Unambiguously unfurled

Groucho Marx once said, “I don’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.”

Luckily, neither I nor the Durham Co-op is so discriminating.

When The Kid was a high school senior, my mom, my child and I flew up to Vermont to check out the New England Culinary Institute, in Montpelier.  Although it’s quite different in many ways, the town has a very similar vibe to Durham. They’re funky, friendly, and into the farm to table movement.  Imagine our Bull City translated into a sleepy, New England village.

While we were there we visited the local co-op a couple of times.  We loved it.  It was like Whole Foods had a love child with a commune.

Hunger Mountain Co-op in Montpelier. VTD/Josh Larkin

The Hunger Mountain Coop, in Montpelier.

When we got home I learned that there were plans in Durham to establish a co-op.  As soon as I found out you could buy in, that’s what I did; for Petey, The Kid, and myself.

Then it became a waiting game.

Finally, last week the new Durham Co-op Market opened on 1111 West Chapel Hill St.  The Matthews family enjoyed our inaugural visit Friday afternoon.



Visually, it’s very reminiscent of the co-op in Montpelier.  Built in a very green manner, there’s tons of natural light and re-purposed materials.

Grocery co-op buys option in downtown Durham

The produce section is chock-full of in-season, organic fruits and veggies.  The dry goods are mainly organic with a few gourmet brands mixed in.  The dairy and frozen foods are the same.

The market has a partnership with First Hand Foods. Their pork and beef are pasture-raised, and free of scary chemicals.  Because of the source, it’s more expensive than factory raised meat, but because of the partnership, it’s cheaper than buying the same at conventional gourmet and organic markets.

Some of Firsthand’s delicious wares.

One whole side of the market is taken up with kitchens, salad and hot bars, deli, bakery, and ready-to-eat prepared foods.  Much of the foods come from fellow co-op Weaver Street Market now, with an eye to begin making more and more in-house.

We had lunch during our visit.  Petey enjoyed a big bowl of turkey chili.  The Kid and I dined on one of the deli sandwiches, named after Durham streets.  We both decided on the Gerard; with crispy bacon, fresh avocado, baby spinach, and roasted tomatoes.  It comes on a choice of bread (I got 7-grain, my child, focaccia), or as a salad.  It also comes with chipotle mayo, but they kindly switched it to regular mayo for me and my uber-wimpy palate.  For a side, I chose potato salad (tasty), and The Kid had the soup of the day, creamy mushroom (really delicious; my pick next time).

durham map

I’ll have the Gattis–hold the lettuce.

The market is open to everyone, but they have varied owner plans, depending on your situation.  Owners get access to special sales, and voting rights.  It’s open now for business, but April 11th is the grand opening party, with music, and food and beer samples.  Check out their website, http://durham.coop, and Facebook page for more info.

Inspired by the beautiful golden beets in the store, I have a twist on my favorite beet dish—Harvard beets.  Because of the color, and in honor of the co-op, I changed the name.

golden beets

Golden Bull City Beets

3 cups (about 2 pounds) golden beets, peeled and cut into bite-size wedges

1 tbsp. cornstarch

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup liquid from cooking the beets

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter

Cover the beet wedges in salted water by about an inch and cook until fork-tender, 15-20 minutes.  Drain, reserving 1/3 cup of cooking liquid.  In a large, heavy saucepan, stir together cornstarch, vinegar, sugar, and salt.  Pour in beet liquid.  Bring to a boil, and cook until it’s clear (still golden, but not cloudy), and thickened.  Gently stir in beets and butter, then cook for about 5-10 minutes until heated through.  Serves 4-6 as a side or 2 shameless beet lovers like myself.

So if you get a chance, go check out the market and maybe become an owner.Because even though I appreciate and frequently follow the philosophy of the wise man that is Groucho Marx, in this case, it’s best to ignore him.

proud owner button

Thanks for your time.

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