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Exploring the Pleasures of Real Food Together
I started eating local for one reason and one reason only, the quality of the food. I later started to understand the economic benefits, the health benefits and the value of developing a sustainable local food system here in Nova Scotia. But to be honest the reason I started was because the quality of the food I was getting from Superstore and Sobeys was no longer acceptable. I was tired of getting food that was an unreasonable facsimile of the food I remembered growing up in the Annapolis Valley.
Nowhere is this more true than with bacon. The waterlogged packets of chemically treated flaccid pork belly… its just not right. What I was not aware of was that you can get some of the best bacon you have ever had directly from our farmers or local smokehouses. I have sampled 7 different varieties of bacon from 4 different local producers. This bacon cannot be compared to that which you get in a grocery store. The smoke is from… wait for it… smoke. They use natural flavors and spices and do not load the bacon up with chemical filled solutions to increase the weight of the product. The pork that is uses is small farm raised and it shows in the quality of the meat.
The first local bacon I tried came from Active Life Farm just outside of Truro. This lightly smoked bacon was made from Berkshire pork, the kobe of pork. I got a side from them and the first thing that was gone was this rich meaty bacon. From there I started exploring bacon from as many local farms as I could.
The next bacon I tried was from Sweet Williams at the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market. They have an amazing variety of bacon including back bacon, shoulder bacon, and nitrate free bacon. Check in with them and see what they have for you on any given weekend. The nitrate free bacon was great, there was no taste difference and for those who want to remove nitrates from their diet this is a great option. Back bacon has always been one of my favorites and this is a great product. However the most remarkable experience for me was the shoulder bacon.
Pork shoulder is one of the most flavorful cuts of pork and is sought after by BBQ connoisseurs everywhere because of its ability to take smoke. A well marbled shoulder is the essential cut for amazing pulled pork. Sweet Willams takes this cut of meat, cures it (in the same way you would cure belly to make traditional bacon) and then slowly smokes it and slices it thin. This shoulder bacon is full of rich pork flavor, has a great toothy bite and is full of salty, smoky goodness. You can use this bacon in baked beans or use it instead of corned beef with cabbage for a great east coast supper. My favorite application of shoulder bacon though is in a traditional breakfast sandwich. A couple slices of this bacon with a nice poached egg on a homemade english muffin is a real taste treat.
The other location to get great bacon at the Halifax Market is Roselane. They have your standard sliced bacon but the bacon that brings me back over and over is their double smoked bacon. It is well cured, double smoked and then sliced ever so thin. A little bit of this in a sandwich or in a potato salad adds a beautiful rich smokey flavor without overpowering your dish with bacon. The other thing I like about this bacon is it is dry… it has not been loaded with water to increase the weight so when you cook it you can actually get a sear. It is a real treat to cook bacon without getting a steam facial.
The most recent place I have tried getting bacon from is Meadowbrook Meat Market located just outside of Berwick. This farm to table operation produces some of the best bacon I have ever had. Using sustainable farming methods to produce the pork and then curing it and smoking to perfection they produce an amazing product. Their varieties include a maple bacon that has my house smelling like a sugar shack and a Montreal smoke meat spiced bacon that as Chef Greg Clancy of Untitled Eats says “is a game changer.” This farm to table high quality approach has earned Meadowbrook the Taste of Nova Scotia 2011 Producer of the Year Award. Here in the city you can pick up their product at Pete’s or at the Alderney Gate Ferry Terminal 7 days a week.
Once you have sourced some real bacon from one of our local suppliers you need to take your time cooking it. Never slap bacon into a hot pan, this will lead to bacon where the meat is hard and overcooked and the fat is stringy and unrendered. Pork belly requires low slow cooking. On a griddle or in a frying pan heat the pan over very low heat (1 or 2) and then lay the bacon in filling as much of the pan as you can without overlapping. Allow the bacon to slowly cook, I turn it every 3 to 5 min for the first 15 min to ensure even cooking. Then in the end turn in more frequently. It takes about 20 minutes to get it cooked properly. Also never drain off the fat, cooking bacon in its rendered fat helps keep it tender and stops the meat from burning before the fat is rendered out. When you see really small bubbles of fat that indicates that much of the water has been cooked out and you are almost done. Rest your bacon on a clean paper towel and serve. This will give you a crispy bacon where much of the fat has been rendered out so there are no stringy bits.
