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H & P Jams & Jellies' Chow Chow
Pat's sweet and tangy invention combines the textures of green tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, onion and celery with a selection of spices. It's the cool cat's meow when it comes to hot dogs and goes well on a pickle tray for nibbling. We also tried it on sandwiches: it added great texture and flavour to a mortadella and provolone combo.
No Chows were harmed in the making of this delightful condiment.
Chocolate Shot Cups
Chocolate Cow gets an extra mention this holiday season for this item. Molded of smooth semi-sweet chocolate, these 1 oz cups should be filled with your liqueur of choice and topped, if you like, with whipped cream. For an alcohol-free dessert treat, fill them with mousse or pudding: they look gorgeous and make for two-bite delight.
Pancakes in a Snap
Brule Creek Farms' Barley Pancake Mix is a mix of barley and wheat flours, locally-grown and -milled, and the other necessary dry ingredients for a tasty mix lacking only oil, milk and egg. Available in attractively-wrapped cones that serve two, these little treats will make for easy holiday breakfasts and are a hassle-free way to try local flour in your own kitchen.
From November 2009:Chocolate-Dipped Licorice from Stanton's Chocolate Cow
Much as we joke about the amazing accidental discoveries constantly happening at the Chocolate Cow, we think this one was planned. Available in prettily-wrapped trios of mixed dark and milk-chocolate dipped red whips, this treat tastes a lot like the controversial Big Turk bar but without what some consider an obnoxiously-sized and -textured gummy centre. The chocolate, which is good Chocolate Cow chocolate and not waxy grocery-store stuff, crumbles a little when bitten but doesn't melt immediately in your hand and the flavour of the chewy whip combines well with both the dark and milk chocolate coatings. Our advice: if there are two of you, buy two packages to avoid arguments about who gets the third piece.
Bare Organics' Flannel-lined Wool Blankie
Wrap your wee one in all the wonderful warmth of wool without the itch: Bare Organics' wool blankie is faced with natural wool on one side and soft organic cotton flannel on the other and trimmed with thick strips of flannel as well to protect tiny hands and faces from the scratchy downside of wool. Sturdily made, it will make a welcome gift for new parents this fall and should last through a number of hand-me-downs.
Locally-Roasted Authentic Cuban Coffee
Kerr of the infamous Eric 'n Kerr Duo at the Great Northwest Coffee Company is actually more hyper than usual. Owner and roaster Jeff has brought in 600 lbs. of raw Cuban coffee beans and plans to have sufficient quantities roasted to start serving it by the cup on Saturdays at the Market. Cuban coffee has never before been available in Thunder Bay, so bring your bleary-eyed Saturday morning self in and try a cup!
From October, 2009:
Rainy River Elk on the Barbecue
It's tender. It's tasty. It cooks beautifully, and it looks like beef... but it's not. Elk steaks from Rainy River Elk are available fresh-frozen at the Market and you will have to try it yourself to really understand, but we'll try to describe it: It's sweeter than beef. It's darker than beef. The grain is somehow denser and finer, and it seems to fill you up faster than a same-size serving of beef would. The Striploin and Ribeye steaks are leaner than the same cut of beef; we found the fussy eaters left much less on their plates than usual. Nick, who you'll find behind the Rainy River Elk table, advises that elk steak not be cooked beyond medium-medium rare, and we're happy to oblige; we tried ours on the BBQ with just some coarse pepper. Yum!
Sandy Acres Farms' Bunderfleisch
Always innovating, the boys at Sandy Acres Farm have developed their own version of cured meat based on the Swiss German tradition of Bunderfleisch, which comes from the canton of Graubunden in Switzerland. Similar to prosciutto, Bunderfleisch is a delicately-flavoured air-dried beef often served sliced as part of an antipasto plate, in sandwiches or even cubed in soups. We drizzled a little olive oil on ours and cracked pepper overtop, then enjoyed it with shavings of the oldest piece of Thunder Oaks Gouda we could rustle up. Watch out boys - we've got friends out of town who will be mail-ordering this in no time.
