slightly sticky, caramelized appeal. The restaurant's buttery, fluffy biscuits are also worth ordering.
Before leaving the market I dropped by In The Red Farm and Dairy, a stand from a family-owned and run goat farm in Chinquapin, North Carolina. They sell all kinds of goat cheeses and goat meat, but it was the homemade frozen goat's milk custard that caught my eye.
The flavors rotate—that day it was banana. If I had to live with just one banana dessert for the rest of my life, it would be this. Extremely smooth and creamy, the custard was dense and had a subtle goat taste. The banana flavor was fresh and balanced. (Alaina said the farm also makes a banana pudding-flavored goat's milk custard. The idea alone has this Northerner wanting to return once the weather warms up.) I'm not sure Raleigh market is my favorite in the country, but it's a pretty tough one to beat.