Road Trip: Farmers’ Markets and Festivals

We always hit up at least one farmers’ market when we’re in Calgary – this time, we visited two.

The first stop was the Kingsland Farmers’ Market, which I wrote about back in April. Since our last visit, they’ve been setting up tents outside to take advantage of the warmer weather.

Tomatoes!

Gorgeous tomatoes

Field Stone Fruit Winery

Spotted the new Field Stone Fruit Wine labels – snazzy!

It’s always a treat to see Mary Ellen (of Greens, Eggs and Ham). Since they set up shop at Kingsland, we pretty much only see her when we’re down in Calgary! We also look forward to picking up Rustic Sourdough Bakery’s pretzels rolls – will someone in Edmonton make these, please?

Kingsland Farmers' Market

I like the idea of a “specials” board, though this one is a little hard to read

We then drove down to the new location of the Calgary Farmers’ Market (CFM), which wasn’t quite ready when we were last down. Though I am frustrated sometimes with how Edmonton is such a car-centric city, in this instance, we do fare better – at least our two largest farmers’ markets (City Market and Old Strathcona) are situated centrally, easily accessible by LRT and/or main bus routes.

At the special City Market meeting called earlier this year to help determine the direction of the year-round venue, the consultant showed photographs of the CFM, using it as a prime example of what permanent stalls could look like. As a result, Mack and I were eager to see what it looked like in person.

Calgary Farmers' Market

Calgary Farmers’ Market

At first glance, the CFM is everything a market should be: bright, bustling, with wide aisles and clear signs. There was an expansive seating area as well, and high tables perfect for resting coffee upon while browsing. The “rustic” wood frame around each stall looked perhaps a little too polished, but I appreciated the aesthetic they were going for.

Calgary Farmers' Market

Busy place

There was also a great mix of vendors, as expected, from produce to meat and poultry, to dairy and even local grains and oils.

Calgary Farmers' Market

Great dairy case (it was a good excuse to finally try Vital Green Farms’ chocolate milk – it was delicious!)

Highwood Crossing

Loved Highwood Crossing’s tagline: “Canada’s olive oil”

But walking around, it was clear the CFM didn’t have the same feel as the City Market, Old Strathcona, or even Kingsland for that matter. Between the large food court and play area, it resembled more of a shopping mall.

Calgary Farmers' Market

Food court

I’m definitely not against concessions and family-friendly spaces, but it was the first market I’ve ever come across that seemed to want to please everyone. One can only imagine such amenities would be factored into vendors’ rent and maintenance costs.

Calgary Farmers' Market

Play area

Mary Ellen explained to us in the past Calgary’s “one-stop shop” mentality, which results in farmers’ markets carrying everything from lemons to bananas beside the local produce. But at the CFM, there also seemed to be a number of resellers present. This is fine, except that it wasn’t easy to distinguish between producers and resellers – and really, isn’t the point of farmers’ markets for patrons to buy food directly from those who grew it? Sure, some consumers might ask the right questions, but ideally, it should be more intuitive than that.

Calgary Farmers' Market

Innisfail Growers – not a reseller!

In addition, we had to wonder about the viability of a four day market. There’s no question that it is convenient and more accessible, allowing consumers a place to shop for local wares Thursday to Sunday. But because we saw several examples of sad and wilted produce on tables, it seemed some vendors were having challenges ensuring product quality. Perhaps there isn’t adequate on-site cold storage for all who need it? Also, based on the discussion at the City Market meeting in April, we know some producers mentioned that staffing and refreshing a multi-day market would be difficult – for example, who would tend to the farm over that period?

Strawberries from The Jungle Farm

At the end of the day, our visit to CFM just made me think of all the facets of a “modern” year-round market. And with the City Market continuing to explore venues for their own year-round venture, it will be interesting to see what direction they decide to take.

We ended our tour of Calgary that weekend with a visit to 17th Avenue. We ended up stumbling upon the Uptown 17 market and music festival.

IMG_4458

Love the colourful chairs!

In the area of neighbourhood branding, we still think Calgary does a better job of that than we do in Edmonton. Let’s hope that the “I ❤ #yegdt” catches on enough for the Downtown Business Association to use it more widely!

