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Archive for category Farmers’ Markets

The Ultimate Goal

KaiA few weeks back, we were at the farmers’ market with our friends, Gareth and Karina, and their son Kai. As we perused the stalls, Gareth came up to Karina and said, “I hope you don’t mind, but I got Kai a treat.” He then held up a bag of cherry tomatoes. I was so impressed. That’s exactly where I want to be with Zayden in the not-too-distant future. If I can raise a child who finds fresh vegetables as appealing or more appealing than French fries or candy bars, then I can call myself a success when it comes to laying the groundwork for lifelong healthy eating. So far Zayden’s favourite foods are shrimp, berries and bananas, so I think we’re well on our way to meeting that goal.

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Strawberry Season

StrawberriesOne of the things easing my transition at the end of rhubarb season is the beginning of berry season, which is being ushered in by a rather delicious crop of strawberries and raspberries. Strawberries are my all-time favourite fruit, and are a great addition to many recipes, but their real beauty lies in their ability to stand on their own. One of my favourite summer desserts is a simple bowl of fresh, sliced strawberries. They are also a great addition to breakfast cereal or fruit salad. In fact, Zayden’s first taste of strawberries was in his fruit salad this morning (a mix of finely diced strawberries, banana, nectarine and kiwi). He must take after his mother because he loved them.

If you can’t be bothered to get up early on a weekend and head to the farmers’ market, make an exception for fresh local strawberries next weekend. You won’t regret it. And get there early. The berries are always the first to go.

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Chicken Bratwurst, Pancakes and Rhubarb Compote

Farmers' Market BreakfastTHE VERDICT:

Okay, so we cheated a little on this one. Other than the compote, none of this breakfast was made from scratch. But it was made from some of the goodies we picked up at the farmers’ market on Saturday morning and the results made for a wonderful breakfast on Sunday morning. It was also a great opportunity to use our Griddler: we opened it up flat and made one half a griddle for cooking the pancakes and the other half a grill for cooking the brats.

We decided the chicken brats would be an excellent alternative to sausage or bacon, and we were certainly right on that score. They are made by BeerBrats, one of Justin’s favourite stops at the Trout Lake market and a company that specializes in making bratwurst with, you guessed it, beer. With regional microbrews, to be exact. Our Driftwood Farmhand Chicken Provencal bratwurst is just one of four flavours they sell for you to take home and cook yourself, but they also sell bratwurst dogs and breakfast wraps on site. In fact, our Saturday morning breakfast consisted of two incredibly mouthwatering wraps made with their Red Devil Chorizo sausage. All in all, it was a good weekend made all the better by tasty BeerBrats.

We got the mix for our pancakes from The Flour Peddler. This was their first weekend at the market, and we were excited to sample their wares because we had heard so much about them from other farmers’ market fiends. Their booth is hard to miss thanks to the guy grinding grain with the help of a stationary bicycle. We suggested they hook up a few kids’ bikes to some grain mills and offer a child minding service to their customers; we’ll see if they put our idea to good use next week. The Peddlers are extremely friendly, happy to joke around with customers as well as talk seriously about their product. We took our pancake mix home knowing exactly how to store it and what went into it. We chose the Red Fife Heritage Wheat Whole Grain Pancake and Waffle Mix and found it to be much heartier than traditional pancakes; we were still full hours later. 1 cup of the mix makes enough pancakes for 2 people, so we will probably get 3-4 breakfasts out of the bag we bought.

The pancakes went very well with the Rhubarb Compote that we decided to use instead of syrup. And the leftover compote also went very well with the Vanilla-Coconut Rice Pudding that we made for dessert that night.


Rhubarb Compote (source: previously reviewed on Tonight’s Dinner; you can find a link to the recipe here)

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Rhubarb Season Coming to a Close

RhubarbAt the farmers’ market this morning, it quickly became apparent that my days of rhubarb splendour may be drawing to a close. Fewer stalls had rhubarb on offer and most of the ones that did were displaying some pretty unappealing stalks. Luckily, we found a good batch at one of the booths and I stuffed my produce bag as full as I possibly could. I plan to freeze what I don’t use this week for use over the summer. The vendor said he hoped to be back next week with more, so hopefully I still have a chance to stock up.