Pork is the most popular meat in the world and bacon is so popular I know vegetarians who eat it. (I kid you not I roomed with a vegetarian who tried to sick me out when I ate meat but would drive across town to get bacon). However as with many great foods we don’t get the real goods at our factory food outlets. If you want to have the best bacon available I strongly encourage you to try out some of our great local suppliers.
I was looking for something special to do with chicken so I asked Graham from Meat Mongers at the Halifax Market what he suggested. He introduced me to spatchcock or butterflied chicken. This chicken is cut down the backbone and split so that it rests on the bones and the skin is all exposed to the air allowing for a very crispy skin. The fat layer under the skin is on the top of the meat as it roasts allowing it to baste itself as the fat renders off. In addition the presentation on the plate is beautiful.
Get Away Meat Mongers at the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market has sourced some amazing free range chicken. They have whole chicken, chicken pieces and spatchcock chicken. I love the way they store the chicken pieces and spatchcock chicken, in a cooler open to the air. This dries out the skin, making it that much easier to get a crispy skin. There is a difference in appearance in air dried chicken, honestly because of what I am used to in stores it does not look “fresh”. However it is significantly fresher than chicken in the stores. The air dired skin looks different but it is the bet way to get delightfully crispy skin on your roasted chicken dishes. This free range chicken is much better for us and way more flavorful, it is worth the extra cost. When you add the craftsmanship shown by my butcher, you are going to get much better results in the kitchen.
Here is my first (definitely not last) spatchcocked chicken recipe.
Lemon and Herb Roasted Spatchcock Chicken
1 Spatchcocked Chicken
1/2 cup butter
zest from one lemon
4 lemon halves
6 leafs thai basil
2 olive oil poached garlic cloves
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
Course sea salt
Place the chicken on a sheet tray on paper towel, sprinkle with course sea salt, on all sides and bring to room temperature. Pat dry then carefully separate the skin from the meat over all the cuts making pockets to hold the compound butter . Combine butter, lemon zest, thai basil, garlic and pepper in a food processor and pulse until combined. Using your fingers slide the compound butter under the skin over the breast and thighs, then spread the remaining butter over the skin reserving a couple tablespoons for basting during the cooking process.
Preheat oven to 375, roast chickens and lemon halves on a grill pan or a rack in a roasting pan until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 155 to 160 and allow carry over cooking to bring it up another 5 degrees. Brush with the remaining butter a couple times during the roasting process to help crisp the skin.
Serve table side as a family style dinner or divide into quarters. Squirt oven roasted lemon over the lemon table side to sauce.
Thanks to my local suppliers for the wonderful raw materials:
Chicken – Get Away Meat Mongers
Garlic – Taproot Farm
Thai Basil – Seabright Nurseries
Eating local has become a trend in North America over the last couple years. Around the world a trip to the market for fresh local food is a way of life, but here at home local food has been over run by factory food. This is quickly changing. People are being turned off factory food as we find out we have been lied to for decades. Companies have been caught adding ammonia to ground beef, low feed quality has caused an increase in food born illness, and the levels of salt, processed fats and chemicals have become a major concern.
The beauty of buying local food from a local vendor is that the person you buy from is directly accountable for the quality of your meals. You can question them about what is in the food, where it came from and how it was produced. You can expect honest answers and because these vendors build their business on relationships they will stand behind the quality of their food. Sometimes it will cost a little more than factory food, however it will be the best food you can put on your family’s plate.
