Last month we talked with Sharon Schwartz about her evolution into a fine home chef. This month, we offer part two. Sharon talks about why she decided to “go organic,” and her favorite sources for ingredients in Bucks County. In her own words…
I started to get interested in healthy food choices when I was pregnant with my first child, Jennifer. At the time (this was the 1970’s), we were living on Long Island, and I decided to join a food co-op. They offered bulk food – mostly organic – at cheap prices. It was the quality of the food that attracted me, and the fact that we had to work there sometimes, and I could meet like-minded people.
We were also fortunate to live very close to a poultry farm where they raised their fowl and offered eggs that were raised with organic feed. To this day, those were the most incredibly delicious chickens we’ve ever had. I bought the chickens the day they were killed and got eggs the day they were laid. You can’t get better than that, and without having to do any of the work!
In those days there was not much organic farming being done in our area. The vegetables at the health food stores tended to be limp and old because they did not move quickly enough. About the only decent veggies I could get were organic carrots. I did my best to buy produce from local farmers in season, and we did have a vegetable garden (organic of course) in our yard by the time the kids were 3 and 5 years old.
It was also around that time that an especially great health food store opened in our town on Long Island, and I got very involved with macrobiotics. I practiced it pretty strictly for myself, and offered it in the house, with much resistance from the kids and Mark (my husband). In keeping with my “style,” I did take macrobiotic cooking lessons and learned to get pretty creative with my veggies, beans and miso soup. After finding that my body needed more protein, I kind of gave up on it, but tried to find food choices that were as pure as possible for myself and my family. I didn’t go back to eating beef or veal, however, because of the ways in which the animals were raised.
When we moved to Bucks County in the mid-80’s, it became more difficult to find organically raised chickens and eggs, and even fish choices were not as fresh or varied as what was available on Long Island. I did the best I could, but loosened my standards a great deal out of necessity. I was happy if I could find locally grown food of good quality.
It has only been recently, with the advent of more local organic farming, and the arrival of Whole Foods and a few other sources, that I have gone back to my purist organic food choices. Between the organic sections in most markets, the better selections in health food stores, and the arrival of a great wholly organic meat department at Whole Foods (and some at Wegmans) I can get most anything I want (beef and veal included) at the level of quality I want. Hallelujah!
These are some of Sharon’s favorite places to get ingredients, both in Bucks County and nearby. (Sharon lives in Central Bucks, so she is partial to places nearest to her.) In alphabetical order:
- Altomonte’s (Doylestown and Warminster): assorted Italian ingredients, including oils (Iliada Greek Olive Oil) and vinegars, and cage-free, organic eggs, handmade ricotta
- Blue Moon Acres (Buckingham): organic salad greens and herbs; “I’ve even gotten beautiful, big zucchini flowers in season from them which I use to make ‘Ricotta-Stuffed Zucchini Flowers.””
- Buckingham Seafood (Buckingham): good quality, wild caught fish
- Cote & Co. (Doylestown): they carry Max and Me Smoked (organic) Salmon, oils, vinegars
- Heller’s Seafood (Warrington): good selection of fish
- Jamie Hollander (New Hope): organic aged strip steaks, good take-out, interesting grocery items
- The Larder (Doylestown): great bulk food, specialty items, cashews
- Newtown Farmer’s Market (Newtown): from the Amish stand, chicken, other types of poultry, organic, cage-free eggs; good quality fruits and vegetables from the Asian produce stand (although not organic), and “the falafel guy is great!”
- None Such Farms (Buckingham): Antibiotic-free, hormone-free, locally raised meats; local produce. “I can even get a brisket with the deckle (fatty part) still on – which makes a superb brisket!”
- Wegmans (Warrington): for organic produce and other natural foods, in particular, baby artichokes and handmade ricotta
- Whole Foods (Montgomeryville, Jenkintown, Princeton): for everything organic, but especially meats (Jenkintown store has complete butcher shop). The Princeton store is “huge and fantastic.”
And Sharon’s favorite in-season farm stands:
- Doylestown Farmer’s Market (Saturday mornings)
- Manoff Market Gardens, great selection of apples
- Solebury Orchards, especially for apples
- Wrightstown Farmer’s Market (Saturday mornings)
What are your favorite places to shop for ingredients? Please let us know.