Market Value

Sunday, 10 July 2011

There's nothing I like better than to get up early and brave a chilly winter's morning to go to one of the fresh food markets happening around Sydney. Where I am, I am a little spoilt for choice: there are the Grower's Markets at Pyrmont, Eveleigh Farmer's Markets at Carriageworks and finally the Kings Cross Organic Food & Farmers Market. The latter two markets run every Saturday, so they are perfect to do the weekly shop whilst Pyrmont's occurs on the first Saturday of every month (except January). 


It's not unusual that I go to said market, only to return home laden with green bags full of fresh vegies, fruits and meat. It's almost like an Ikea-type scenario (you never walk out empty handed, do you?). One of the best things about going to fresh food markets is that you see a lot of produce that doesn't appear in the big chain supermarkets, and I feel happier to cut out the middle-man and pay the grower so all profits go to him/her (am i making it sound like a charity? :S). Matthew Evans, has a great philosopy of having 1° of separation from all of your food suppliers. I suppose a tree-change and living on a farmlet in Cygnet, Tasmania makes things a little easier...Movies like Food Inc. featuring prominent journalists cum food writers Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) and Michael Pollan (In Defence of Food, The Omnivore's Dilemma), are important to inform the masses about where our food really comes from (i.e. not off a shelf). 


The promo poster for Food Inc.: I think the tips on the right are a great starting point. Take note of #7! Image from Anomalous Material
There are some images from the film that really stuck with me. The chickens on a factory farm in the States are grown to full size in 42 days, which is unbelievably fast. Given an unlimited supply of feed, antibiotics to prevent infection (we ingest these too) and no doubt growth hormones they grow so rapidly and to such a size that they can no longer stand. The weight of their oversized legs and breasts is literally too much to bear. The second is that from an abattoir, again in America (but no doubt across the world). Pigs that are brought in to be slaughtered are herded into these elevator type contraptions, which shoot down to a gas chamber in which they will be slaughtered, on masse. I won't soon forget the shrieking and grunting of the pigs, in absolute fear and terror,  as they were about to be killed. It was spine-tingling. I am vaguely aware that things like that do happen but I never had such a vivid mental picture. Surprise surprise that the most shocking images are to do with animal cruelty. Now, does all this put me off meat? Not necessarily, but I know that I can make a choice to buy free-range and organic produce (such as eggs for starters) where I can be assured that animals led a happy life (free to roam and do as they please) and were killed 'humanely'.  


And now back to the topic at hand...I have a tradition with my Dad (an avid market goer) of turning up, having a little brekkie in the sun (coffee is compulsory) and then doing a round of all the stalls. The time spent is fleeting, but lots of fun. In the few years that I've been going, the markets have really surged in popularity as people have come to realise the fun of an age-old tradition (that your grandparents knew about all along), amazing variety available and the atmosphere (i swear there is happiness in the air). 


Here are my personal market highlights:


Kings Cross (@ Fitzroy gardens)
- Brasserie Bread: as seen on MC, their bread is available at select grocers but mostly cater for commercial clients (restaurants and the like)


Eveleigh (a weatherproof venue, best on a drizzly day)


Housed in an open warehouse, Eveleigh markets has gone from strength to strength over its 2 years. Photo from NSW Events
- Bird Cow Fish restaurant is represented by a cafe stall which has a lovely selection of muffins and pastries (mushroom tarts with goats cheese anyone?) as well as hot breakfasts. The Oh-My-Goshlette, a 3 egg omelette filled with mushrooms cooked in butter with eschallots, parsley, and a splash of balsamic vinegar and served on a 'bamboo' boat (very cute) is delicious, as is the Crooked Madame, a wonderfully simply sourdough toasty of ham, cheese (?gruyere) plus a fried egg & dijon. Both of these go down a treat. 
- Numerous organic growers, much more so than Pyrmont which seem to have more wholesale-type sellers. Look for the organic salad leaf people and the farming couple with an all-you-can-fit-in-a-bag deal for $10 (lots of apple varieties, citrus, pears and some vegetables) - the novelty value alone is totally worth it. Most of the vegie/fruit stalls here are organic and they proudly display their certifications telling us so (they're bloody hard to get apparently). Also, the stall selling heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers gets a big thumbs up.
- Billy Kwong: yes, unique to the market but not really to me (ouch?). Yesterday, Kylie Kwong was there (in person, omg) tossing salads and whatnot and man, was she pulling a crowd. There's no greater marketing tool than a bit of celebrity. Notice, no Asians eat from there - i'll let you ponder why...