The Fish Shop at the Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market is a prime example of a local food experience. Peter Boudreau, owner of The Fish Shop at Pier 20, takes tremendous pride in the fish he places on his case. He knows where each fish has come from, if it was wild or farmed, he knows when it came out of the water and prides himself on having the freshest fish possible. I often joke that the only thing he does not know about the fish is its name, and I am not sure about that. The fresh fish is on his case a day or two after it was caught. Supermarket fish is often 4 or 5 days out of the water, at which point Peter would have removed the fish from his case. This kind of supply chain makes sense if you live in central Canada where fish has to be shipped in, but here in Nova Scotia we can do better.
Peter keeps his shop clean and it always smells fresh. I can usually smell the seafood counter at a supermarket three sections over and that is not a good thing. This speaks to the freshness and quality of the product. Your fish counter should not smell like the beach on a hot summer day, if it does you may want to look elsewhere for your seafood needs. Peter’s attention to detail is evident and when I buy seafood from Peter I know it will be safe and enjoyable.
Peter also carries fantastic shell fish that are very popular. The local oysters he gets in are second to none and he always has a tank of live lobsters. In season he will have amazing clams and there are usually a great selection of mussels. I have also enjoyed the fresh calamari and he has some amazing frozen cooked lobster meat and great smoked fish products. What ever your seafood desire I suggest you visit the Fish Shop.
Peter and his friendly knowledgable staff are there to answer all of your questions. They answer all questions directly, they will tell you if the fish is farmed, fresh, or frozen aboard ship. Peter is a trained chef who has worked at well known restaurants in Halifax, and he is more than happy to make cooking and serving suggestions. He is there not only to provide you the freshest possible product but to help you prepare great seafood dishes for your family.
If you are looking for a quick seafood lunch then the Fish Shop is also a must. You will get the freshest fish, prepared by a trained chef. Whether it is fish, clams or scollops and chips, seafood chowder or an amazing lobster roll you can’t go wrong. For a special treat I recommend the poutine made with Fox Hill Cheese House fresh curds. These well seasoned fries covered with flavorful poutine sauce and topped with the freshest possible local cheese curd is a real treat.
The lobster rolls are loaded with lobster and fresh herbs which has been lightly dressed. The lobster is the star here, no filler just amazing lobster taste. If you are visiting Halifax and want to get your Nova Scotia lobster fix you should have one of these rolls.
The fish for his fish and chips are cooked perfectly. The fish is moist and flaky and the batter is crisp. The portions are large and you will leave satisfied. The clams and scallops are just as good.
Peter also has a selection of local pop that you can get with his meals. He carries Garrison soda, supporting a local business and providing you a beverage that is not sweetened with high fructose corn sweeteners. These are worth a try.
If you are into seafood I recommend that you visit Peter and talk to him about his product. Take the time to check out the freshness of his fish, talk to him about where it comes from. Feel free to ask him about preparation methods and for serving suggestions. When you do this and then enjoy his product with your family you will see the value in having a local seafood experience.
Honestly food courts and wraps are two things that I have learned from experience are best avoided. Most food courts are a collection of the worst our country has to offer from a culinary standpoint and wraps have become whatever is cheapest rolled in a dry tortilla.
Wrap So D and the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market’s Culinary Boulevard confounds that expectation. Owned and operated by Chef Darren Poirier, Wraps So D offers up a selection of wraps and omelets made right in front of you using the freshest local ingredients combined with other high quality product. The sauces and infused oils are made on site in his immaculate open kitchen and he prepares each wrap to order as you watch.
If you work downtown, are staying in a near by hotel, need to pick something up at the farmers market or just feel like a treat you should visit Wrap So D. Darren has invested considerable time, money and creativity in his kitchen. It is brightly painted, with lots of stainless steel and beautiful wood cupboards (I will let him tell you the cupboards story). The attention to detail he has put into his cafe shows through in his food. His wraps are amazing. He builds layers of flavor, infusing his oils, skillfully caramelizing onions and meats, selecting fresh veggies and he finishes his wraps with delicious house made sauces. This is not a fast food wrap, every component is selected and prepared with love, skill and passion.