If you want to get in on the the glories of the rhubarb season before it’s too late, here are some of the many rhubarb creations we’ve made this spring: http://justinliew.com/tonightsdinner/?tag=rhubarb

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Preparing for the Week

Farmers' MarketA few friends have asked us to share a weekly shopping list or menu so that they can see how we put together our meals for the week. So by “popular demand,” I will journal about the process as we go through each stage. We will post our menu tomorrow and for the first time in Tonight’s Dinner history, we will try to photograph and post every single meal that we make this week, so you can follow along with us if you would like.

This summer our week of cooking starts with a trip to one of our local farmers’ markets. Today we braved the rain and visited Trout Lake. As we perused the stalls, we picked up a variety of ingredients. We bought some with recipes in mind and others to inspire the rest of the week’s menu.

Here is what we picked up:

1. Blue cheese (to prepare a blue cheese crusted steak recipe from our newest cookbook)

2. Chicken breasts

3. New York strip steak (for the previously mentioned steak recipe)

4. Stir fry beef (to prepare Black Skillet Beef with Potatoes and Green Beans)

5. Cheese curds (for a Sunday morning hash)

6. Sliced ham (also for the hash)

7. Beets and beet greens (for a salad and possibly a pasta dish or side dish)

8. Baby cucumbers (for our Cherry Tomato and Baby Cucumber salad, which we plan to serve to friends for dinner tomorrow night)

9. Mesclun mix (for a salad at some point in the week)

10. Spinach (for the Sunday morning hash)

11. Strawberries (for a strawberry rhubarb pie)

12 Rhubarb (for the aforementioned pie)

13. White new potatoes (for Sunday morning hash)

14. Red new potatoes (for the Black Skillet Beef recipe)

15. Orange peppers (for Ratatouille)

16. Eggplant (for Ratatouille)

17. Crimini mushrooms (for Ratatouille)

18. Heirloom cherry tomatoes (for the previously mentioned tomato and cucumber salad)

19. Heirloom tomatoes (for Ratatouille)

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Trout Lake Farmers’ Market

We have intended to check out the Trout Lake Farmers’ Market for years and finally got around to it this past weekend. Distance was always our excuse, but now that we’ve been there, I would say it is definitely worthwhile to make the trek from North Van to East Van. In fact, you’ll probably find us there next Saturday morning exploring the stalls again.

What makes Trout Lake so amazing? First of all, it’s location is great. Trout Lake Park is beautiful, and we enjoyed sitting on the grass in the sun with our friends eating beer brats and crepes while the kids blew bubbles after a busy morning of shopping. It also gives most people the option of coming by transit or bike if they don’t have to squeeze their trip into the short space of time between their infant’s naps like we do.Rhubarb

A trip to Trout Lake’s market is also convenient in another way: they offer the chance to buy goods with your credit or debit card. You simply visit the market info booth, swipe your card and receive tokens equivalent to the amount of cash you want to spend. The vendors give change in cash, so it’s very user-friendly and perfect if you happen to forget to stop at a bank on your way there. As far as I know, the Trout Lake market is the only one to offer this service though the Vancouver Farmers’ Market Society does run other markets in the surrounding area and may offer a similar service at those markets.

RadishesThe selection is also incredible. While most farmers’ markets have a good array of fresh fruits and vegetables and will typically have a few stalls selling plants for the garden, few offer the same assortment of baked goods, meat, cheese and preserved foods that Trout Lake does. If you were strong enough to carry it all, you could likely get your week’s worth of grocery shopping finished. There are craft vendors as well, selling everything from wind chimes to soap, but they don’t seem to dominate the way they do at other markets, making Trout Lake feel like a true farmers’ market rather than a craft fair.Mushrooms

Our visit to the Trout Lake market was definitely a wonderful way to start the long weekend, and we will certainly be spending many more Saturday mornings there this summer. With such great vendors, it can only get better as more local produce becomes available during the warmer weather.

