City Centre Market Report: Week 2

What a difference one week can make at the City Centre Market – thirty degrees and several thousand people, to be exact.

Market Day

Three degrees, spitting rain and the first long weekend of spring meant many less patrons than last week’s blockbuster opening day with an estimated attendance of 20, 000.

No crowds this week

Today was probably a more typical shopping day for us – by the time we made it to the market by foot, it was already near noon. Because of the smaller crowds and the exceptional weather earlier in the week though, the selection of fresh produce was still pretty good when we arrived.

Radishes at Riverbend Gardens

Spinach at Green Valley Farms

Rhubarb at Sundog Organics (they also had pea shoots!)

On Wednesday, Edgar Farms sent out an e-mail saying that they would have a healthy quantity of asparagus available, as they were harvesting the crops every day. They weren’t kidding.

Crates of asparagus!

There was no need to fight over the stalks this week. Besides not having to wait in line, I think Edgar Farms had enough to last until 3pm – not always possible with Edmonton’s voracious appetite for spring vegetables.

Buying asparagus

In addition to asparagus, I also picked up some tomatoes and bell peppers from Doef’s Greenhouses, onions from Green Valley Farms, quick-cook barley and mushrooms from Mo-Na Foods and eggs from Sunshine Organic.

I’m really looking forward to getting back into the routine of weekly visits to the market. See you there next week!

The Last of the Fall Harvest: City Centre Market 2009

Making the most of the last two City Centre Market days, I was amazed at how much difference a week could make. While the first weekend of October was crisp, the snow had not yet arrived. And though the frost meant subsequent harvests of the majority produce were over, most of the farmers had picked what they could, with nearly the last of their fall bounty up for grabs.

Lots of corn!

Rainbow chard from Kuhlmann’s

Enormous zucchini and squash are a universal sign of fall

Ornamental gourds

Gorgeous flower arrangements (I couldn’t resist a bouquet)

Tomatoes from Sundog Organic Farm

Fruit from Steve & Dan’s Fresh BC Fruit

Many of the usual vendors were missing, with large gaps on 104 Street where booths typically stood. Between that and a smaller cold weather-crowd, it definitely felt like the market was winding down.

Shoppers on the penultimate market day

We picked up our staples – eggs from Sunshine Organic, onions and carrots from Green Valley Farms, tomatoes and bell peppers from Gull Valley Greenhouses, and a bag of greens from Greens, Eggs and Ham.

Picking up onions from Green Valley Farms

We had also reserved two of the Greens, Eggs and Ham turkey bombs – turkey breasts stuffed with cranberry orange bread stuffing – for whatever reason, I thought they would be small enough to be served as individual portions, but we found that one would be more than enough for the two of us! As we were a part of their Community Supported Agriculture program this year, we found it so convenient to shop with them, as our “deposit” got us through the market season and then some. Of course, it was great to know that our money helped Mary Ellen and Andres expand some of their operations.

Turkey bombs

This past weekend, the winter chill was definitely in the air, the streets lined with leaves that weren’t yet ready to fall.

Last market day

As expected, the produce pickings were slim, with most of the vegetable vendors absent already. Mack and I made the most of our visit and loaded up on hearty cabbage, potatoes, carrots and onions, and some broccoli and kale for good measure. We also swung by Irvings Farm Fresh for some ground pork for the freezer stash.

Sundog Organic’s veggies were in their van!

Kohlrabi

Green tomatoes, anyone?

Mack and I consciously shifted most of our grocery spending to the market this summer, and made it a point to integrate a visit to the market into our weekends. But because I’m not one of those cooks who can buy random ingredients and make a dish out of them, it did require some meal planning. And while I wish I was a little more experimental with our recipes (kale was about as far out of our comfort zone as I got), I’m certain that it will only get better from here.

Though I know that I treat the City Centre Market like the be all-end all of local farmers’ markets, I recognize that other markets will continue where 104th Street left off.

I will stop by the winter markets from time to time, but there’s just nothing like having a market within walking distance of your home. Until next year, City Centre Market.

Ringing in the City Centre Market!

A few weeks ago, I was invited by the City Centre Market to ring the opening bell to kick off the July 25 market. I had drawn their attention primarily because of the scavenger hunt I recently put together on behalf of Slow Food Edmonton, but also because of my efforts in promoting the local food scene. I was honoured to have been asked, and happily accepted.

I was told that past bell ringers have included Mayor Mandel and more recently, Geoff Linden of Credo Coffee, but to be honest, I haven’t personally been to the market early enough to witness any of the early morning festivities – I’m lucky if I get to the market by 11am (it is a Saturday after all!).

The calm before the storm

Saturday was a beautiful (but hot) day, and Mack and I were glad that arriving early meant we would be spared the heat of a midday market spree. Ten minutes before 9am, I met up with market staff Maria, Susie and Robin, who provided me with a reusable bag, apron and  bell, all of which I could keep. They told me that the vendors had been given a newsletter containing a short paragraph about me and why I had been chosen as a bell ringer.