The flavor in the wraps is second to none. Whether it is his chefs special, hot chicken caesar, BBQ pulled chicken, or famous Massaman Beef served up on international day (Friday) these wraps are loaded with flavor. The first thing I notice when biting into a wrap is how juicy it is. This moistness explodes on your taste buds ensuring that you get all of the great flavors at once. This is not a dried out fast food wrap that turns to paste in your mouth, this is a serious taste treat. The flavors that Chef D builds from the oils right through to the sauces combine to form a symphony of flavors your are not used to getting in a wrap.
The wraps are created with flair, not only in flavor combinations but also with regard to service. Darren often has music playing in the background and is usually singing along; he has a great voice. One of my favorite Chef D moments was when I saw him singing Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” to a mother and her three children. One of the small ones stood up on the stroller and leaned against the counter to get a closer look. All the while he is cooking away with energy and passion, it was a site to see. The entire crew is friendly, interactive and there to provide you with great food and top notch service.
Darren also brings this same level of energy, and passion right to your home or office. He offers full service catering for all occasions. If you want to provide a lunch treat for your office, want something creative for a birthday party, or memorable food for that once in a lifetime occasion. I would recommend giving Darren a call. You can find Wrap So D on Facebook, his contact information and hours are there as well.
I enjoy food that is real, creative and produced with passion. I am glad I overcame my prejudice against the much abused wrap and gave Wrap So D a try. I love Darren’s food and am sure you will be smiling before, during and after you eat at Wrap so D.
Dessert has a special place in the heart of any food lover. It is that sweet ending to a perfect meal that completes the experience. It is the course that puts a smile in the eyes of children of all ages and when consumed in moderation can be part of a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately dessert has become a throwaway for many food producers. I go to restaurants and find frozen bought in product, the factory food outlets are filled with sweet, under flavored, preservative filled crap. We are drawn to sweet, and some have used this to get away with serving unimaginative low quality sweets. Fortunately there are several good options in Halifax for amazing, creative desserts. I will be doing a series of posts on where go get great desserts from creative local businesses.
Susie’s Shortbreads is the textbook story of a dream turning into a great small business. Starting out with a passion for baked goods and a table at the farmers market TJ and Brad have grown their business into a boutique bakery with two locations serving a growing variety of creative, scratch made baked items. They also have a mobile catering service and still maintain their presence at the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market.
Starting with cookies they have expanded their offering to include cupcakes, cupcake truffles, mini cheesecake bites, whoopie pies, multi tiered cakes and ice cream products (ice cream, floats, shakes, etc). From the level of creativity I saw there they will probably have new items on the menu by the time you read this blog. Something involving a special easter treat hmmm…
You eat first with your eyes and the first thing you notice when you experience Susie’s is that everything pops. The decor is classic 50’s malt shop done in a bright pink with black and white tiled floors. There is plenty of room for kids to come in and they have put a lot of thought into making it family friendly. The cupcakes are adorable and there is a sense of style that pervades both the decor and the desserts. As with anything boutique you are paying for the product and the experience; the visuals are a big part of the experience. They do it beautifully.
Now for the taste. I am a flavor junky and that is the most important element of any food, especially dessert. If I am going to spend the calories on a dessert then I want it is be worthwhile. Susie’s does not disappoint. The first thing I noticed as I toured the kitchen was a case of pure vanilla extract, the same extract I use at home. Then it was explained to me that they use real flavors in their product. Fruit and fruit purees for their fruit flavored treats, real butter for their butter cream frosting, and this makes a noticeable difference in flavor. The cupcakes are baked fresh every day, anything that is day old is marked as such and is discounted. Factory food cupcakes these are not loaded down with preservatives and chemical flavours that not even mold and bacteria want any part of, and last time I checked they are not picky eaters. Susie’s cupcakes are made to be baked and enjoyed on the same day. The butter cream icing is rich and sweet and full of flavor. I like a little less frosting but it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out how to scrap a little off and if you are a frosting fiend like some people I know your desires will be sated. The little shortbreads are also amazing, the cheesecake bites are heaven and the cupcake truffles are a real treat. One thing you may notice is that they will run out of items, again as I said with Boneheads BBQ if it is good it should be gone, and this stuff is good. Therefore go early .
