Dear Foodies,

I know I was born with a desire for rich, decadent food that thrills me to no end. Yet, all those desserts, fried appetizers and creamy dishes have left me in need of . . . fiber. Thanks to places like House.Wine, Sahadi’s, and the Blue Onion where salads are creative and fresh one can feel good about eating out without feeling guilty. I recently picked up a flyer that read…”McAllen Downtown Farmers Market” opening up at Alhambra. I was ecstatic!

While living in Fresno, Calif., Houston and Austin, I remember going to the local farmers market was a real treat. I would buy fresh baked breads, greens, herbs and so forth. I missed that! Juan Carlos owner and Executive Chef James Canter of Alhambra Restaurant and Bar came up with this brilliant initiative. There are so many benefits of eating local produce in season while providing the local agricultural community with a direct outlet for their products. Every Saturday (free entrance) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. starting Oct. 2, the public will be able to purchase henhouse eggs, organic local fresh fruit and veggies, meat, baked goods and more. There will be live entertainment, Texas wine tastings and a chance to mingle with our local vendors. Make sure to take a basket or bag (go green) to fill up on some goodies. Now, here’s some more great news. Newcomer Chef Abraham Jaber is creating new tantalizing dishes from the farm to your plate. While he waits for his new restaurant to open in November (“Jaber at the Art Village”), he is keeping himself busy hosting extraordinary dinners for friends and clients. This daring young chef has had the privilege of attending culinary school in Lyon, France, while being able to learn the craft from Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe.

Why wait to be dazzled? Chef Jaber will ensure a truly exceptional fine dining experience in the comfort of your own home. This is an example of “Nouvelle Cuisine” a light (healthier) menu selection that offers all the taste without all that (un-wanted calories) guilt. To start there’s a watermelon gazpacho followed by an Italian Tower (architecture of taste) which is zucchini, eggplant, and mozzarella buffalo (cheese) stacked with parmesan sheets, Iberico ham and pesto sauce. Then two exquisite choices for your entrée; Cappellini pasta with white wine sauce (Chardonnay) topped with grilled shrimp and Portobello mushrooms. Another choice would be quail cooked with a cognac sauce, spinach puree and wild mushroom reduction (sauces are only used to bring out the product’s taste and qualities). And to end your feast a delightful sorbet cava (lemon) will refresh your pallet.

Chef Jaber having lived in France is fond of real butter, gourmet cheeses and sinful pastries, but he also understands creating customized menus for clients with dietary restrictions is important (call for a quote). I thank Brad and Maria Jose Lacher for introducing my husband and me to our new friend and chef. We wish him much success.

Going organic and eating smart must be followed by some form of exercise. Think relaxing and invigorating….and you have yoga. Lifescapes Whole Health Center in McAllen offers nutrition consultations and Yoga classes for anyone who wants to make a positive change in their life. Owners Michelle Jones and Cecilia Flores are some of the most knowledgeable and kindest ladies I know in this field. They will be joining with Mandala Yoga Studio in October and hopefully a Yogi from Austin will come down for some student and yoga teacher seminars/classes. The first class is free! Make a fresh start in your life — it’s never too late.

Go Texan,

Madame Gourmand

Alhambra Restaurant, 19 S. 17th Street, McAllen. 956-994-9754.

To contact Chef Jaber: 956-802-2523 or abrahamjaber@hotmail.com or visit www.chefjaber.com.

Lifescapes: 5401 N. 10th Street, suite 225, McAllen. 956-627-3580.