Tag Archives: shopping

Vancouver Farmers Market: Heirloom Tomatoes

I love buying tomatoes at the farmers market. Yeah, they sometimes cost more than tomatoes at the supermarket or local grocer, but not too much more. And these heirloom tomatoes are homegrown, with varieties of distinctive taste, texture, and colour that no storebought tomato can match.

~ lovely striped beauties fresh from the Vancouver Farmers Market ~

Homegrown Tomatoes by Guy Clark

Ain’t nothin’ in the world that I like better
than bacon and lettuce and homegrown tomatoes…

Plant ‘em in the Spring, eat’em in the Summer
All Winter without ‘em’s a culinary bummer…

Only two things that money can’t buy
that’s true love and homegrown tomatoes.

Support Free Folk Music @ FolkAlley.com

There are tomatoes for every taste: dense flavourful plum tomatoes that are excellent for sauces, as well as big juicy red, yellow, orange tomatoes that make the perfect slice for a BLT. There are citrusy tomatoes that add zing to your salads, and tiny pop-em-in-your-mouth-like-candy  tomatoes that taste like sunshine.

Look for homegrown/heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market [Vancouver].
Better yet, grow your own: Heirloom Tomato Seeds from Victoria.

For more farmers market goodies, see also:

To Market and Home Again ~ Sunday Morning Market Fare ~ Farmers Market Feast

Leaving a comment? I’m curious… how do you like your tomatoes?

Sunday Morning Market Fare

Another glorious Sunday morning at the Farmers Markets in Vancouver. It was a quick trip this time, and I’d already had breakfast (french toast and bacon), so no Métis Special for me today (that’s a grilled buffalo-sausage on a bun with corn relish and grilled onions with some cinnamon-sugared bannock for dessert). Sigh, I love good food so much.

Farmers Market Haul

A bounty of delicious things from the Farmers Market.

I headed straight for the sourdough loaf (the starter grew up in the Napa Valley, so it’s just like San Francisco sourdough, which is utterly scrumptious). Next stop, heirloom tomatoes and basil. On a whim, I purchased an heirloom melon, which the vendor promised would be delicious (he did not lie). There was a duet playing Celtic music in the center aisle. I wandered the stalls to the sounds of singing accompanied by bodhran or guitar or fiddle or the stamping of feet.  Were I not in a civilized neighbourhood, I might have busted out in a jig. Had I been with my sisters, it likely would have happened anyway.

At one stall, I discovered some pretty crabapples in a box marked “samples,” so I snagged myself one and bit into it. I remember the hard green cherry-sized fruits that hung so temptingly close from our crabapple tree by the forbidden creek. It was planted in a low section of our yard that sometimes flooded during thunderstorms. As a result, the grass was moist and lush and a vibrant deep green. Crawdad holes poked up through the ground here and there, like tiny chimeys made of dabbled mud. If I was barefoot, they’d squish suddenly under my toes and make me shudder. It was important to watch where you were going in my yard. I always picked the fruit too soon, though, and became a sourpuss.

This crabapple was different. It was big, almost golf-ball sized, with skin partly green and partly rosy. The flesh was crisp and tart, but not sour. Altogether not a bad experience. Now that I think of it, I could have roasted them with the pork tenderloin in my freezer. Ah, well. Next time maybe. I decided to add some potatoes, bell peppers, and carrots to my bag. I tried some local canned tuna, which was really quite delicious, but at $5 a can, I just couldn’t do it. I’m completely in favour of supporting local growers and meat vendors, but sometimes it’s just too pricey for my wallet. Green onions for $2.50 when I can pay 89¢ at the produce store up the street? No thanks. And the lovely eggs from those happy chickens? About $3 more than “inhumane” eggs. I hope someday the extra few bucks won’t matter to me.

Altogether, it was a good haul, and Ginger Man and I had a light vegetarian lunch of  walnut-basil pesto, sliced tomato, and cheese on sourdough toast with scoops of sweet melon. So fresh! Such a delight to eat. Plus, I finally got a chance to use my melon baller. 8)

Vancouver Farmers Markets: Fresh, Local, and Fabulous!

Vancouver lies in the bountiful cradle of the Fraser Valley, and the  farms and orchards of the Okanagen are not too far away. Being a port city, exotic produce and goods are readily available to consumers, and many items are available year round. Seasonal local products and produce are wonderful, however, and Farmer’s Market season is in full swing in most Vancouver communities come summertime.

