I love to hear what others love and where it is from.
I have tried to make some significant changes to the way I shop for food. Have you watched Food Inc. (Blockbusters has it)? If not, even though it is based upon the American Food Industry, it applies to what is happening in Canada, and I suggest you do watch it. Knowledge is power. Without knowledge, you will be making decisions that affect your health and the health of your family every day by the food you buy and bring into your home. We really are what we eat now, more than ever before, on this planet.
Most parents no longer cook. Not those reading this post, but you can clearly see by the increase of business at fast food restaurants and through the massive variety of convenience foods available at the super markets that this is true. Every day, at lunch, most of the students at our school that do bring a lunch (and that would be about 2/3rds) are bringing “one of those”, and “one of those”, and “one of those” all pre-packaged prepared processed “nutritious” snacks thrown into a brown bag from the pantry at home. Not good. But, I digress. Saturday, I went to the market in the morning. That is something I have changed in my life. Every Saturday I go to the market. In the summer, I go to the City Market downtown. It is not the closest to my home. The Callingwood Market on Sunday is the closest. But, it is on Saturday, and that is the day I have chosen to do my shopping for the week. In the winter, I go to the Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market. Sometimes, I still head over there in the summer at 8 before I head downtown as it does open an hour earlier and has some vendors that I really appreciate and use. (Sunworks Farms eggs and chicken, Edgar’s Farms Asparagus is there at 8 am in the Spring, Morinville Greenhouses for their herbs for my summer garden and throughout the year for eating, etc…)
Also, the St. Albert Farmer’s Market is the largest open air market in North America, and second in the world, I believe. It is a must at least a couple of times a year just for the experience!
This change in my life has not been an easy one, but it has been rewarding past my wildest expectations. Yes, I said “wildest!”! I never imagined that I would look so forward to the produce, the farmers, the friends. It is actually exhilarating for me! Nor did I understand, at the time, the ultimate pleasure it would be to prepare meals for my husband and friends with the quality of food I am able to source. And, last: I feel so good! I feel empowered and in charge and resilient as I know I have healthy nutritious delicious food that has flavour and taste and colour and aroma that make our home a happy place to be. Whew. eh?
So, here are my usual picks! I will start with my dairy. I get my eggs from Sunworks Farms at OSFM unless I don’t make it over there, then I get them from Sunshine Organics Farm at City Market. The point is, we no longer eat eggs that I don’t get from the hand of a farmer. I want my eggs fresh with deep yellow yolks from happy chickens that are running around a yard pecking their little beaks in places they shouldn’t.. Those are happy eggs. I make my own yogurt, and when I do, I need a starter and Bles Wold Dairy is an Alberta Farm that sells all over. I buy mine from the Italian Centre Shops as I have made a conscious decision to buy local and to keep my grocery dollars (a massive amount, right?) in the same place I live. I buy fresh yeast. The only place I can find it is also at the Italian Centre Shops. It freezes well, so I buy it, bring it home, and weigh it per loaf, and repackage, then freeze. Great yeast.
I am still struggling with milk. We do not drink it. I bake with it, and I don’t bake with it that often, so that sad thing is that I usually run to Safeway when I need it. I am doing better and have found that I adore the organic whole milks I am finding at Planet Organic, but would really like to get my milk from an Alberta source, too. Thus, Vital Greens Farms (currently at Planet Organic) is my go-to source for Buttermilk and Cream (52%) and today: sour cream. There is no better product anywhere than theirs. It is exactly how I recall it from my youth straight from Bell’s Dairy Farm beside my grandmother’s house.
The Italian Centre Shop gets most of my cheese dollars, as they cannot be beat. They have local mozzarella made in Alberta and Canadian Bocconcini which is where I always buy mine. I do still buy Artisan cheeses from all over the world. That I can justify. But, there are two other Cheese Makers in our province that cannot go unmentioned. I always have Sylvan Star cheese in my home. I didn’t need any this week, so it is not in the picture, but they have a booth at City Market downtown and also sell at Planet Organic. Talk to them about cheese. Taste it. Taste their award winning cheeses. This is a phenomenal Dutch cheese making family that makes world class award winning Dutch cheeses in our backyard near Sylvan Lake.