The Not-so-Flat Bread
Renate from Nature's Choice likes food to be tasty and good for you but she's been mighty hard to crack on the secrets behind her successes. We smuggled out one of her Spinach and Feta flatbreads for a tasting in the hopes we could tell you a little more about it. First thing: we really liked it. The crust was thin but not too hard and not oily; Renate uses Brule Creek Flour in a lot of her baking and we think this may have something to do with the lovely texture. This nice light crust is topped with chopped spinach, feta and, we suspect, olive oil and garlic, as the taste is more complex than just feta and spinach can account for. The combination of the just-cooked spinach and almost-melted feta is wonderfully rich-tasting and offers a good mix of textures; we think a single flatbread would make either a very large snack or a nice light meal for one; it made a "wish we had another one" when shared with a friend.
From September, 2009:
Sweet and Wild
Dedicated pickers have been fighting the blackflies and mosquitoes to bring you the sweetest and firmest berries in the Northwest. Meet them at the Market Wednedays and Saturdays to indulge your blueberry craving while the season is upon us. Don't forget to take home an extra basket for your emergency "winter pick-me-up" - - come mid-February a handful of frozen blueberries in your pancakes can serve to stave off the winter blahs.
It's that time of year again: our producers' tables are sagging under the weight of all the wonderfull fruits and vegetables they've dedicated their summer to growing. This year's corn has come in late but it's sweet and crunchy and available every Saturday and Wednesday. Summer and winter squash are both available and pumpkins should be coming out very soon. Potatoes, beans, turnips, carrots and gorgeous garden-fresh onions are available and you'll find zesty locally-grown garlic on a number of tables as well. Get it now - once it's gone you'll be waiting till the garlic scapes are out again next spring.
From August, 2009:
Organic Sauna Kits
If you're spending a lot of time in the sauna staying warm this summer this item's worth a look: everything you need to come out of the sauna feeling refreshed and summery, and to heck with the 40 km/h winds outside. Bare Organics' Sauna Kit includes a natural loofah, one of Bare's famous "velvet fingers" organic cotton wash cloths, Rise 'n Shine Organic All-In-One Cleanser and Energizing Organic Body Oil, products scented with the essential oils of mandarin, lavender and ylang-ylang for an uplifting experience on dreary days.
From July, 2009:
How Sweet it Is
Yes - the strawberries are in! Belluz Farms has been arriving with a truckload of ripe, sweet berries every Market day. Feedback has been great; the cool spring may have delayed Strawberry Season but it hasn't had any effect on the berries' great taste and may in fact have contributed to a firmer, sweeter-fleshed fruit than you're used to. Get them now - the season will be over before we know it.
Are you a honey lover? Have you been dancing a little in your seat in anticipation of a fresh jar of golden goodness taking its special place in your cupboard? It's time: the honey is coming in. Mrs. Paradis of Paradis Apiaries says that because of the chilly spring and late onset of summer weather honey production is a little behind schedule. This means they don't bring a whole lot each week and what they do bring sells out fast - you're not the only one who's been waiting for this - but don't worry; you won't go without. You can contact Paradis Apiaries directly and place an order for pickup at the Market if your honey craving is immediate, or give it a few more weeks for things to catch up. If you're a fan of the Market's favourite honey variation, the nice folks at Chocolate Cow are expecting to begin bringing honey butter to Market after our return to the Dove Building when the CLE's been and gone.
For Gardeners, by a Gardener
Trust Kate from Moss Cottage and Urban Farmchick to know how to deal with the results of days in the dirt. This summer you'll find new items on her table dedicated to keeping your hands in good shape while your hands keep your garden in great shape. Green Thumb Scrub is a compact bar scented lightly with ground, dried orange peel. Infused with Pumice Powder, it lathers nicely and works down around your nails to get the embedded bits out. Kate developed this one to keep her hands clean and soft - made with olive oil, coconut oil, vegetable shortening and essential oils, we find it does the trick for Garden Hands and bare feet. Kate's Honey Scrub is good for all-over exfoliation. Made with large organic flake oats and unpasteurized local honey, it works wonders on last week's sunburn and left our shoulders feeling five years younger.