For my vegan friends and those who require gluten free baked goods Susie’s has your back. They have put a lot of time and effort into developing a delicious product for you. My favorite vegan tweetermate Kristine Elliott @FeistyForks is a big fan and had this to say about Susie’s vegan products. “Because baking is such a science, it’s not as easy to simply ‘veganize’ a recipe like you would a casserole, for example. It takes a lot of playing around and testing. And they TOTALLY rock it!” This is just another example of the level of pride and commitment to
their customers that Susie’s shows. As an aside you really should check out Kristine’s blog, she has a gift for flavour and healthy cooking and is not preachy about veganism. She is the only vegan who has ever complimented my on the flavour profile of my meat dishes.
I have become a big fan of Susie’s, you will pay more for their product than you will for a factory cupcake, but you will be getting a great experience, a product made with real food and the kind of creativity you would expect from a boutique bakery. I would encourage you to pay them a visit for a treat, or special occasion (yes they do weddings and parties too) and see what the can whip up for you. And if you are in the creative mood you can even create your own flavor creation on the spot at their create your own cupcake bar!! Yeah the inner chef in my loved that.
I love to see small business prosper, and was thrilled when Susie’s opened their second location a couple weeks ago in Bayer’s Lake. It goes to show that when you put out an exceptional product and exhibit passion and creativity people will support your work.
Sometimes you just need a quick bite to eat and you dont want to make a fuss. These are the times when we can slip into eating high salt, high fat poor quality processed foods. My secret in combating this is to not have it in my house. Does that mean I am stuck taking a lot of time and effort to make a quick meal? Of course not. People have been making quick delicious meals at home long before Kraft or Campbell’s came into being and they will be doing so long after our addiction to this stuff has passed.
I wanted a quick lunch yesterday and I looked to my refrigerator. I make it a habit to have some boiled potatoes around when ever possible. I had thawed a half a pound of grass fed ground beef and decided a burger would be nice. When you have amazing beef all you need is a little salt and pepper in the burger to bring out the natural flavors. I added about 1/4 tsp of salt and a few turns of pepper.
I had some rolls I made the day before and so I made the patty in the shape of those rolls and heated up a fry pan. I took one of the potatoes I had in the fridge and cut it into steak fry pieces, added a little oil to another pan on medium high heat and added in some spices (garam masala, chili powder and garlic). You can use what ever you have on hand that tastes good. I put the potatoes into the hot oil, and the patty into the hot no stick pan. I flipped them when required and focused on the rest of my meal.
While those were cooking I toasted off a bun and then pulled out a jar of Sesame Ginger Sauce for littlered kitsch’n. Now if your are a regular at the Halifax Market you have probably met Jenna, the owner of this wonderful little business. She make ready to eat meals, amazing desserts and sauces for your convenience. If you need a quick meal I would defiantly talk to Jenna. She uses local ingredients and her food is honest and delicious. I keep a jar of her sauce around for times like this when I don’t want to make my own. It is really very good. I also had some pickled sweet carrots from Shani’s Farm on hand to round out my lunch.
Finally I decided some cheese was required and had a little Fox Hill Cheese Fenugreek cheese on hand. I melted under the broiler and my lunch was finished. It was all local, very flavorful and was ready in ten minutes. One you get used to it you wont want to trade this for a bowl of instant microwave food or a burger from a fast food joint. There is really no going back.
