Hand Me Downs Don’t Get Me Down: Highlights From My Farmers Market Excurisons

Like the case for most children, hand me down clothes and toys were a commonly dreaded thing—now as a young adult, the ‘rents are getting hand me down gadgets, phones, laptops and tablets; these are eventually passed along to younger kids of family friends’. I had this conversation with my mom (hi, mom!) a while ago. Her resistance to touch screen things always amuses me as she seems to be rapidly adapting to her new touch screen Samsung Galaxy S4 like a fish to water (it is seriously the best phone ever). Although she often laments that old clothes/toys from the days of yore were uncomplicated and new gadgets “don’t even have buttons, how am I supposed to know how to turn it on or off?” it is clear how society is adjusting to new technologies and how quickly “old” home goods are becoming obsolete. I thought of this conversation during my farmer market run/flea market last week. As I wandered through the aisles of old VHS tapes and moth eaten Stampede prize plushies, I wondered what kinds of “antiques” will be available in ten years’ time? Will flea markets simply become a kind of gadget gravesite?

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My roommate and I decided that we would hit up all the Farmers’ Markets before summer ended. As a result, we managed to go to the Kingsland Farmers’ Market, Crossroads Market, the Calgary’s Farmers’ Market, and the Millarville Farmers’ Market in two weekends. In the interests of keeping this post short and sweet (and still interesting), I will simply break it up in to a post on snack related highlights from last weekend.

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We managed to make it to the tail end of the 4th Annual Corn Fest at the Kingsland Farmers’ market and was amazed by all of the delicious local corn available and the fierce food truck competitions. There even a fully operational moon bounce (but it was too small to accommodate my frame, sadly) and line dancers.

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Because I am scarred for life when it comes to eating corn on the cob (I had braces from ages 9-14) I opted for kettle corn instead from Sugar Creek Kettle Corn Co. (at the Calgary Farmers’ Market– who said you need to be environmentally friendly to shop at Farmers’ Markets?)
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Sugar Creek Kettle Corn on Urbanspoon

In terms of the best kettle corn in YYC, Sugar Creek is where it’s at. They manage to achieve that perfect “mushroom” kernel shape, while expertly coating the outside in a thin, sugary shell that is seasoned with a hint of salt. This stuff is the perfect blend of salty and sweet—it completely satisfies my crunchy snack cravings (and FYI, is way easier to dislodge from ones teeth after a good flossing session, unlike corn on the cob. Yes this is also TMI, but it’s my par-tay and I can cry if I want to). Sugar Creek actually uses an iron kettle (even inside a tiny stall! Take note Kernels Popcorn kettle corn should not be air popped) rather than just creating a butter, sugar, salt coating—it’s the little things that count. Even though my batch wasn’t evenly coated, it was still delicious.

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I also picked up some mead from the Fallentimber Meadery booth. They were getting ready for their fall lineup and out of curiosity I started poking about the honey samples. I didn’t know much about mead other than it’s always mentioned in high fantasy novels and Norse mythology. Mead has always been a drink that I’ve wanted to sample due to the frequent mentioning of it in (one of my favourite reads) American Gods—I have no idea if mead is really the “drink of the gods,” but if it’s good enough for Neil Gailman, it’s good enough for me.

Made from fermented honey, water and yeast—the lightest of all the concoctions (“Traditional Mead”) still managed to smell like rubbing alcohol; but man, oh man, there must a reason they call it nectar of the gods… imagine tasting what floral bouquet smells like—if that makes any sense at all? Light, subtly sweet and refreshing, it tasted like young white wine. The booth manager said that the Fallentimber meads are composed of clover, alfalfa and wild flowers (but mostly clover from the eastern edge of the foothills area); this is the reason that all of their products are clear or light amber in colour, in addition to being sweet, flowery and mild in flavour. I was at this booth for a while, indulging in all the samples—though I tried the Dry, Sweet, Cinnamon, Saskatoon and Hopped, it was the bottle of Oaked Mead that home with me. Although I’m partial to white wines due to how much I hate the intense bitterness of tannins—the tannins feel so raw and gives the wine a harsh texture—this was not the case in the Oaked Mead. The tannins added a thickness/lush texture to the mead and made it full bodied (perhaps it was because of the already low acidity, i.e.: no grapes) that allowed the tannins to work better for my palate. This Oaked Mead had a delicate fruity/floral aroma, with just a touch of earthiness to it. It is super complex—there’s a mild sweetness and a dryness at the same time.

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It paired perfectly with the smoked gouda (purchased from Milarsville Farmers Market) from Crystal Springs Cheese— just a regular Saturday night in with Butters. We know how to par-tay!

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Millarville Farmers Market

This was my first excursion out to the Millarville Racetrack and Farmers Market and so I did not know what to expect. You can imagine how I delighted I was to see gua bao (Taiwanese steamed buns) and Laksa (Malaysian Noodle Soup) though! Eats of Asia is a summer market restaurant that caught my eye with their “Asian Street Food” offerings and won my heart with their take on the pork belly gua bao, done slider style:

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In between all the old-west themed wares and kitschy/stereotypical farmers market type goods, Eats of Asia stands out from the crowd in an East meets West kind of way.

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And their menu (which I have been told is constantly changing week to week):

http://gotellyourmom.wordpress.comThe “Special of the Day”

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I was impressed with the bold flavors from Eats of Asia. The Wonton Noodle Laska (with red curry coconut soup with shrimp and pork wontons, served with egg noodles and fried garlic chips, a shrimp chip and a hint of cilantro). I found this curry soup tasted similar to a Northen Thai Khao Soi. The flavours of the curry were rich and aromatic with a hint of coconut. The soup was spicy to provide some heat without giving the burning off your face, while the wontons had a good texture from the ground pork mixed with ground shrimp—while I found the skins a little too thick for my preference and that the soup could have done without the shrimp chip (which tasted a bit stale), I still appreciated this dish for its nuanced and flavourful soup.

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In regards to the baos, I felt that The Phoenix (pictured above, left), Taiwanese Fried Chicken on top of a steam mantou (Chinese steam bun) with hoisin sauce and pickled jalapenos, was a unique take on this classic snack. The chicken had a crispy light batter (likely due to being dredged in potato starch?) and was a great contrast to the soft mantou (bun). The hoisin sauce was slightly too sweet however, and both of the baos were missing the crushed peanuts (which I imagined would have provided more contrast in each bite). The Lucky Pig, braised pork belly braised in a soy and Chinese spices (ginger and star anise ) was very similar in taste to the classic” Chairman Mao Red Braised Pork” as it had the same sauce (except this was slightly too sweet) was and topped with cilantro.  Unfortunately I did not like this bao as much as The Phoenix as the tender pork combined with the soft bun, did nothing to tantalize the palate—this bao definitely needed the chopped peanuts to provide a textural element, I would have also loved it if the pork belly was seared on a flat top to give both sides a necessary crispness.

Overall, I felt that all the dishes had good flavours and were well conceived. The fusion of the various Asian flavours (Chinese, Korean, Filipino and Japanese) is unique to this region, as Calgary (and the surrounding areas) severely lack restaurants that can masterfully produce dishes that not only celebrate Classic South East Asian flavours, but also remixes them seamlessly.If I ever venture out to this market again, I will happily give Eats of Asia another try. FYI, the trip is definitely worth it if you and your mom are considering a mini-road trip out of YYC.

 

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