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Some of my favorite things

I wanted to highlight a few of my favorite vendors at the Millarville Market, the great outdoor extravaganza that is 20 minutes from my house.  I wrote about them last summer, and it remains one of my favorite markets to visit, although a new one just opened up close to us too, and it’s wonderful so far. But visiting Millarville allows for a lovely drive into the country in the morning, and it’s great to simply walk around outside in the sunshine, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I shop here so often, that I have a game plan that begins with mini donuts (when the truck is around), and winds its way from the back to the front with ever heavier purchases picked up close to the exit. Which is lovely since I overspend every single time, but since summers are so short it feels like a necessary indulgence.

I always begin with fruit and veggies located at the far right of the market. Local farmers set up their stalls with many greenhouse ‘exotics’ of bell peppers, eggplants, cukes and tomatoes coaxed out of season but tasting great. Our outdoor climate is so dire that June often brings snow, while every u-pick farm has posted that nothing will be ready until early August due to a very late season. So greenhouses are a bit of a necessity for local veggies. The outdoor only farms have rhubarb, spinach and some lettuce going, but that’s about it.


This year a new tent is up: Worms at Work which sells worm castings. I have little experience with them, but they have some trial flower baskets grown with and without worm castings and the difference is dramatic. They can also mix up some compost tea for the enterprising gardener.


Along the way my eye was drawn to beautiful prairie bouquets of dried rye, wheat, grasses and poppy pods. I’d so love to have some for my huge vase, but life with three cats predicts disaster, so I refrained.


A totally odd but neat addition to the market is the folks who developed Beef Bacon. They had samples frying up on the griddle, and people, it was awesome. I could not tell any difference between bacon and beef bacon. Why develop beef bacon when we have perfectly good bacon in the first place? No idea, but I assume that people who don’t eat pork for religious or cultural reasons would be glad to try it out. I grabbed a package because it was truly delicious.



The Canadian Rocky Mountain Ranch has many fantastic products, but I can’t wean myself off their Buffalo Pepper Salami and amazing Elk Hot Dogs. I love hot dogs for what they are – salty, juicy, slightly smoky meat processed beyond recognition, and these taste great, never mind that they’re healthier for you. CRMR is a local success, and they’ve recently opened up a store on 17 Ave, which is wonderful in the winter time.



Ridgeview Farms yielded some great llama pepperoni sticks and jerky. I’ve been taking their jerky to work as a protein rich snack or as a salty side to a bowl of cherries. Yes, I have weird tastes, but I love it.



I’ve been in love with Dietz Meatz’s garlic sausage forever and ever. It was one of the first things I tried at Millarville and it’s been a staple in my freezer since. It’s the only sausage that comes close to the amazing farmers sausage my girlfriend brings in bulk quantities from Saskatoon several times a year. It’s smoky, garlicky, a bit spicy and utterly delicious. And the little guy will probably be a fan for life.



Spragg’s Meat Shop provided awesome free range, home processed bacon, a few ribs to toss on the bbq, and a lovely roast to be had when the weather is cool.  I absolutely love these guys for their total dedication to customers and growing awesome guilt free food.



Bowden Farms chicken has also been a staple in our house for years. When we first googled free range, organic chicken they were the first on the list. This family owned farm is also a local marketing success story with their meat popping up on menu’s with increasing frequency, which is great as their chicken is great. They have some baked goods on their table, and oddly enough make the best double chocolate zucchini loaf I’ve ever had.



Towards the front, just near the exit are some wonderful crafts, as unique as the people who make them.  Like this metalwork – such interesting pieces. His fire grills seemed very popular with the public as well.



And these daisies just made me laugh… given my weeds this year perhaps I should just stick to these:



And I’ve left out quite a bit too, like the lady with the Polish food stand, that makes the best poppy seed rogaliki. They always sell out fast, so get there early to grab them. They are buttery, flaky and addictive. Or the lady with fresh ground Indian spice mixes. No more figuring out what goes into a garam masala, just grab a small baggy and cook. But I guess that’s why visiting the market to discover your own treasures is so much fun. What are your local gems?


Alloy

 

Welcome back dear readers, and I hope you had a fabulous long weekend! I sure did, and although I didn’t do anything especially exciting, I enjoyed every lazy, sunny minute of it.

This is another case where I’m blogging about a dinner quite some time after it happened. Why? Absolutely no reason short of being too lazy to write it up. I went to Alloy with friends and found it quite good, but just shy of fabulous.  Sadly the lighting in the restaurant was pleasantly dim – great for ambience but crappy for photos, so I apologize in advance for the lack of quality here.

Alloy opened up to all sorts of fanfare sometime last year, and got great reviews right out of the gate. After giving them a chance to settle in, two friends and I visited them sometime in the winter.

The décor was quite stylish without being overly cold or pretentious, and they are geniuses with the lighting. Brighter toward the hostess area, dimmer in the restaurant, the golden ambience of indirect light is still memorable.

The service was excellent throughout, which is not surprising since we knew our waitress. Nevertheless she was very knowledgeable and assuredly steered us through the menu.

Here we come to the downer part of the night – the cocktails. Apparently on the night we were there, the regular bartender was not. Whoever was filling in did not have the same expertise with the cocktails, a fact that we found out after we gently questioned the quality of our libations. I’m not sure if Alloy now has redundancies in place to replace the bartender if he can’t make it, but that night our cocktails ranged from bearable to awful. And since we heard amazing things about the drinks we were understandably disappointed. And that lost the restaurant money since we stopped at one. The Moscow Mule cocktail was made with ginger yes, but assuredly too much of it, to the point where the bitter notes in ginger were in the forefront, and the Pinku cocktail tasted like cough syrup. It was truly awful.

 

 

Rather than a typical bread basket, was hummus with naan and olives was brought to the table, and the hummus itself was strangely bland. It sorely needed a hint of lemon juice, a breath of garlic or even some sea salt on top. Perfectly smooth, with good olive oil on top, it was creamy and bland. The olives however, were fantastic.  Firm, slightly spicy, perfectly fresh they were everything mushy bland overly salty olives are not. The naan was very good also, soft and flavorful.

 

 

For our entrees we went with the beef short rib for myself, and I really need to wean myself off this dish, since if it’s on the menu I’ll inevitably order it. The short rib was excellent to the point of ridiculous. Out of our three entrees it was declared the table favorite. Melt-in-your-mouth tender, savoury, rich and wonderful it was a perfect winter evening dish. I also realized why people like polenta for the first time in my life, so kudos for that.

 

 

Another friend had the double cut pork chop. Since I only had one bite, I can declare it very good but not as good as my short rib.

 

 

My other friend went with a fish special, which was a gorgeous plating of halibut. While dramatic, the whole dish was a bit bland, with none of the flavors standing out or really offsetting the fish. That was the table consensus, not just me, so it was likely really on the unstimulating side.

 

 

I personally declined dessert, but my dining partners ordered two, a trio of panna cotta, and a trio of sorbet. Both were delightful, with the edge going to the trio of sorbet. I frequently underestimate sorbet, thinking it will be a lovely palate cleanser but nothing to write home about, but this trio of sorbet was spectacular. Slowly melting over a pile of diced fruit the dish was a perfect mix of refreshing, sweet and unexpected, making it a lovely ending to a great meal.

 

 
 
 

 

 

4.2/5
Alloy
220  42 Ave SE
(403) 287-9255

 

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