I usually buy produce from local independent shops, and occasionally I’ll venture out to Granville Island Market for some “trendy” grocery shopping and a grand day out, but I what I love best is milling about with the locals at a seasonal Farmer’s Market. Seeing an array of folding tables laden with an incredible selection of fresh fruit and veg or homemade goodies or handmade crafts make me feel at home no matter what city it’s in.

I love the smell of sweet fruit in the warm sun, and the taste of free samples. An infinite palette of ripe natural colours  greets me, and I don’t mind the noise and bustle of a crowd of interesting strangers. I daydream my way through homemade bread, cakes, pies, perogis, pastas, samosas, spreads, dips, sauces, and whatever else the cornucopia of tasty treats may offer. I usually come back with a bag (or two) of fresh, fragrant, and delicious things.

strawberries

An array of ripe strawberries.

bakedgoods

Scrumptious home-baked goodies.

mushrooms

Gorgeous fresh mushrooms.

Today, I purchased a dozen brown speckled eggs laid by happy free-range chickens living in the Fraser Valley, and some ground beef and sirloin steaks taken from grass-fed Angus cattle raised on a Cariboo-Chilcotin ranch. I also picked up some red and yellow peppers, fresh strawberries, and a bag of various greens (including pea shoots and dandelion greens). Baked goods were plentiful, and a small rhubarb crisp came home with us, but we ate an apple-compote crepe and a ham & cheese scone on the spot.

Speaking of spot, there were quite a lot of dogs in the crowd or waiting patiently along the perimeter. I enjoy a dog-friendly neighbourhood, especially when people respectfully leash their animals and the pups have good manners. It’s always a treat for me to meet someone else’s dog, since I cannot have one of my own right now.

frenchbulldog

Little French Bulldog

My Favourite Finds:

Maple Syrup Taffy

Maple Syrup Taffy immediately makes me think of Laura Ingalls-Wilder making snow candy in Little House in the Big Woods. In the winter, her mother would pour swirls of hot maple syrup into a pile of fresh snow and make sweet little candies. Oh how I wanted to do that, begging Mommie Dearest to let me every time there was a good snowfall, but to no avail. Maple Syrup Taffy works on a similar principle. Among French Canadians, it’s called tire sur la neige meaning “to draw in the snow.”

After a brief hand-wash with sanitizing gel, I selected a wooden stick and the Syrup Guy poured a line of hot syrup on top of a barrel full of crushed ice “snow.” I counted to three and pressed the stick into the syrup at the end of the line, then slowly began to collect the sweet sticky candy, rolling it up on my stick. I let my Maple Taffy lolly sit for a moment to firm up, but I could hardly wait to taste it.

Maple Taffy Lolly cooling on snow

Maple Taffy Lolly cooling on snow

It was sticky like caramel, but light and not too sugary. The mapley flavour was clean and bright, like a moment of unspoiled childhood happiness.  I also bought a maple sugar cone for Ginger Man. They are like little tiny ice cream cones, filled with a bit of taffy in the bottom and a more crystalized maple sugar candy on top. Apparently, it’s quite a popular treat among the Quebequois. The sugar buzz kept us going all morning. It was a delightful experience.

Italian Black Truffle Sea Salt

At the Maison Coté booth, there were bags upon bags of spice mixes, peppercorns, and seasoned salts, as well as a shelf of oils, vinegars, and little balsamic spritzers. I picked up some Citrus sea salt (with lemon, orange, and grapefruit peel), a bag of Kitsilano peppercorn blend, and a White Truffle Balsamic spritzer to mist on my greens (I’m told it’s also nice on chicken and fish). I wish I had brought an extra $20 bucks at the time, because I would have immediately thrown it down to have a bag of the Italian black truffle salt. The vendor was kind enough to give me a whiff, and it really knocked my socks off. That earthy, pungent, luscious truffley aroma was truly amazing. Happily, his shop is in the city, so I’m looking forward to visiting and bringing home some of that orgasmic salt blend soon.

Farmers Market Shopping Tips

In the Vancouver area, most farmers markets open between April and July and continue through October or September. The majority run Saturdays or Sundays, but there are several venues with markets on a Wednesday or Thursday.

  • Arrive early to be sure you get what you want, or visit near closing time to get last-minute deals from some vendors
  • Bring CASH to make things simple, or purchase some “Market Money” using your bank card. Use it like cash at any vendor.
  • Some vendors rotate between different venues during the season, but many of them take orders from their websites.
  • BYOB: Bring Your Own Bags! Most markets sell tote bags and packs of veggie bags if you need them.
  • Bike, bus, or walk if you can. Parking in some neighbourhoods can be tricky to find, and drive cautiously around pedestrians. Besides, it’s no bad thing to be a little “green” and leave the gasmobile at home.
  • Keep an eye out for “delivery services” at the market entrance. You can load up with goodies and someone will bike or drive it to your home.
  • Don’t forget, Farmer’s Markets aren’t just for veggies! You can also get fresh eggs, frozen meats and fish, pickles, preserves, oils, spices, honey, handmade soaps, fresh flowers, potted plants, hats, jewelry, pottery, just about anything!

