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Grilling the Farmers Market

Recipes I demonstrated at the market:
Rotisserie Chicken (Other versions of roti chicken are here and here)
Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb (Coming Thursday)
Grilled Asparagus
Grated Carrot Salad
Grilled Garlic Bread

Last Saturday was my grilling demonstration at the Countryside Conservancy’s farmers market in the Cuyahoga Valley. I was so excited to have the chance to do a demo at the market; I’ve been going there since Ben was small enough to fit in a Baby Bjorn.*  I loved the chance to help out the market, instead of just shopping.
*Ben is nine now, and rolls his eyes when he hears this story.

Earlier in the week I picked up my donated meats: chicken from Brunty Farms, and lamb from Great American Lamb. The night before, I seasoned the meat, and packed my grills in the car. I started the morning at 7:45 AM, when I backed my minivan up to my tent in Howe meadow. I had a leisurely hour while I set my grills up and got my charcoal burning. I walked around, bought some asparagus and carrots, and picked up some donated bread and goat cheese for my garlic toast. I met Rochelle, my assistant for the day. And then…Beth Knorr rang the bell, the market opened, and the first wave of people arrived.

At first, I had a hard time getting people to stop by and see what I was up to. I’m a little shy in public, and it took me a few minutes to warm up. Everyone was using the “I’m staying ten feet away, just walking by, just looking, I don’t want to get involved” approach to checking out the market. I’d say hello, they would nod back, and keep walking. Then I figured out how to use my secret weapon – rotisserie chicken. I’d lift the lid on the kettle, show them the chicken spinning in it, and say “Hi! We’re doing a grilling demo today!” The sight of the chicken would stop people in their tracks – it looked so good, they had to come closer and see what I was up to. Then I’d move to the other kettle: “and here’s the butterflied leg of lamb I’m cooking. We’ll be grilling some asparagus later. Come back in thirty…twenty…ten minutes for a free sample!”

That started a regular flow of visitors, but it really took off when we were ready to give out samples of the food. As the lamb and chicken approached the finish line, a crowd started to form and watch me grill the asparagus. We started passing out the samples, and…the next two hours were a blur of slicing, serving, answering questions, and saying “the recipes are on my website – take a card!”. The stream of people didn’t stop until about 11:15, when we were out of food to give away. Luckily, that was also when the customers at the market were starting to thin out.

What did I learn for next time? Get a second round of food on the grill as soon as possible. I was having a great time: cutting up food, chatting with people, and answering questions. But I didn’t start the second batch of charcoal in time. By the time I realized this, it was too late. The second round of lamb and chicken I had planned were too late. That said, I cooked and served: A whole chicken, 3.5lbs of lamb, a pound of asparagus, a french baguette sliced into garlic bread, and two bunches of carrots. Nothing was left by the time I was done! And, really, that’s how I judge success – did they like the food?

I wanted to thank a few people who made it such a fun morning:

Rochelle, doing the dirty work
of julienning carrots

The first person I want to thank is Rochelle, my sous chef for the morning. I met Rochelle for the first time at 9AM, right when the market was opening. She volunteered to help out at the market, and they asked her to be my assistant. My first thought was “Assistant? Oh, that’s OK, I won’t need one. I do this all by myself all the time. I won’t need the help.” I thought it would be nice to have someone to talk to during the slow times, and that was all. Boy, was I wrong about that! A half an hour later, I was spending all my time talking to the people in front of the tent, showing them my rotisserie chicken and leg of lamb on the grill…and Rochelle was hard at work in the back, shredding carrots and whisking vinaigrettes. I would have been deep in the weeds without her. Thank you, Rochelle!

No picture of Tamara – she was behind the camera
so I’ll show you her great shot of my grilled asparagus instead!

Tamara Mitchell, of DineInDiva.com, stopped by to say hello and cheer me on. She regaled me with stories of her haul from the All-Clad factory sale, and kept me chatting while I prepped the food samples.
*She also saw that I was busy, and took all the pictures you see. Thank you, Tami!

Mike and Jane Snow, sampling the lamb

Jane Snow also stopped by. I’m still a little bit in awe of her, after years of reading her food column in the Akron Beacon Journal. She gave me some good advice for working the crowd (“Tell them who you are!”) and, when she saw the hint of pink in my medium-cooked lamb, said “That’s the piece I want!”
*She also mentioned that I should get a custom apron with DadCooksDinner.com on it. I told my wife I was going to have one made, and she said “Oh, no you don’t! Now I have something I can get you for Father’s day!”

Unknown Blog Reader #1 was a really nice guy who stopped by to say hi, and tell me how much he liked DadCooksDinner. He kept checking in until I had some food cooked, told me how good it was, then headed home. And I never thought to ask his name (or if he told me, I never caught it.) Whoever you are – thank you for coming to the market to say hello!
*And leave a comment to let me know your name. It’s killing me.

Beth Knorr. Beth runs the market, gave me the opportunity to do the grilling demonstration, and kept checking in on me to see if everything was going OK. Thank you, Beth!

Thanks to all the farmers who gave or sold me the food I cooked:
Brunty Farms (chicken)
Great American Lamb (lamb)
Lake Erie Creamery (goat cheese)
Great Lakes Baking Company (french bread)
Klimos Farms (asparagus)
Breezy Hill Farm (carrots)

Special thanks to Jeff at Brunty Farms for the chicken, and Brad at Great American Lamb for the leg of lamb. Their food was the center of my presentation, and they jumped through hoops to get it to me early.

If you didn’t get to visit on Saturday, I’ll be doing my demo again at the Cuyahgoa Conservancy’s Stan Hywett market on Thursday, June 24th from 4PM to 7PM. I can’t wait. Stop by to say hi!

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Filed under: Ramblings


Hi! I’m Mike Vrobel. I’m a dad and an enthusiastic home cook; an indie cookbook author and food blogger with a day job, a patient spouse, and three kids who would rather have hamburgers for dinner.


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