Phyllis' Baked Oatmeal
Phyllis from Kristie Rae spent part of her chef career cooking at a private ski lodge where Olympic ski teams trained. Her focus: serious nutrition for her athetes to give them the energy and endurance they needed in the high-altitude cold. Her Baked Oatmeal was a favourite and she's brought it along to the Market where it's much in demand and sells out regularly. Phyllis uses dried fruits, nuts, seeds, fresh apples and old-fashioned oats baked in an oven with 2% milk and sells it cold. We reheated ours in the microwave and enjoyed it with a little table cream and brown sugar, then kicked ourselves because it would have been even better with some local wildflower honey from Paradis Apiaries or Chocolate Cow. If you beat us to the trying, let us know how you liked it!
From June, 2009:
Organic Cotton Wash Cloths: Min. 1 per Family Member
Bare Organics carries wash cloths made of cotton which has never seen pesticides or chemical fertilizer. While they're not available in a range of colours guaranteed to colour-coordinate with your hand-towels, the softness of their undyed, untreated nap will blow your mind - washing your face with one of these little squares is like being massaged by a thousand tiny velvet fingers. Caution: any ratio less than 1 cloth per household member may result in domestic disputes, as children and spouses have been known to become personally attached and a little cranky when their favourite shower accessory is not immediately available.
Raspberry Rhubarb Pie
That sweet lady behind the table at Unique Alternatives spends a lot of her time craftily dreaming up our next addiction. Most recently, she hooked us on the Raspberry Rhubarb Pie.
This is not a high-tech item: the crust is a traditional lard recipe and the filling is real fruit thickened a little with flour and sweetened with sugar. There are eight ingredients on the label in total.
Do not be fooled by the apparent simplicity: pie perfection is mighty hard to obtain. This even, golden, tender crust is stuffed to fullness with whole raspberries and large chunks of rhubarb, and the exact perfect amount of sugar has been added to counteract the slight sourness of the rhubarb.
We suggest you preserve your waistline by serving large portions of this pie to a group of 6 in order to avoid guilty visits to the leftovers, which go remarkably well with a glass of milk at midnight.
Fun Finds at the Market
Many of our producers bring in short-season items only available briefly; spring is a great time for a number of treats. A number of producer vendors are offering bundles of their own sweet, crispy rhubarb. We've also found beautiful hanging baskets full of flowers, herbs and even strawberries - perfect for lazy-afternoon snacking on the deck, and you'll find most of these plants to be as hardy as your could wish for in our unpredictable weather. Lately Belluz Farms has been offering wild morel mushrooms harvested by their mushroom hunters just outside of Dryden: get them quick during their short season!
While-You-Shop Knife Sharpening
George Guenther of Gee'z Edges and the Village Smith joins us Saturdays, providing good old-fashioned knife-sharpening services while you shop. Bring your shamefully dull blades in for a tune-up and ensure that those tomatoes you purchase at the Market get treated with the fine edge they deserve. George says his method has been passed down from his Master Smith grandfather and he guarantees that if you care for your knives properly you'll find his edges stay sharp longer.
Caffeine on Ice
If you like your caffeine buzz cold on hot days you'll be glad to know the Great Northwest Coffee Co. is now offering Iced Lattes for the summer months. Made on the spot with a double shot of locally-roasted espresso, 2% milk and your choice of whipped cream or none, their tasty pick-me-ups will make the rest of your shopping errands fly by.
Chino's Meatballs and Medium-Hot Spinach Sauce
Most of us have a hard time reconciling the words "Italian cooking" and "healthy," conjuring up images of feasts of calorie-rich cheeses, pasta, salt and olive oil.
