One of the reasons I adore summer so much, is the brief but heady availability of small farmers markets that pop up around town. Yes, we have the big one at Currie Barracks, and I love the fact that it’s year round, but just like all variety loving people it’s nice to have options. And there is no shortage of options in the summer months. My absolute favorite place to go happens to be the closest to my house too, but believe me when I say I made the pilgrimage occasionally even when I lived across the entire city. My favorite farmers market is the one at Millarville. It combines a mini road trip with food, an unbeatable combination. Held outdoors off the large racetrack, it’s a great mix of vendors, entertainment, and mini-donuts. And I go nuts for mini-donuts.
The layout is a rough almost – circle, with the crafts all along the far side of the market, with the entertainment area and picnic tables in the middle. I’ll be honest – I never go look at crafts. First off, many are cheesy or just not my style, but most importantly, every dollar I have is usually earmarked for food. Why shop for a permanent work of art when you can buy something to eat? And buy I do. Oh boy do I buy.
Over time I’ve worked out a strategy for shopping at the market. Since I often go alone, I have to work out a plan to carry the six hundred pounds of food I buy, so careful shopping strategy must be implemented in order to be able to reach the car at all. The strategy begins with a coffee and mini-donuts. For fortification of course. The donuts are oh so smartly located on the right, right near the entrance. Piping hot, straight out of the fryer, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar they are my first taste of summer heaven. They are worth getting up early for, and I don’t say that lightly. At the picnic table sipping a coffee, people watching and enjoying the music is about the perfect way to start a weekend.
Many folk also go for the kettle corn. They’re always busy.
Shopping always begins at the very back of the food section. That’s where all the produce is located, and there’s always the temptation to buy way too much. I try to resist, working hard to plan the meals in my head as I shop, lest I end up with way too much produce. It’s very hard though – there are always several greenhouses with jewel like tomatoes, eggplants and peppers. They are warm from the sun, perfectly ripe and smell like the sun warmed fruit that they are. There are always the colonists (Amish? Mennonites? Hutterites? Anyone?) with amazingly inexpensive roots – beets, potatoes, radishes, carrots, onions, garlic, chard and eggs. There are the fruit trucks from BC which can be hit and miss – always try the beautiful looking peaches, apricots and cherries before you buy. I don’t have photos of this section because due to the late season there were hardly any vendors there. I expect many more over the next two weeks.
After the staples of a healthy diet are taken care of, I walk leisurely along the awning covered section full of vendors of generally prepared foods. Here is a vast panorama of choices – everything from fresh baked bread, honey, ostrich soap, salsa and dips, jerky, cheese, teas, wines, olive oils and much much more. Most vendors let you try before you buy, and that’s a good thing because not everything is that great. I typically end up with a dip or two, an ethnic food (varies depending on who’s there – sometimes there’s Mexican, other times amazing Indian), smoked char, and a wine or something else I can’t resist.
Towards the end of the market I have to point out one of my favorite vendors – More than Mangoes. I first went to visit them shortly after they opened, in a small space at some school or something. I fell in love with fresh, real, tropical fruit even though I really do try to eat local most of the time. I just miss the amazing fruitses of Cuba so much. RIGHT NOW as we speak they have amazing, juicy, fragrant organic mangoes and papayas. They are to die for. They’re worth every penny. The owner is quite passionate and knowledgeable about his fruit, and the passion shows in every individually cradled offering.
Then we come to the meat vendors at the very entrance to the market, which is very convenient as they’re the heaviest purchases for me, and the car is usually not far away. I load up on bacon, hot dogs, buffalo salami, and loads and loads of chicken from Bowden. I literally load up on chicken breasts, thighs, eggs, whole chickens and they are so much better than the supermarket as well as being reasonably priced. I usually get some frozen pies from Kaman which I generally prefer to Simple Simon or others. I would not recommend the shepherd’s pie as the meat is waaay too ground and adds odd texture to the already soft pie, but would definitely recommend their chicken and steak and mushroom pies. For an easy weeknight supper they’re great.
Open Saturday mornings 8:30 – noon.
June 13 to Oct 3, 2009
See you there, I’ll be the one with the donuts.