As Always Thanks to my Local Providers :
Sesame Ginger Sauce : littlered kitsch’n
Ground Beef: Getaway Farm
Pickled Carrots: Shani’s Farm
Potatoes: Noggins Corner Farm Market
I was wandering through the Halifax Market the other day and saw the coolest thing I have seen in a long time. I reached out, grabbed it, paid for it and then looked in my hand and said, what am I going to cook with an emu egg. Yep thats what it is like to be me.
I did some reading and found out that the flavor is a lot like chicken egg, maybe a little less flavorful. The whites don’t set as fast and from a health standpoint they are free range and very nutritious. One emu egg is equivalent to about 10 to 12 chicken eggs so what ever I made had to be a larger dish.
Taking all of this information I decided I wanted to make a really flavorful fritatta. Mexican flavors. That called for some homemade chorizo sausage, fresh cheese curd and savory cilantro. Here is how it all came together:
1 Emu Eggs (10 to 12 chicken eggs)
1 Onion chopped
3/4 of a pound of Homemade Chorizo
1/2 cup Fresh Cheese Curds
1/2 handful fresh Cilantro – chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper – fresh ground
1/2 tsp paprika
2 medium potatoes boiled (until just fork tender) and chopped (1 cm dice)
2 tbs grape seed oil
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
Heat an oven proof pan over medium high heat, add in 1 tsp of grapeseed oil when the
oil is hot add in the chorizo sausage and cook until it starts to brown, remove and drain on a paper towel. Add in the potatoes and a pinch of salt and a couple turns of pepper into the pan (in the oil left by the chorizo) and fry them off until they start to brown and get crispy, then add back in the chorizo, and then onions, if need add another tsp of oil. Cook unit the onions start to soften and get some color. While this is cooking:
Crack your emu egg (or chicken eggs) into a large bowl and whisk until frothy, Add in the chopped cilantro, 1/4 tsp of salt. 1/2 tsp pepper and 1/2 tsp of paprika. Whisk until combined. Add this directly into the pan with the potatoes, chorizo and onions. Remove from the heat and top with the fresh cheese curds.
Place in the oven and cook for about 10 minutes. At this point the eggs should have set, if not check it every couple minutes. It should be firm to the touch but a little runny on top. When it reaches this stage, turn on the broiler for about 3 minutes until the top firms up and starts to get a little golden color. You want to watch the progress of the dish and not depend on time. Eggs should not be over cooked, you don’t want rubbery, hard brown eggs, and that can happen very quickly. This dish builds flavours in each component and to provide an overall flavorful dish. Each component is seasoned and this is very important in a fritatta or you can end up with some parts that are very flavorful and other parts that are bland. I enjoyed this and hope you do as well.
Thanks to my local suppliers for making this breakfast possible:
Emu Egg : The Dutchman Cheese
Fresh Cheese Curd: Fox Hill Cheese House
Onions/Potatoes : Noggins Corner Farm Market
Cilantro: Riverview Herbs
One of my twitter buddies, @windsweptcoast, was commenting on the fact that she preferred white fish to salmon but wished she liked salmon more. Salmon is so nutritious and looks so beautiful and for years I tried to eat it and was often disappointed. I found it to be very strong, fishy tasting and not at all enjoyable. However I kept trying it and every now and again had salmon I loved. I could never figure out why the inconsistency until I was talking to Peter at the Fish Shop at Pier 20.
First of all salmon is an oily fish, that is one of the reasons it is so good for you. These are very healthy oils but the down side is that these oils will oxidize (go rancid) fairly quickly. Peter also explained that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, who is concerned with food safety, will give fresh salmon a two week shelf life, the same as other kinds of fish. Now I am not saying they are wrong, or that the fish is not safe. What I am saying if that the quality of 2 week old salmon, compared to 2 day old salmon will be much lower and will not taste as good.
The other thing that you have to realize when preparing salmon is that an oily fish will have an oily taste. This needs to be balanced off with something acidic. We see it all the time rich fatty foods balances by something sour or spicy. Think hot wings and blue cheese dressing, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, rich pork with a sour apple chutney. This balance of flavor is particularly important when cooking salmon.