Talk to Don at Chino's and learn how to enjoy the Italian feast without the guilt. Most recently we've had the chance to try his home-made meatballs and Originale Low Sodium Spinach Sauce at Medium-Hot, a wonderful rich veggie sauce that gets its flavour from hours simmering at just the right temperature. We're happy to report that the heat level was just right for low-tolerance diners, having just enough kick to make our tongues tingle. Don's meatballs are firm and tasty, made with lean ground pork and beef, bread and eggs, Don's secret herb mix and a zesty sprinkling of Parmesan and Romano cheeses.
Fresh-bottled sauce and frozen 12-packs of meatballs are available at Saturday Markets.
From May, 2009:
Belluz Farms Brings Fresh Greens & Herbs to Market
*Cheer!* Thanks to their new greenhouses Belluz Farms is able to get a jump on the growing season and has begun bringing fresh greens and herbs on Saturday mornings. As you might expect, quantities are limited and demand is high so they sell out quickly. Come early if you're planning to get some, but allow yourself to feel a little excited, even if you don't: fresh produce season is on its way and the parking lot will be jammed with produce vendors sooner than you think.
Bugs Be Gone , Naturally
Two of our vendors carry natural, locally-made "Outdoor Sprays" which protect and soften your skin and, as an added bonus, deflect mosquitoes, blackflies and other biters. For gardeners, golfers, hunters and parents wanting to leave DEET right out of the picture and apply something naturally pleasant-smelling, you'll want to check out these alternatives made with essential oils like lemongrass, eucalyptus and peppermint. Stop by Orysi and Bare Organics and ask about these skin-friendly products.
There's Only Room for One Bull in This Pasture
Crazy Horse Studios has a stand full of custom clothing, handbags, greeting cards and more, all created by hand by owner Bobbi Braun. Recently we spotted Bobbi's BBQ aprons and spent twnnty minutes gawking helplessly at them. Bobbi has plain black aprons custom-made of soft, durable cotton canvas and then hand-paints them using a rubbery fabric paint that doesn't stain, chip, flake, crack or suffer the effects of repeated washings. Each apron is a piece of original artwork and, like the bull that first caught our eye, is done with gorgeous detail and texture. If you've got a BBQ King in your life you may want to stop and have a look - the perfect gift could be waiting there for you.
Feast Your Eyes - and Your Palate
Grant Eklund at P'Sizzle Garden is carrying a new item on his table that must not be overlooked. His usual fantastic assortment of sushi and California rolls has been supplemented with Inarisushi rolls: brined fried tofu pockets stuffed with sushi rice. These tender rolls are about the length of your baby finger and a little sticky on the outside with a glaze that's either the result of the brining or some secret final step. Each bite is delicately flavoured - slightly vinegary from the rice, a little wasabi in the glaze, a little tamari or soy in there as well, we're not sure (and Grant's brilliant wife and P'Sizzle chef Phuong will never tell) but we invite you to try them out and send us your thoughts.
Breads at the Market
We conducted an internal treasure hunt this month to learn more about the awe-inspiring selection of bread and bread products at the Market. The upshot: there are over 20 varieties of breads to choose from, and some unusual items as well. Like to know more? Check out the Ode to Bread in our April Newsletter, and come down to the Market yourself to conduct your own mouth-watering treasure hunt.
Scrubbies for MS
In a basket on Unique Alternatives' table is an assortment of brightly-colored spongy balls. The owner, a sweet-faced senior, usually has one on the go and will show you the complex windings of nylon netting which go into each one. There's usually a large palette of choices so you're almost guaranteed to find one that color-matches your kitchen. They're gentle enough to use on non-stick pans but effective for scrubbing off the sticky bits and can be used on windows, floors and even chrome rims. They'll last at least 6 months. And best of all, the proceeds of each $2 sale go into a separate till and are donated to the MS Society. Toss the last of your Amazing Disappearing Green Scrubbies and try one of these cute little guys.
