‘Finding best of best’

Posted: October 31, 2012

The Winchester Star

Karen and Billy Eyles of Millwood have opened Mt. Airy Farm Market. Store brand items include (below, from left) sweet potato butter, peach butter, summer tomato salsa, apple sauce and apple cider. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)
Chefs Chris Nowitzky and Michelle Miller of Panache Catering Co. in Middletown prepare many of the fresh food items available at Mt. Airy Farm Market in Boyce, which opened Oct. 1. Owners, Billy and Karen Eyles, are searching for the best of the best to offer. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)
Chocolate Raspberry Ganache cake, topped with fresh raspberries, by Michelle Miller of Panache Catering Co., is available at the market.

Boyce — Billy and Karen Eyles are finding the best of the best to sell in the Mt. Airy Farm Market in Boyce.

A month after opening Oct. 1, the market at the corner of U.S. 340 and U.S. 50 is still developing because there are so many great possibilities out there, said Karen Eyles, who co-owns the business with her husband, Billy.

The market carries a wide selection of items, including fresh seasonal produce, locally grown and butchered meats, candy, baked goods, and gourmet cheeses. But if there is a product that is fresh, local and delicious, the Eyles are always open to additions, she said.

“Our goal is to find the very best of everything and put it under one roof,” said Karen, 53, of Millwood.

The time between now and next spring, when the couple plans to have its grand opening, is about discovering what products work and how else the business is going to develop, she said.

Even in the short time the market has been open, the Eyles are making changes. This week, Trudy Claus of Stephens City will start working at the store as a baker, bringing dinner and cinnamon rolls, white and wheat loaves, sourdough and other treats to the store, Karen said.

Claus previously was supplying the market with bread she baked at home, but since she doesn’t have a certified kitchen, the couple decided to renovate one of the back rooms to be used for baking, Karen said.

“She grinds all of her own flour,” Karen said. “It is all organic with no preservatives.”

The Eyles also are increasing the amount of readymade food offered by chef Michelle Miller, who makes sides and desserts for the market through Panache Catering Co. in Middletown.

It took about four months to get the market the way the couple wanted it, Billy, 49, said. The building, which was built in the 1970s, previously has been a market, barbecue restaurant, car dealership and trading post. It had been empty for two years.

The name for the market comes from the Eyles’ other enterprise, Mt. Airy Farm, a 25-acre farm in Millwood where the couple trains steeplechase and flat track race horses, Karen said. It doesn’t produce any of the items sold in the store, but that will change.

By next fall, the Eyles want to start raising their own beef cattle and planting some of the vegetables that will be sold in the store, Karen said. This summer has been devoted to renovating the building to put in the farm market, but once it is established, they plan to have a more active role in supplying it.

Until then, they have been working with local farmers and suppliers to get in seasonal produce, such as the pumpkins that are spread around the outside of the building. Inside are apples, different kinds of squash, onions, tomatoes, jalapenos, and sweet habeneros.

Though it is all one big room, the market has distinct sections. In one corner is a section filled with glass jars containing jellies, preserves, barbecue sauces, hickory syrup and local honey.

Many of the jars bear the market’s own label, which is green and tan and has diamonds on it to match the farm colors and racing silks, Karen said. The items are sourced from Shawnee Springs, a processing company in Frederick County.

Some of the jarred goodies include pecan apple butter, summer tomato or peach salsa, cucumber dill dressing, and more.

In another section of the store are several rows of packaged items such as candy, popcorn, bagel chips, nuts, dried fruits, and elk and bison summer sausage.

The area the Eyles talk about with the most pride is the deli cooler. The meat offered is aged beef, pork, lamb, goat and free range chicken, locally raised and butchered at Gore’s Processing, Billy said.

The market’s first meat came from animals bought at the Clarke County Fair, which ensured the meat was free of hormones and antibiotics, he said. From now on, it will be sourced from local farmers.

“The difference in fresh local meat is just amazing,” he said.

In early November, the market plans to have retired butcher Lowell Crim of Winchester come in three days a week to cut custom meats, Billy said. Crim cut meat for Acme Supermarket for 30 years. A sign outside the market will say when the butcher is in.

A really good meat can make all the difference between a good and great recipe, Karen said. Her sausage dip — a blend of sage sausage, cream cheese and Rotel — stands out because of the sausage quality, she said. It will be sold in cartons at the store.

Besides the raw meat, there are fresh deli meats and cheeses available for sandwiches, which can be combined with combinations of bottled drinks, baked goods and chips to make a tasty alternative to fast food, Karen said.

From Thursday to Sunday, people can buy whole rotisserie chickens, which use a traditional, all natural rub, Billy said.

Almost since the store opened, the Eyles have been working with Michelle Miller to offer prepared Panache sides that people can buy by the pint, quart or pound.

Last week, there was red bliss potato salad, cole slaw and chunky salsa. Other weeks, Michelle has supplied the store with Asian chicken salad, toasted Israeli couscous salad, and pimento cheese.

“It is going to change based on the seasons, on what we can gather from the market here and what customers are asking for,” Michelle said.

Signature desserts sold whole or by the slice are another offering from Panache. Michelle has made a chocolate raspberry ganache cake, carrot cake, chocolate pecan bourbon tortes, and a pumpkin praline cheesecake.

Being on a commuter road and providing this kind of easy, ready-to-eat fare will fill a need, especially for families, Billy said.

“You can come in and get a rotisserie chicken, a side dish, a vegetable, and a dessert and have dinner done,” he said. “With today’s hectic pace, we are trying to cater to that need.”

With the holidays coming up, Michelle is thinking ahead to the special treats that will be available in the store or by special order. One of her specialties is a “bouche de Noel,” a traditional French Christmas cake that looks like a log.

A yellow cake is filled with mocha buttercream, rolled up until it resembles a log and covered with chocolate icing to make it look like bark, Michelle said. Then she decorates it with meringue mushrooms, frosted cranberries and toasted almonds made to look like lichen.

The market also will put together fruit and gift baskets for the holiday season, Karen said.

A few weeks before Thanksgiving, Michelle will conduct cooking demonstrations to introduce people to some of the products the market has that they might not be sure how to use, Karen said. Lamb, for instance, is a meat many people are not sure how to cook.

“If you are buying our product, we want you to know how to make it,” Karen said.

A schedule of cooking demos will be posted on the market’s Facebook page.

Information

Mt. Airy Farm Market, 8204 John Mosby Highway, Boyce, is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Contact 540-837-2043.

— Contact Laura McFarland at lmcfarland@winchesterstar.com