The other thing to watch when cooking fish is please don’t over cook it. It seems like the cooking times are short, I cooked a side of salmon in 10 minutes. This does not cook the salmon all the way through, but it will finish while resting. If you cook any meat to the doneness you want, then let it rest it will be overcooked. Because cooking times for fish are so short the damage is even more significant if you leave it in the oven too long.
So my best advice for Salmon, get it fresh, trust someone like Peter who actually told me the day my fish came out of the water, balance it with acid (lemon, vinaigrette, etc), and don’t over cook it. If you do this you will have a much better salmon experience.
1 Side of Salmon : skin on, scaled and pin bones removed
A couple pinches of sea salt
Juice of half a lemon
Marinade / Sauce
2 Tbsp, Whole Grain Mustard
3 Tbsp, Soy Sauce
6 Tbsp, Very good EV Olive Oil
1 tsp Rice Wine Vinegar
1 Clove Garlic
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 Tbsp Hoisin Sauce
1/2 cup sesame seeds
Squeeze the juice of the lemon of the the salmon (skin side down) and then sprinkle with salt. Allow to sit for 5 min while you make the sauce.
Place the sauce ingredients into a food processor and blend until the garlic is broken up. If you do not have a food processor fine chop the garlic and whisk together all the ingredients.
Spread half the sauce on the salmon (skin side down) and allow to sit for another 10 minutes. While it is sitting toast the sesame seeds in a hot pan until light golden brown. Place these on top of the salmon to make a crust and put into the oven baking for 10 minutes.
I served this with a simple roasted red potato and a cold spaghetti squash salad topped with pea shoots. I will be doing a feature on potatoes and spaghetti squash later which will have those recipes and others.
Thanks to @thefishshop (Peter at the Fish Shop at Pier 20) for not only the amazing salmon but a lot of helpful information. If you want to learn more about fish and how to serve it you should talk to him. He is the owner, he selects the fish himself and he is a trained chef who has work at some really well known place in Halifax. Buying the freshest fish and getting solid advice will really enhance your seafood experience.
What is at the market? There can’t be that much at the market this time of year. When is the market open, Saturdays and Sundays in the morning right? These are the comments I get from people when I share my experiences at the market with my friends. These are people who should know about the market. They love food, cook from scratch and would enjoy the bounty the market has to offer. I think it is time to spread the word. I have been going to the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market for a few months now and I am amazed at the selection, quality and price of the product I find there. The vendors have a passion for their product and they usually have a great story to tell about why they do what they do. The producers put a little of themselves in their product and thats what makes the Market far and away better than Superstore or Sobey’s.
What is in the produce section in the winter? Well there is a good selection of local winter vegetables. Winter storage vegetables are a key to eating locally. Potatoes, carrots, beets, cabbage, sweet potatoes, squash, apples and pears are all part of the selection you will find at the market. In addition to that there are the most amazing fresh herbs and greenhouse cucumbers, all locally grown. At three bags of herbs for 5 dollars you are saving money and the herbs will still be good after a couple days which is not the case at the factory food store. There is also a great variety of fresh pressed apple cider and dried blueberries, pears, cranberries, and apples. I have made some great food using the produce from the market this winter and I know I am getting more nutrition than I would if I was eating produced that was picked unripe.
As the seasons progress you will always have a great selection of what is fresh and local. No you wont find tomatoes in January but honestly what we call tomatoes in January are neither as flavorful or nutritious and the vine ripened. I am so excited spring is coming and that we will soon be marching through all of my seasonal favorites, it is going to be amazing. By shopping at the market I know that my produce was ripened properly and has not been gassed to ripen. I has not been sitting in a container and moved in and out of cold storage. It has been handled with great care by those who have grown it.
