Nathan Holmes: best meal I ate last week

Nathan Holmes

Nathan Holmes

Across the country, the industrial mega-corporate food system is being challenged by small farms and local economies. Here in Pittsburgh, Nathan Holmes is at the center of that movement.

As founder of Three Rivers Grown, Family Farm Creameries, and the Pittsburgh Ice Cream company, Nathan works as a liaison between Pittsburgh area farmers and consumers, bringing local products to market and simplifying the food chain. The success of the “farm to table” movement is dependent on food distribution companies like Three Rivers Grown, which works exclusively with wholesale buyers like schools, restaurants, and grocery stores.

But let’s not forget the “farm to cone” movement. Nathan makes some of the best ice cream around with seasonal ingredients that he gets directly from these farmers. These days, you might find Nathan whipping up a batch of Rhubarb or Lemon Basil Chevre. That’s right. Goat cheese in ice cream. It’s delicious. This ice cream, as well as many other farmstead dairy products, is sold at farmers markets across the city as well as downtown at the Market Street Grocery.

Therefore, it would seem fitting that Nathan’s favorite meal this past week was an amalgamated feast from the Sewickley Farmers Market. Here’s what he had to say:

My favorite meal of the week is the one I eat while working at Sewickley Farmers Market every Saturday.  My morning starts with a cake donut from Betty Starn’s Bakery. These aren’t your typical donuts—these are the kind that you would get if you were in the middle of a barn raising and the ladies came out with a big tray and a pitcher of raw milk. The donuts are so filling that you need a drink to go along with it. There are three great options at the market. If it’s hot outside, I go for Woolf Farm cider, cold out, Zeke’s Coffee. On a beautiful day, I get drinkable rhubarb goat yogurt from River View Dairy.  Each of these is the perfect pairing to wash down one (or two) of these delicious donuts.

By 11 o’clock, I am ready to eat again. I usually go for a Mediterra Bakery baguette and bazenjani from Najat’s Lebanese food. Bazenjani is a delicious combination of roasted red pepper, eggplant, tomatoes, and garlic that you can’t find anywhere else. It melts right into the baguette. It’s the perfect lunch snack.

Don’t judge me, but by the end of the market I’m ready to eat again, and Little Athens has the perfect thing. Their vegetarian moussaka (get it even if you are a meat lover) is truly one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. I can’t pass it up especially when they will happily trade it for my ice cream.

The best part is that this day of eating will only set you back by $14 (plus you have left overs). You definitely don’t need to be rich to eat like a king, and there is immense satisfaction in knowing that you are supporting local families. I love the people at the market, every one of them makes me smile. If I wasn’t working, I would bring a blanket and sit under a tree or walk to the park and make a weekly tradition to take part in one of the best food experiences in the city.