It's officially Pepper Place season now, although a smaller version of the Saturday market at the old Dr. Pepper plant in Birmingham has been going on for several weekends.
Pepper Place, to me, always has been one of the greatest things about Birmingham, a community focal point that also has spawned many other markets around town bridging the gulf that had existed between farm and table.
But this year's Pepper Place has hit full maturity.
Because finally you can buy meat down there. Grass-fed beef. Grass-fed pork, Alabama made sausage (Monroe Sausage made in Beatrice Al.) Here's hoping that expands to lamb and chicken, as well.
Boutwell's Beef was down there this morning. So was Sequatchie Farms, which has been selling frozen packages of its Tennessee-raised beef and pork through Jones Valley Urban Farm. Every other week, Owl's Hollow brings some of the Alabama raised pork it has been providing its customers in the off-season. I think McEwan's also offered some meat today.
Farm fresh eggs have been around at the market for a few years, but at least four vendors today were selling them (including the fine folks at Rora Valley Farm, which also offers twice-a-year chances to buy free-range chickens they raise on their farm near Sylacauga).
The chefs who do the cooking demonstrations also are getting more diverse. I see this year, the folks of Taj India will be there Aug. 7, while Nabeel's will be there in September. Guillermo Castro, who has done demos at the market for several years, now has company in preparing ethnic fare.
Check it out (Saturdays 7-noon on 2nd Ave. S at between 29th and 28th streets). To borrow a jingo: Pepper Place has kicked it up a notch.
2226 Highland Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35205