Links

Video of Maple Syup Taffy

Empire Valley Beef

Maison Coté

VFM Seasonal Produce Guide

BC Association of Farmers’ Markets

Shelf Love: The White House Cookbook

Some time ago, on one of my forays through Vancouver’s used book stores, I happened upon a stack of noticeably old cookbooks, so old it was difficult to make out the words on the binding. The big white book at the very bottom of the pile was calling to me. The shopkeep kindly climbed her stepladder to retrieve it and a few others from her top shelf, and I sat down to have a look see.

WHCB CoverOld cookbooks are some of the very best reference books. Methods and ingredients are typically simple, basic, and locally sourced without a lot of fussiness. These recipes are just the thing I want when I’m feeling creative or when I’m trying a new technique. Pioneers, settlers, and pre-industrial cooks did most things from scratch, and recipes had to be reliable. It must have been such a gas to work on a cookbook back when there weren’t a lot of them around, back when books were precious and kept and handed down.

When I finally got that book in my hands and realized what it was, I was struck by an urgency to possess it for my collection. The cover is worn so that only a mild impression of the cover art remains, and the binding is a little shaky, but has so far lasted beyond a century. The pages have a feel unlike modern books and are fragile due to their age. Some pages have stains and marks, and sadly one or two pages are gone (easily replaced by a photocopy, though). The binding reads “WhiteHouse Cook Book , New And Enlarged Edition, Illustrated” hinting that this is not the first printing. However, there is no publication data, no copyright page. Perhaps it fell out. I have 590 numbered pages, expecting that a couple are missing from the index at the back, since it ends at Macaroni, timbale of. I confess that despite its condition, holding in my hands a piece of history makes me giddy.

The book is dedicated “To the wives of our presidents, those noble women who have graced the White House, and whose names and memories are dear to all Americans.” Illustrations, though few, are a delight. In addition to a couple of photos of food preparation, there are plates illustrating meat carving and butchering, as well as the famous rooms (and women) of the White House.

WHCBwives

Chapters cover a wide range of subjects essential for running one’s home at the turn of the century. In addition to a section devoted entirely to 10 types of “Catsups” (that’s ketchup to some folks) as well as a “Confectionery” chapter for all your pre-industrial candy-making needs, there is a wealth of information about cooking for the sick, dying your own fabrics, making household cleaning products and toiletries, and a whole 5 pages describing 20 ways to make toast (including a recipe that looks very similar to French Toast, but is patriotically titled “American Toast”).

The chapter entitled “Health Suggestions” offers a remedy or preventative for everything from earaches and chillbains to lockjaw and cholera, including a helpful chart showing “Time of Digestion” for a variety of foods. In “Miscellaneous Recipes,” you can learn to make your own glue, wallpaper paste, and soap. Plus, there are instructions for making “Incombustible Dresses” with the warning “Remember this and save the lives of your children.” Also, among the “Facts Worth Knowing” are tips for keeping ants out of your sugar, destroying cockroaches, and banishing rats, as well as how to clean and care for darn near everything a household could need.

The Publisher’s Preface clearly states that this book “more fully represents the progress and present perfection of the culinary art than any previous work.” Contributor Mr. Hugo Ziemann comes with an exciting work history, having once catered for Prince Napoleon (who was killed during a war with the Zulus of Africa), not to mention his hotel experience in Paris, New York, and Chicago. Mrs. Fanny Lemira Gillette’s credentials aren’t so exotic, though it is written she was “no less proficient and capable, having made a lifelong and thorough study of cookery and housekeeping.” (iii) If the name Gillette sounds familiar, that is no mistake. Her son King invented the safety razor and helped introduce Americans to the “disposable” lifestyle before losing his fortune in the stock market crash of 1929.*

A single post really isn’t enough to do this cookbook justice, so I’ll save some commentary and share some interesting tidbits in future posts. If you’re interested, you can look through the entire book online via Google Books.

* NNDB: King Camp Gillette

Candy is dandy, but crickets are bugs.

