Tucked away in McAllen’s downtown entertainment district, The Market at Alhambra is a new concept in farmers markets. On a recent Saturday, we decided to check it out.
It happens from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday with Alhambra, the Mediterranean restaurant and hookah lounge at 519 S. 17th Street as host.
A group known as the Texas Food Revolution takes over this popular Downtown McAllen Mediterranean fusion restaurant and salsa dancing hot spot.
Their mission is to promote small, pesticide-free farming—or farms that show a willingness to reduce pesticides—anywhere that they can. Texas Food Revolution volunteers have executed food demonstrations in Laredo, Brownsville, McAllen, and Weslaco.
The market features farmers, as well as artisans and ranchers.
The Rio Grande Valley is blessed with an amazing growing season yet the local supermarkets carry products from all over the world when it’s all here. Buying locally grown tastes a thousand times better and supports the local economy.
Armed with a group of volunteer chefs and the wares of the local growers that have come to sell produce, meat, and pastries, they entrench themselves in the courtyard, where they begin to cook.
The market, which is free to the public, features many of the Valley-grown vegetables and meats used in Alhambra’s foods.
Unbeknownst to most of their patrons, Alhambra’s dishes are made almost entirely from locally produced foods. They created the market as a means to give their suppliers a way to sell to local consumers. It also helps them, because the farmers bring their wares to Alhambra.
“We’re going to try and mix it up and make it as fun as possible” said Alhambra Executive Chef James Canter, the mastermind behind the farmers market. “It’s something to instill a sense of pride and community within the community. It brings all walks of life together.”
The idea grew from Alhambra’s own kitchen. Canter uses as many locally grown foods as he can in the restaurant’s dishes. He buys lambs raised in Cameron County. He shops around for squash blossoms and greens from rural Edinburg. And he stocks farm fresh eggs.
“We wanted to make available to our customers and anyone who is interested the product we use in our restaurant, so we’re not hogging it for ourselves,” Canter said.
At the same time, Alhambra has a spacious courtyard, which they only use at night. Like the rest of the bars, lounges and restaurants on South 17th Street, Alhambra only opened for nightlife. So they decided to organize the farmers market.
Canter, who has worked in restaurants across the country, said the area lends itself to a top-notch farmers market, and that it’s a shame that local farmers often ship their crops across the country.
“The locals don’t get to enjoy the bounty of their area,” Canter said. “I’ve seen things grown here that I’ve paid top dollar for in other parts of the country.”
Market at Alhambra
When: Saturdays, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Where: Alhambra, 519 S. 17th Street (17th and Fresno), McAllen
Texas Food Revolution
The Texas Food Revolution wants several things: to bring higher quality food to people, to promote a small farm and ranch economy, to reduce the carbon footprint, and reduce chemicals from farming that reach our waterways and our own bodies. They are also trying to introduce healthy recipes to the public while promoting the consumption of local food.
Delectable chile-con-carne… composed of delicate meats minced with aromatic herbs and the poignant chile Colorado—a compound full of singular saver and a fiery zest.
—O. Henry, The Enchanted Kiss
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