Kai & the pepper

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Salt Spring Island Farmers’ Market

Farmer's Market

Last weekend we took the ferry to Salt Spring Island with a group of friends to celebrate an old friend’s 30th birthday. It was a great weekend and one of the highlights was visiting the Salt Spring Island Farmers’ Market. We have heard about this market many times from friends who have visited the island and now that we’ve seen it for ourselves, we can see why it has such a great reputation. As farmers’ markets go, it was very balanced. There was an equal number of craft stalls and food stalls and the vast majority were of good quality.


From a gastronomic perspective, we were tempted at every turn. We sampled the famous Salt Spring Island goat cheese, indulged in a few exceptional artisan chocolates and devoured some truly unique cookies. We were also impressed with the selection of produce for so early in the season. There were fruits and veggies that could be found easily at other markets, like rhubarb and kale, and some rarer finds such as pea shoots. It is a shame that we don’t have access to this market on a regular basis. I can only imagine the variety of fresh food that would be available throughout the summer and the incredible culinary creations it would inspire.

Wooden Train

Usually the crafty side of a farmers’ market fails to impress me. I can only buy so much pottery and I am rarely inclined to purchase woolens in the middle of the summer. But the crafts and art pieces available at Salt Spring’s market are definitely of a higher calibre than most. From unusual, handcrafted masks to stunning silver jewelry, the quality and creativity of the offerings was generally quite impressive. Our favourite stall featured handmade wooden toys: cars, ferries, trains, fishing poles, etc. They are all made from discarded construction scraps and finished with mineral oil. We splurged and picked up a wooden train for our son. He won’t be able to play with it for quite a while, but it was so beautiful that we knew we would regret it if we didn’t buy it. Besides, we knew we would never find a wooden train that nice for such a good price at a toy store back home.


Next time you visit Salt Spring, be sure to plan a trip to the market. And if you are a true foodie, bring your cooler and load it up with fresh inspiration to take home with you.

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Lonsdale Quay Farmers’ Market

Quay Farmers' MarketAs farmers’ markets go, the Lonsdale Quay Farmers’ Market is pretty small, but it is also the one that is closest to home. Early in the season, the food stalls are quite limited with the majority of vendors selling crafts or potted plants. Usually the crafts are a little lack lustre, but the selection of plants is typically quite good (though I am not a gardener, so my judgement in this area is a little impaired).

When it comes to produce and other food items, the vendors are good though they are limited. Jane’s Honey Bees is one of our favourites; their wildflower honey is incredible and is great for salad dressings, baking and desserts. When we want to indulge our sweet tooth, we love the pies from Blackberry Hill. We also love the “salsa man” (actually called Salsa Verde) who makes incredible fresh fruit salsas. If you think salsa is only good for chips and tacos, think again. We have used the salsas in soups and as marinades, and the salsa man can give you even more ideas. The tomatillo and tomato salsas are two of our summer staples, but we have also been known to pick up pineapple or mango from time to time. Our favourite produce comes from Glen Valley Organic Farm. Not only do we love their selection of seasonal, local fruits and vegetables, but we also love the friendly people who run their stall each weekend. They are always happy to chat and share information on proper storage and cooking of their produce, and they are eager to hear about what you have been creating in your kitchen using their produce.

In fact, that is the main benefit of shopping at a smaller farmers’ market. The vendors generally have more time to chat and you typically get better service. The vendors at the Lonsdale Quay market are definitely among the friendliest and most approachable. If one of the goals of your farmers’ market shop is to try something new and local, choose a smaller market and ask the vendors questions. You will quickly have ideas for cooking with beets or leave with the confidence to grow your own potted tomatoes.

But if what you’re looking for is selection, and you live in the Vancouver area, then the Trout Lake market is probably the better choice.

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