Today, I did a brave and stupid thing. I stopped in our friendly neighbourhood candy store (which was sadly all out of TimTams) and decided to have a bit of a spree for the sake of a good blog. This place carries all kinds of interesting sweets from over the border and across the pond, and their selection varies slightly from time to time. You never know what you’ll come across.

I made a beeline for the American imports right away and picked up the following:

  • assortedcandyPopeye “Tasty Candy Sticks
  • Jelly Belly Sours
  • Hoffman’s CupoGold
  • London Mint chocolates
  • Zero Bars (Dark and Milk)
  • Pop Rocks Wild Berry
  • Green & Black’s Dark Chocolate 70%
  • Kinder Surprise Chocolate Egg
  • Walkers Crispy Duck & Hoisin crisps
  • Scorpion Sucker Banana Flavor
  • Crick-ettes Bacon & Cheese

Crick-ettesWhen I decided to purchase the box of Crick-ettes, it was all I could do to hold them in my hand. At one point I forgot what I was carrying, and when I looked down and saw their dead buggy faces staring back at me from behind the cellophane, I nearly threw them down and ran screaming out the door. But, I didn’t want to make a scene in the candy shop, so I composed myself. “Stay strong . . . they’re just for pictures. You don’t have to eat them.” Or so I told myself at the moment.

cricketsReally, what kind of foodie would I be if I didn’t at least have a wee nibble? Just to educate my taste buds . . . clearly I had  lost my mind. Ginger Man pretty much agreed, but I got him to try a hind leg with me. Perhaps if I had just popped one in whole and crunched it up like a brave girl, the experience might have been more informative, but no, it wasn’t worth it to me. I had a cricket in my hand and a steak in my freezer; the choice was clear. Still, a taste test was in order.

There was sufficient fake bacony cheese dust to impart a flavour of some kind, but the texture completely turned me off. It was like I had just bitten into food and my tongue found an inedible particle, a thing that didn’t belong, and was trying in vain to evict it from my palate. Ptooey sums it up best. I must say, however, the crows were very pleased with the Crick-ettes.

scorpsuckaI was quite happy to move on to the badass banana scorpion sucker. There was a whole lotta sugar between me and that critter, so I was game for a lick or two. Examining the little scorpion, delicately preserved in the center of a golden confectionary window made me feel like a paleontologist. At the same time, whatever morbid human curiosity the goodie satisfied, I couldn’t help thinking how many of those little animals had gotten their stingers ripped off and died in a suffocating yellow goo so that geeks like me could throw down some money for a laugh. Curiosity satisfied, that’s the last one I’ll ever buy.

chipsThe duck and hoisin chips weren’t half bad. The taste reminded me of brown gravy. The Walkers Crisps company in the UK recently held a contest with 6 new flavours including Crispy Duck & Hoisin, Fish & Chips, Chili & Chocolate, Onion Bhaji, Builder’s Breakfast, and the one I really wish I could have tried: Cajun Squirrel. I don’t usually like weird flavours on chips, but Canadian dill pickle flavoured chips are rather addictive. Salty, vinegary, herby. Ketchup chips aren’t as interesting, but they are kinda tasty. What I really miss are authentic Moore’s Cheesies, which are no longer produced. There is no substitute. I’ve searched everywhere and have yet to find any cheesy poof that comes close. I’m sure they were made out of crap and plastic, but darnit they were yummy! I occasionally miss those phantom childhood tastes. Those things that I haven’t had in forever and I remember them being incredibly delicious beyond imagination, like HoHos and Moon Pies and those six packs of sugary doughunts and YooHoo! Then when I actually get one, it’s inevitably disappointing.  Sometimes the nostalgia factor is enough to make it alright, even if it’s stale and plasticky tasting and nothing like what I remember.

kinder apeI handed over all the jelly belly sours—Ginger Man’s reward for trying the cricket, and because I love him. He wants me to eat the orange ones, but I like the red ones, and I’m cute, so I get my way. He got the pop rocks, but we split the Kinder egg (he gets the chocolatey outside; I get the toy inside). This time it was a real cutie: a fuzzy green ape! So much better than a dumb robot with weird chicken arms.

popeyecigsThe dreamy London Mints are for after dinner for the next couple days, and the “candy sticks” are for whenever I feel like putting my feet up and having a fake smoke, cuz we all know those are candy cigarettes. In order not to start smoking rebelliously the last time I was home for a visit, me and my sisters stopped at every convenience store in the county looking for candy cigs. I went through about a pack of Round Ups a day.

The CupOGold, that’s for a special afternoon with a big ol’ cuppa coffee. Marshmallow and chocolate. Save the best for last.