There's a new enterprise bubbling in the kitchen of Durham's Ninth Street Bakery (www.ninthstbakery.com), and it has nothing to do with a yeasty bread starter. A 55-gallon tank gurgles and fizzes with kombucha, a fermented tea packed with health benefits. Owner Frank Ferrell has coined his concoction Bull City Booch. It launched at the bakery this month on tap along with local beers and cider.
Ferrell's nephew, Jeremy Ferrell, taught his uncle how to make the SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). Jeremy runs the booch operation at the bakery, with Frank helping out. While explaining the fermentation process, Frank uses words like "elixir," "alive" and "body tonic."
With a pint of beer in tow, one customer stands perplexed. "It's like something you would read in a science fiction book."
"But it's an ancient tradition," Frank says. Is it really that healthy? "I tell ya, I'm very regular," he laughs.
For 2,000 years, kombucha has provided probiotic benefits for anyone patient enough to make it. A SCOBY, sometimes called a mother, takes at least 12 to 14 days to ferment. Then the science becomes an art, with flavor combinations added at the time of bottling. Organic Bull City Booch rotates its saison, or seasonal flavors. On tap now is a winter saison with chai tea and high notes of ginger and cane sugar. A cayenne kick hits your throat at the end of a big sip. Glasses are sold at $3.50 for 12 oz. and $4.50 for 16 oz. You can take a bottle home with you for $6 ($2 being the bottle deposit). In spring, expect a version with lavender and mint.
In more homegrown food news, South Durham residents will no longer have to trek eight miles to the downtown Durham Farmers' Market for farm-fresh food. The FOOD Market (Farmer Organization of Durham) opens April 14 in Sutton Square off Fayetteville Road, just a couple miles from Southpoint mall and the Woodcroft residential neighborhood. Judy Thomson, of Thomson Ranch (www.thomsonranch.com), is part of the interim board. According to her most recent statistics, 30,000 people live within a one-mile radius of the location.
Farmer applications are now closed. Thomson says they hope to accommodate at least 30 sellers at the market, including small, seasonal vendors—like strawberry and blueberry farmers—who can come for a six-week stint selling their specific product. Thomson's farm grows hops, which she hopes to also sell if she gets a booth. The market will be open every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon for 50 weeks of the year.
On Feb. 28 and 29, Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill will host Shared Tables: A Triangle Symposium on Global and Local Food Studies. Keynote speakers include journalist and N.C. farmer Tom Philpott, who covers sustainability and food issues for Mother Jones and formerly for Grist; and Will Allen, founder of Growing Power, an exemplary model of urban agriculture serving Detroit, Milwaukee, Chicago and other U.S. cities. There is currently a waiting list to attend, but it's worth a try: Visit sharedtablessymp.wordpress.com.
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