Last, but most certainly not least is Smoky Valley Goat Cheese. My gosh, does this family make fantastic Artisan French Goat Cheeses. They must be sampled to be appreciated. Go to their website. Go to the market. Chat with them about their cheeses. Buy some. I buy a small 250 ml package of their ChÃ¨vre every Saturday and one other kind. Whatever is new, or available, or the St. Maure which is my current favourite. This week, they had their Mountain Tomme available. I haven’t tried it yet. It is not always available as they are an Artisan Cheese making farm and it is available when it is ready, so I bought it and am looking forward to the tasting.
You can do some label reading, here.
Just look at the texture of that chÃ¨vre! It is mild and luscious and creamy and tangy, but not too tangy, all at once. Delicious with roasted beets this time of year, and addictive with hot pepper jelly and a cracker. YUM! I cannot wait to taste the Mountain Tomme!
Sundogs Organic Farms is a must. I buy all produce there that I can, first, with the exception of potatoes and salad greens. They are superb. Their produce is edible art. They take such care and joy in preparing the food for my table that I am moved every week I shop there. I just love seeing Jennifer and her husband and their happy crew. Their garlic is second to none. It is a must. It will change your life. So will the experience of shopping at their booth. This week I got Fairy Eggplant! Aren’t they pretty? I sliced them in half lengthwise and was going to grill them, but instead, fried them with some young garden zuchhini, onions and tomatoes to make a delicate ratatouille. I will post that eventually, too. Incredible produce there every week.
I buy my potatoes two places, religiously. I have tried them all. Greens Eggs & Ham have baby Almond Potatoes that are crispy on the outside and creamy inside when oven roasted: sublime texture. I also love their mixed bag for a mixed roast. They are great for salads, too, but be careful as the varying potatoes have varying cooking times. Riverbend Market Gardens gets the other half of my potato dollar; their baby red banana potatoes with a waxy yellow interior are unexpectedly delicious. We go through a lot of these, too. Both sell at the City Market downtown in the summer. Riverbend is at OSFM, too.
Mushrooms? It has to me MoNa’s. Service and expertise are second to none, just like their produce. They have also sourced rosehips, huckleberries, sour cherries, black currants – you name it, for me. Also, they can bring in fresh truffles for you. Below is a lobster mushroom which are now in season and this big one was ten dollars. I just chop it up and fry it in butter. It is meaty, dense and so flavourful with not only the lobster colouring, but has a delicate lobster flavour note there, too. Love it.
In Alberta, we have Taber Corn. The Peaches and Cream variety is my favourite and is a must every fall. Right now there are a couple of booths selling it at the City Market downtown. I plan to make some soup, some cornbread and some other goodies with it. It is always a happy moment to discover a new vegetable in season to cook with!
I am not buying tomatoes right now. I am growing them. Mine don’t have blight, either, lucky me. But, neither have they had sun. So, they are hanging in there, literally, waiting to turn colour. I am harvesting enough daily for our table. When I do buy them, I only buy from Gull Valley Tomatoes. They are the best in the area. Right now, their cocktail sized tomatoes (just ask for the cocktail tomatoes) are the best tomatoes they have grown in ages flavourwise. That is really saying something, as all of their tomatoes taste like a breath from the past. Outstanding. They can be found at all local Farmer’s Markets.
Greens Eggs & Ham sells a mixed package of Lettuce Greens. They are a must if you do not grow your own. The bag might look small. It is filled with a lot more salad ingredients than it looks. It is not all light and fluffy and looking like more than is really there as we find in the supermarket bags. It is ten dollars. That may seem expensive. It is not. There is a lot of salad in that bag. It is delicious, nutritious and really good for you leaves without any chemicals or preservatives. It keeps for over two weeks in my fridge so it lasts longer than anything else I could ever buy. This seemingly expensive product is not expensive and so worth it.Â I have it all of the time when I don’t grow my own.