Ready to ring!

At 9am, Robin led me up and down each of the vendor-lined lanes as we chatted about the market and her role as the site manager. Not someone who usually likes to draw attention to myself, Mack told me I should have probably been greeting the vendors more thoroughly as I walked, but I figured the ceremonious ringing was enough.

Robin & I

Mack’s short Flip video of the ringing

Thanks to the City Centre Market for the opportunity – it was fun!

Fresh Inspiration: Eatery at the ARTery

After some leisurely window shopping at City Centre Mall, I wandered over to the Eatery at the ARTery (9535 Jasper Avenue) for lunch. As it was an absolutely gorgeous day, the stroll to the ARTery provided an opportune moment to take in our scenic river valley.

Edmonton in bloom

I had heard about the Eatery at the ARTery  in early May before the City Centre Market opened for business. Julianna Mimande, formerly of Bacon, was heading up this new weekly endeavour, which would serve lunch from 12-4pm every Saturday, using fresh ingredients picked up from the farmers’ market that morning. It’s the kind of thing locovores should embrace, and I applaud Julianna’s initiative that not only celebrates Alberta’s bounty, but also practices the idea of inspiration and creativity inherent in fresh ingredients. My only doubt was about the timing of the lunch – it is almost set up best for those who don’t make a trip through the market, unless they either lived close enough to drop off the goods afterwards (as I did), have a car to store their purchases in, or don’t mind going later in the day when popular goods may already be sold out.

The ARTery

Through the bright red door, I encountered a blackboard menu that listed the day’s creation: an omelette made with Arnold’s Eggs, Edgar Farms asparagus, and Sylvan Star aged gouda, accompanied by a Greens Eggs and Ham salad and baby potatoes ($12) – a pretty great lunch, if you ask me. Two types of dessert were also available – Portuguese egg tarts ($2) and chocolate mousse ($5). Coffee was $2, with (wait for it) a shot of Baileys for an additional $3 – you have to love a place that serves coffee with Baileys at noon.

Menu board

I paid for my order, passed it off to Julianna, and was told that my lunch would be brought to me. I wondered how the kitchen managed when it was busy, as it looked like it could barely accommodate two. I headed into the seating area, where I found a guitarist performing on stage, surrounded by artwork and just a handful of tables.

Afternoon entertainment – Mo Lefever

Artwork at the ARTery

This was my first time at the ARTery, though I knew that the space hosted craft fairs and musical performances, among other things. I took a seat at the bar along the side wall, grateful for the breeze passing through the slightly ajar emergency exit, and settled in with my magazine.

I didn’t even get through an article when my food was brought to me, accompanied by two slices of toast. I remember Liane’s comment that the meal that she had was rather light – perhaps Julianna took that into consideration this week, as I was quite satisfied with the portion size. The omelette was a dense yellow colour, wrapped around still-crisp stalks of asparagus. The kitchen was a little light-handed with the cheese, but the richness of the eggs helped offset that deficiency somewhat. The toast was also notable – I found out later the bread was from the Italian Centre.

Asparagus and gouda omelette with salad and potatoes

It was a relaxing, pleasing lunch, and the thought of a menu that reflects the season will keep me coming back.

The Eatery at the ARTery
9535 Jasper Avenue
(780) 441-6966
Lunch served every Saturday, 12-4pm

Revisiting Sobeys Urban Fresh

Quite a lot has been written about the recent opening of the European-style, small-scale Sobeys Urban Fresh supermarket (10404 Jasper Ave). Most, if not all comments, are positive.

Sobeys Urban Fresh

Space-saving shelves for produce (they also sell baby versions of most vegetables you can think of)

Dried mushrooms…in bulk!

Don’t get me wrong – there’s lots to love about a pedestrian-centered, neighbourhood market emphasizing the use of only the best ingredients. But then there are some things that I’m not so sure about, or at least, prevent me from patronizing the store more often.

The Good

  • For someone who doesn’t drive, not having to navigate a massive parking lot to get to the front doors of the store is definitely a positive.
  • Small portions, such as beef patties sold in pairs, or bread sold by the slice (29 cents/100 grams), are perfect when you only need enough for one or two.
  • I’ve mentioned them so many times I wouldn’t blame the average reader for thinking I have shares in Greens, Eggs and Ham, but in conversation with Mary Ellen the week before, she said the fact that their products will be stocked year-round will help their farm a lot. I am sure that the promotion of other local products (such as coffee from St. Albert’s St. City Roasters) is helping with citizen recognition of what Alberta has to offer.
  • Perhaps a more personal compliment – I love the wide counter spaces in the Bistro that overlook Jasper Avenue. Though the patio is great, the well-lit windows on the world provide a comfortable work area. Armed with a cup of coffee, I could easily read or work the afternoon away there.