The meat and fish at the market are the best meat I have had in years. Locally grown grass fed beef, beautiful naturally produced rich flavorful pork, free range chicken, organic lamb and some of the best fresh seafood in the city. It is so great to find seafood that smells fresh and clean and that you can take home and use the next day without your kitchen smelling like a bait shop. Not only can you find all of this at the market but there is more than one vendor for each of the products so you have some friendly competition and great selection. Some people thing that buying meat from the farmers is risky, but they are all government inspected and very safe. After I do my Food Thug Blog on Superstore’s previously frozen ground beef (known as ground chunk to the butchers) you will see that buying from the farmers by far preferred.
Do you enjoy good luncheon meats, smoked meats and sausages? There are some beautiful sausages, cured meats, smoked meats and smoked fish sold by a variety of vendors at the market. Again these are craft products. Talk to the vendors and you will get a sense of the pride and craftsmanship they put into their food. You will find a better selection of processed meats here than you will at your factory food outlet and they will be better because they are hand crafted. Because they are done in small batches with people who care for their clients I feel far more comfortable with their products than say Maple Leaf, the recent kinks of bacteria infested meat.
Dairy and eggs are also available in abundance. Free range eggs are not only more nutritious than factory eggs but they are also better tasting. When they hit the pan these fresh eggs don’t run all over the pan and the yolks are rich and flavorful. Some people are put off if on occasion they see a dark spot on a yolk, don’t be. This is not a fertilized egg, it is just a spot where the yolk had attached to the chicken prior the the shell forming. You will occasionally see these in free range eggs as the chickens are moving around. Also you may see more anchors in the egg, that is an indication of the freshness of your eggs and are either cook down or can be removed. All of your dairy needs can be met by Fox Hill Cheese House and the Dutchman. You can get fresh milk, a wide variety of cheese, yogert, quark (an amazing spreadable cheese produce), spreadable gouda cheese (puts cheese wiz to shame) and gelato. There are other producers that make some great ice cream as well.
In the bakery section you will find fresh baked bread, amazing bagels, sweets of all kinds. There is a gluten free baker, a certified organic baker and so many craft breads that you will be at a loss as to what to try first. None of this bread has been altered so it can pass through pipes in a factory, it is hand crafted and delicious.
There are also vendors selling custom jewelry, work working crafts, craft wine and liquor and art work. There are craft vendors and people selling amazing wool. This is more interesting than a trip to the mall and you are sure to find something of interest to you.
International Day (Friday) is a special treat, you will find vendors selling food from abroad including free trade tea and spices, olive oil, and other treats from around the globe. There are vendors selling european, middle eastern and asian food, the prices are great, and if you are in the area it is worth checking out for your lunch or supper. They are opened 10 to 6. What is at the Market varies from day to day. Friday is international day, Wednesday there are a number of vendors there, and on the weekend the market is open from 7 am to 4 pm and you get the full array of vendors. They also have some permanent vendors that are there most of the week. You can find out the specifics on their website and the more of us that go during the week the more vendors that will come out.
The market also contains one of the best food courts in the city. You can get cornish pasties,chinese food,crepes, hand made french chocolates and very flavourful wraps made with flair. The Fish Shop makes some amazing seafood treats. fish/scallop/clams and chips, lobster rolls and poutine made with Fox Hill’ fresh cheese curd. Steve-a-Rino has some of the best coffee in the city and you can get crafted gelato from Fox Hill. Add this the the baked goods that you can grab you can get a full meal a the Market on any day. On Fridays you add the international fair and there is almost too much great food.
The market is well worth the time and effort to check out. If you are crowd averse avoid weekends before 1 pm but it really lightens up after that. Farmer’s markets are a key to eating local and eating better food, it also helps farmers who would otherwise be crushed by industrial food production to make a good living for their families. You can get to the market’s website by clicking on their link under Real Nova Scotia Providers to the right of this post. This is an introduction to the Market and over the next few months I will be adding features for individual vendors that I use, but don’t wait for that, check out the market as soon as you can, you wont regret it.