From April, 2009:
New Faces at the Market
You have a new resource at your fingertips at the tables occupied by the talented and always-teaching members of the Thunder Bay Hand Spinners' and Weavers' Guild. Visit with them and learn about the time and talent behind the beautiful knitted, loomed and woven items presented for sale. The Guild tables offer wool skeins, instructions for simple projects and demonstrations and are a great place to stop with the kids to check out the moving parts of the loom displays.
Butter-Cream Easter Truffles
As usual when inspired by an upcoming holiday, Doug and Jane at Chocolate Cow have been wearing their inventors' hats and creating the next dangerously sweet addiction. Thus: the Easter Truffle. Just a little smaller than a golf ball, this confection shows as a delicate milk-chocolate shell gaily decorated in Easter streamers. Upon breaking the shell, chocolate-lovers' eyes will widen as they encounter a chocolate butter-cream filling that is, in our opinion, pretty much perfect. About the consistency of thick, thick mousse, the silky butter-cream melts slowly in your mouth or bursts in tiny bubbles on your tongue and tastes rich, rich, rich. While a 4-pack or a single will make adorable Easter treats for kids, we think you'll have a hard time giving them away.
From March, 2009:
Phyllis' Red Pepper Focaccia
Phyllis at Kristie Rae's been in the kitchen business for decades - long enough to know the value of doing something just right. Her latest presentation, Roasted Red Pepper Focaccia, is a hearty treat with a low guilt factor. Phyllis' fresh, hand-turned dough is made with unbleached flour and pure extra virgin olive oil. Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside and studded with seeds of all sorts, it offers a wonderful texture and flavour experience. Topped with red peppers roasted to the point of tenderness but not beyond, it's salted lightly - just right - and given a few twists of coarse pepper. Best served after a few minutes in your oven, you'll still enjoy Phyllis' winning combination right off her table.
Stewed Codfish with Jamaican Yam, Dumplings and Bananas
Rutland Williams grew up eating traditional Jamaican food. You'll find his version of Mama's cooking on his table every week, but for the next little while you can try Mama's just-for-company Stewed Codfish, a wonderful mix of salt cod, red and green peppers, tomato and onion. While Rutland says that, at home, you'd break off a piece of dumpling and use it as a scoop for the savoury treat, he often serves it North American-style - layered over other favourites like boiled yams and bananas. Call Rutland at Caribbean Kitchen to pre-order your Jamaican comfort food for this weekend; he may also be offering Aki and Saltfish.
Rob Walsh of Northern Unique, committed as ever to the next amazing invention, has been experimenting with one of Thunder Bay's favourites. A melding of Thunder Bay's own Brule Creek Farms' flour, maple syrup and Alexander Keith's Cream Ale yields a dark-looking loaf with a chewy crust and a fine, elastic crumb that looks - and is - the slightest bit sweet and bitter, all at once. While not a large loaf it begs to be farmer-sliced and sandwiched around Bogdala's ham roll and sharp cheese and given its share of the spotlight in any flavour combination, or spread with butter for a mean treat while you fix beef stew for dinner.
Glenn and Michael at Little Doo's Farm have perfected a cookie that will keep in your fridge for a good while before you bake it to perfection. The Gorilla, a granola cookie stuffed with oatmeal, raisins and chocolate chips, comes with easy instructions for 12-minute preparation and will fill your kitchen with the smell of real baking. The Gorilla comes packaged in trays of 10 innocuous balls that bake into good-sized cookies; perfect for lunches, after-school snacks and rewards for chilly snow-shoveling spouses.
Winter-Caught Local Fish
Stop in and talk to Liisa at the Fish Shop's table to ask her about the fresh-caught fish she sells. Local licenced fishermen fish Lake Superior for trout through the winter and Liisa offers it fresh, smoked or - her own secret recipe - candied as a carry-along snack one fish-lover recently described as "better than chips!"
Many people are big believers in the cold-water flavour of winter-caught fish, arguing that colder water temperatures make the flesh firmer and sweeter. Ask Liisa her opinion; the Fish Shop has been in business since 1970 and she knows the business from the ground up.