Pyrmont (a lovely waterside setting)


A sea of food, and bobbing heads. Being by the water is a very Sydneian touch. Photo from Crave Sydney
- The old timer in terms of markets in Sydney. There's even a 'centre stage' where you can catch Marion Grasby (MC, again), Peter Evans (Hugos), Armando Percuoco (Buon Ricordo), Mark Jensen (Red Lantern) etc hosted by Joanna Savill. Yes, they're usually flogging their upcoming cookbooks but it's all in the name of fun. 
-  Lowes Mount Truffiere: hailing from Oberon (love that name), this stall has a strictly limited season and really draws the crowd, if not to buy, to look and admire. I haven't even tried truffles properly before...Here they come at a cost of $2.50 per gram
- The Table Sessions: a catering and events project (and foodie's wet-dream), run by chef Darren Robertson who are newcomers to the markets. Try their pulled pork and beetroot slaw sandwiches. They're pretty hearty at 8:30 of a morning but they go the distance.
- The pastry makers with a BBQ tacked on the side. The smoked salmon roll with dill mayonnaise is a winner.
- There are pretty much more meat-sellers here than you can shake a stick at. You'll find anything from beef and lamb to game. Pedlar pork purveyor: this lady pours her heart into looking after her "piggies" (as she calls them) on her farm. Pigs need TLC (see the aberrations mentioned above). Tinja Organics (beef cattle breeders) also deserves a mention.
- Regal salmon: this NZ company breeds a special type of King salmon farmed in Marlborough Sounds, that has a high level of omega-3's. The oiliness of the fish makes it unlike Atlantic salmon and mucho delicious. I first discovered this delightful salmon from the WLG pop-up restaurant last year.
- The Little General olive oil producers: I love the fruitiness of their extra virgin olive oil, all you need is a pinch of crusty bread and you're golden. You're welcome to try before you buy.
- Formaggio Ocello: now with a cafe/cheese shop in Surry Hills, this is an indisputable cheese heaven. The team at Ocello will cut you fresh slices off of huge cheese wheels...sooo good.


Eveleigh/Pyrmont (the double dippers)
- The Columbian Coffee Connection: we've heard all about your Single Origins and Toby's Estates, now here's the next up-and-coming roaster in town. The barista recognised the pair of us the other day, I love that. 
- La tartine (sourdough bakers): somewhat of a market exclusive, these artisan breadmakers hail from France and know their way around sourdough baguettes, batards, fruit loaves and fruit crumbles. The lady at this shop also recognises us - not many people spend as much as we do on bread!
- The potato people: you'll know who i mean. These farmers specialize in growing all sorts of potato varieties, and every time I go there, there always seems to be one more that i've never seen or heard of before. Granted, there's only so much you can do with a 'tater fry/mash/roast/jacket etc etc, but it's nice to try something new. 


Phew, I think that's it.


For your viewing pleasure, here are some of the creations whipped up from fresh market produce (love!):


The pretty colours! Heirloom tomato and buffalo mozzarella bruschetta, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. So simple, yet so delicious
Roasted duck marylands with figs, leek and potato. These figs, cooked to a jammy consistency were yummo
And...


Smoked salmon, avocado, beetroot & basil 'stack' with heirloom tomatoes. Some jaw dislocation action was needed here to eat the thing - worth it.
Thanks for reading and make sure you get out there to support your local farmers and growers! xo

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