Ah! There is something about having a coffee and a snack at the market if you have time. Shopping becomes a relaxed and pleasurable social experience. Not the rush and stuff your car experience it can be. I chat with the vendors. I see many foodie friends. I have a coffee on a brisk morning to warm my blue fingers as I look to see what is available this week. And, on occasion. Only rarely, do I treat myself to something because I bake everything myself. But, if I am going to, there is no other booth than The Queen of Tarts! Oh, my! Just looking at her wares is enticing and will be completely irresistible, so be prepared! Everything tastes even better than it looks. Most recently I have become (unfortunately) hooked on her Cheddar Shorties. I used to make them. I cannot find my recipe. I am working on it. Until then, I have come to buy a package almost every week for the past three weeks. There are 10 in the package and they are ten dollars. I wouldn’t sell them for less with the precious ingredients she has in them and the work it takes to make them. But, I will figure it out. However, I will still treat myself or my guests to something, now and then, from her incredible fare. Don’t miss it.
I am not buying all of our meat from the market. But, I do buy most of our meat from a farm. O Sol’ Meatos (City Market some weeks) is a new company selling a house made artisan chorizo and another cardomon salami. They are not cheap, but again, I wouldn’t make them and sell them for less myself. These are really tasty and a nice alternative to what we know. Some new healthy artisan local flavours for the plate.
I don’t have a photo for the Budapest Deli products at their booth at City Market. Go to their store. It is worth the trip. Seriously. It is very small, but smells of their smoke house and has the best bacon in the city hanging on the back rack: pick your slab. Smoked? Double Smoked? Drier? It is all there. If not, ask, and they will do it for you. Their house smoke sausage is a treat. Slice it very thin and then go away some place inside of your head to be alone with it. It is incredible. At the market, they have vacuum packed bacon and the sausages there, but you can’t pick your own. I also buy my sour cabbage from them in the fall. I use it to make sarma, or sour cabbage rolls, traditional to Vanja’s culture. It is superb.
My pork has to be from a Berkshire pig. The fat is so flavourful and marbled so well that I get all of my pork from Irvings Farm Fresh. They can be found at all local markets and are really great people to work with. They will do anything you want any way you want it.
My duck, duck eggs, duck fat and alternative poultry (like guinea fowl and cornish hens) is always from Greens Eggs & Ham. Below is a new artisan Paprika sausage they just had made with duck breasts that I picked up to try. This package was small, and cost seventeen dollars. That is very expensive. I will treat my family to indulgences like this now and again. They were flavourful and I did them as Mary Ellen told me to: on top of a bed of fried onion and potatoes with sweet paprika and sour cream to finish, then top with the sausage and steam for 4 minutes. Their duck is superb and I love the confit made from it. I need to post that. I have made it so many times, and still not posted it. YUM!
All chicken is from Sunworks Farms at OSFM. So, where do we get our beef? Where do we get our veal? That is what I want to decide. So far, I am still tasting and testing and looking. I haven’t a beef farmer or a veal farmer and need both.
Lola Canola is my favourite honey go-to gal. What a wealth of information, perky personality, and a great product. She will definitely set you up.
Gwen, from Inspired Market Gardens, is the same. I bought the bulk of my gorgeous tomato plants from her this Spring. What a wealth of knowledge that she so carefully shares. She is definitely a market favourite of mine.
I hope I don’t miss anyone. The Jam Lady, if you don’t make your own jams (and I do) is an institution in our city. Her jams are creative, bold, innovative and delicious; they are also very reasonably priced.
Steve & Dan’s Fruit Stand is my first stop for their fantastic dried apples (for my cheese and charcuterie platters) and for their BC fruit.
This past week, I happened upon a new booth here for the first time that I went crazy over: La Fourchette (firstname.lastname@example.org)! They pound old cutlery flat and stamp it (and will take personalized orders) for you at 6 dollars a piece, or 5 dollars a piece if you buy more than 5. Aren’t these the most fab garden markers you have ever seen? I cannot wait to use them next summer! They also make them to stick into flowers (“Fork Me”, “Spoon Me”… blush) or to use however you see fit. Yes, these are all mine with 4 more on order.
So, there you have it. I love to get tips from my local foodies about what they buy, where they buy it, how much they pay, and what they cannot live without. This is mine. I hope you try some of my favourites and let me know what yours are!
And, at the very least, think about where you are shopping and why. How is it affecting your local economy and the health and vitality of your family?