 

Coffee from St. City Roasters (and very girly stationary)

  • I think the homage to the past (present in the menu page discussing the origins of the Cecil Hotel, the original building at that site, and the black and white print of the hotel displayed just above the fireplace in the bistro section) deserves recognition, particularly for this area of downtown. With the word “revitalization” being thrown around so often, I think it is important even for a city as young as Edmonton to pause and acknowledge its history.

 

Jasper 104th Bistro (the print of the Cecil Hotel is on the right)

The Bad

  • An article about Sobeys Urban Fresh that appeared in the Edmonton Journal just before the store opened indicated that this location had a partnership with the City Centre Market. If that “partnership” is limited to simply opening up its side doors, what’s the point? At least, that is all I’ve seen so far, two weeks and two trips on Saturday to 104th Street and Jasper Ave.
  • Despite the fact that Sobeys is closer to me from my office, I have chosen to trek to the Save-On Foods on 109th Street instead on several occasions to have access to a larger selection. Particularly when I don’t know the meal I’m putting together, or am not sure which specific brand I am going to pick up, having options is more handy than a shorter distance to walk.
  • I’ve been to the Sobeys quite a few times, and have found it much too busy for my liking. Bustling and vibrant it is, but to be honest, I’d actually prefer shopping late at night to avoid the crowds if given the choice. And though there are areas in the store that are wide open (Bistro, bakery, produce), the small canned and boxed goods section have narrow aisles that make it difficult for two people to peruse opposite sides of the aisle at the same time. A tad too claustrophobic for my liking.
  • I’m a sucker for self-serve checkouts, and feel quite competent with them in supermarkets. So with the limited number of tills at Sobeys, and the relative speed I can get through the check-out process at Save-On (where I have never stood in a line to wait for a self-serve machine), it should be no surprise that Sobeys loses out on this as well.

The Interesting

Lastly, I’ve found no mention of the difficult dilemma and reconciliation of the two sides of Sobeys Urban Fresh. A store that proudly supports the organic, sustainable and environmentally-friendly (demonstrated in their produce, products sold, and reusable grocery bags) is the same store that generates massive waste from their one-time use packaging in the deli.

Perhaps it’s a “pick your poison” type of mentality – I know I keep my nylon shopping bag tucked in my purse at all times, but at the same time, I don’t think twice about using a disposable coffee cup.

At any rate, I do think this is a contradiction of sorts that should be getting some kind of play in the media.

Ready-to-eat options from the deli

It’s not fair to say I won’t be back to visit Sobeys Urban Fresh (I love how 104th Street is developing) but if I am in need of a meal or groceries, you will probably find me at Save-On instead.

The Best Weekends are Fresh: City Centre Market

This post is coming a bit late, covering our trek to the City Centre Market on its opening day of May 17, but as the market is open every Saturday, from 9am-3pm (rain or shine!) until Thanksgiving, there’s no excuse for you not to check it out!

 

Market Day

We started the day with brunch at my favorite pre-market haunt, Blue Plate Diner (10145 104 Street). It was filled to the brim, but they managed to clean and clear a just-vacated table for us almost immediately. While I originally thought I ended up with a dish outside my usual repertoire, it turns out my order of the Pancake Breakfast ($11.50) was the exact dish I ordered back in September – after my last trip out to the market. Mack decided on the Eggs Benny ($12), and of course, we both asked for coffee to start us off.

The kitchen was on an absolute roll, so despite the packed house, our food did not take long at all. The pancakes were great – giant by any comparison, they were thick and fluffy, perfect for sopping up the real maple syrup supplied on the side. Mack liked his benedict for the most part, though wanted the dish, particularly the hollandaise, to have been served a little warmer.

Pancake Breakfast

Eggs Benny

Full and ready to walk off some of our morning meal, by the time we got back out to the market (104 Street, between Jasper & 103 Avenues), it was already past 12:30pm. And as they say, only the early bird gets the worm, so many of the popular vendors had already sold out of their wares.

“Sorry, Sold Out”

Luckily, one of my favorite vendors – Greens, Eggs and Ham, had plenty of duck eggs still, and I picked up a few for my Mum. Mary Ellen Grueneberg was super-friendly, as always, and said that the piece that Judy Schultz did a few weeks ago resulted in many calls – from interested employees, pet owners, and of course, those keen on their duck products.

Greens, Eggs and Ham truck

Doef’s Greenhouses also had a beautiful array of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and cucumber (all grown year-round) that looked so tempting, especially in the face of the winter vegetable remnants sold at stands next door. As with most growing seasons though, things will look up in just a few short weeks – with fresh berries, beans, and corn just around the corner.

Tomatoes!

Vegetables!

For those with a green thumb, there were plenty of potted plants available as well, though really, I can’t wait for the spicy edible flower salads from Inspired Market Gardens.

Plants from Inspired Market Gardens

Between the entertainment and the stalls, the samples and the snacks, there is lots for everyone to see. Mack, however, was waiting to pounce on the mini-doughnuts, and was rewarded for his patience.

Live music

First doughnuts of the season

Mack savours the last one

City Centre Market

There’s just nothing like a Saturday at the market.