Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Scenes from Sweet Auburn Curb Market

Sweet Auburn Curb Market/Photo by Atlanta Culinary Tours

by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
 A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to tour Atlanta's oldest farmer's market, the Sweet Auburn Curb Market, which has been feeding Atlantans since 1918. My new friends at Atlanta Culinary Tours, Beth and David, guided a group of about a dozen culinary tourists through the market, admiring produce and sampling goodies along the way.

Collards at Sweet Auburn Curb Market/Photo by Atlanta Culinary Tours
 One of my favorite reasons to shop the curb market is collard greens. You can buy them whole and process them yourself, a labor and sink full of love, or buy them bagged and chopped, ready for the pot.

Produce like these turnips is fresh from the farm at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Ciao Boca meatball sandwich by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
One of the first bites of the day was this delicious meatball sandwich made by Deborah, owner of  Ciao Boca, an Italian eatery inside the market.

One of my favorite signs at the market. by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
In these days of nose to tail cooking, the market is the place to get every porcine part, possibly even the oink. Other critter parts are available at the market, signs that I just don't see at my neighborhood Kroger. Not to be missed: a product new to me, rank meat, which is aged salted pork fatback, used for seasoning with Southern vegetables. That's right, a meat product marketed as "rank."

Signs at Sweet Auburn Curb Market by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
The Curb Market is a great place for ingredients and a meal. The market is set up food court style, with restaurants including Tilapia Express Seafood, home of outstanding fried fish. Metro Deli & Soul Food is home to exactly that - soul food specialties such as spicy, tender greens, the mac and cheese my kids wish I knew how to make; and crispy, juicy fried chicken. If you're near downtown Atlanta, pull into the parking lot adjacent to the market and be sure to get your parking ticket validated by a vendor. The first 90 minutes are free - probably the best parking deal in downtown.

Tilapia Express Seafood at Sweet Auburn Curb Market by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Get a plate of Southern goodness at Metro Deli and Soul Food. By Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
Barbecue fans take note: Sweet Auburn Barbecue just opened in the market.
Sweet Auburn Barbecue by Lucy MercerA A Cook and Her Books
After your soul food cravings are satisfied, check out some of the quirkier items at the market, folk remedies such as this Georgia specialty: white dirt.

White dirt, a.k.a. kaolin, available at Sweet Auburn Curb Market. By Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

White dirt is kaolin, a clay mined in South Georgia that has commercial applications in the paper, paint and rubber industries. It's also consumed as kind of an earthy antacid. If you've ever heard the expression "clay-eater," this is where it comes from. And if you're wearing your smarty pants, you already know that clay-eating is a form of geophagy ("earth eating") and pica (eating of non-food items).

Which brings us to another popular folk remedy, the golden elixir known as Wild Bill's Yellow Root Tea, a tonic used to lower blood pressure and treat diabetes.

Wild Bill's Yellow Root Tea by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Wild Bill's is a convenience product, you may prefer to make your own, using freshly harvested yellow root, also available at the market. I love the homemade signs!

Yellow root at Sweet Auburn Curb Market by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

There's plenty more at the market, including the best pralines I ever ate, made by Louisianan Dionne Gant at Miss D's New Orleans Pralines. I didn't realize how grainy my homemade pralines were until I tasted hers - smooth, creamy, sweet-but-not-too, featuring Georgia grown pecans. (I'll return there during Christmastime for sweet stocking stuffers.)

Miss D's New Orleans Pralines/Sweet Auburn Curb Market
 Start your day at Cafe Campesino, just inside Sweet Auburn Curb Market. We sampled hummingbird scones, a novel take on the Southern banana cake with pineapple and pecans, and some bracing brews from the selection of fair trade beans.

Cafe Campesino/Sweet Auburn Curb Market

Sweet Auburn Bakery by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
 The sweet stuff is abundant at the Curb Market. Sweet Auburn Bakery is justifiably famous for its sweet potato cheesecake.

Time to disclose that Atlanta Culinary Tours allowed me (and my mom!) to take the tour gratis. If you're looking for a weekend activity, check out their list of tours. For $32 a person, you fill your brain and belly with Sweet Auburn lore and love. An excellent date, with a special someone, or your mom (we had a blast!).

Sweet Auburn Curb Market is located at 209 Edgewood Ave. SE near downtown Atlanta and is easily reached from the connector. Pull into the parking lot and get your parking ticket validated - the first 90 minutes are free.


Angela said...

Visited Sweet Auburn in May and had a great time--those pralines are divine! Also enjoyed the cajun dill pickle popcorn and some great curry goat.

Anonymous said...

Lucky lucky Lucy! I wish we had such a market. Although I DID see that GA white dirt at our local produce stand and wondered what that was all about!? Maybe pica is "trending"??

Bell :)

Richard Moore said...

I didn't realize they had renamed the Municipal Market to Sweet Auburn Curb Market. The Municipal Market holds a special place in my family as it is where my father and mother met. In 1927, my mother's father was manager of the market and my father's family had two stalls selling dairy and vegetable products from the family farm in Chamblee. My mother was attending Girl's High (I think the only high school for girls in Atlanta) and when she walked past my father, he began to flirt with her.

It's a true Atlanta institution and I'm so glad its thriving.

Lucy@acookandherbooks said...

Richard, what a wonderful story! Thanks for reading and sharing!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post! The market looks lively and terrifically local. I am intrigued by the clay and yellow root. Did you see anyone buying those?

Lucy@acookandherbooks said...

Hi Linda! When you're in Atlanta, I'll take you to the curb market! Our tour guide had a half-empty jar of Wild Bill's in her tote bag, so I guess there's still folks who use the old-time remedies.