IMG_4459

Uptown 17 everywhere!

There is always something to do in Edmonton, but the same can be said about Calgary. We’ll be back soon!

Calgary Food Recaplets

One day, I might catch up on all of the back posts I intend to write…but I’m not there yet. Here are a few of the food-related places Mack and I checked out while in Calgary a few months back that didn’t fit into my previous posts.

Kingsland Farmers’ Market

Though I know our own farmers’ market scene has its own share of politics, the fact that Calgary’s ups and downs has played out in the public eye made it all the more intriguing to me as a non-resident. When I read that several vendors were breaking free from the Calgary Farmers’ Market to start their own (what has become the Kingsland Farmers’ Market), I knew checking it out would be at the top of our Calgary to-do list. Mary Ellen of Greens, Eggs and Ham has been selling at Kingsland for a number of months now, and has been providing us with updates along the way, so it was even better to be able to see it in person.

Kingsland Farmers' Market

Kingsland Farmers’ Market

It’s another Calgary market that is open on multiple days – Thursday to Sunday. Most of the vendors seemed to have permanent stalls, selling everything from produce to meat to wine and prepared food.

Kingsland Farmers' Market

Interior

It was a decent space, a converted car dealership, with high ceilings accented by nice wooden beams. With the large number of hot food vendors, it was great that the farmers’ market also had a large, bright seating area set aside – I can imagine friends meeting up for a bite to eat at the market, which would be a great draw for those not necessarily looking to shop. The same area also housed craft vendors – separation much appreciated by those just looking to do their grocery shopping.

Kingsland Farmers' Market

Greens, Eggs and Ham

Like the Calgary Farmers’ Market, the Kingsland Market also allows the sale of imported produce. Mary Ellen told us that they operate on the bullseye diet – goods that can’t be sourced locally can be brought in from elsewhere. She commented that Calgarians seem to prefer the “one-stop shop” farmers’ market.

Kingsland Farmers' Market

The tropical fruit table

We didn’t want to buy too much, given we would be in Calgary for a few more days without cold storage options, but we did pick up a bag of pretzel buns from Rustic Sourdough Bakery (they were miles above the pretzel bun we had at Loungeburger), plus two cute “pies on a stick” from Sugar Pie Bakery. What can’t be served on a stick these days?

Kingsland Farmers' Market

Pretzel buns

Kingsland Farmers' Market

Sugar Pie Bakery

Phil & Sebastian at Chinook Centre

I’m not sure I ever considered the possibility of one of the third wave darlings like Transcend or Credo ever setting up shop in one of our major shopping complexes, but after stumbling upon Phil & Sebastian in Chinook Centre, I’m wondering if that day might be closer than we think.

Phil & Sebastian

Phil & Sebastian

Open since September, the Phil & Sebastian is located in the newest wing of Chinook, but is also accessible from a street entrance. It was absolutely hopping, with many patrons (like us) stopping by for a caffeine boost to break up an afternoon of shopping, but it seemed many others were oblivious to the mall’s connection.

Phil & Sebastian

Interior

We loved the design, with the central coffee bar dominating the space, an open invitation for patrons to watch their coffee being made, and to interact with the baristas.

Coppeneur

The space vacated by Kismet on Stephen Avenue has been turned into a charming chocolate shop. Coppeneur is a micro-batch bean-to-bar chocolate maker, based in Germany (some of their products are carried by Kerstin’s Chocolates in Edmonton). This is their first retail location in North America.

Coppeneur

Coppeneur

I always enjoy browsing for chocolate, and this occasion was no exception. We picked up a mixed package of their cuvee bars, which were almost too beautiful to consume – barks of dark, milk or white chocolate studded with everything from almonds to cocoa nibs to pink peppercorns. Worth a visit – particularly because they were one of the few storefronts downtown actually open on a Sunday!

Coppeneur

Cuvee bars

Spoon Me

The cheekily named Spoon Me is a frozen yogurt chain with twenty locations in the U.S., and two locations in Calgary. We stopped in for a snack at the Kensington branch just before heading back to Edmonton.

It was a delightful space to spend some time in, bursting with natural light, bright wall colours, and funky furniture. The bathroom walls were decorated with decals playing off their name, such as “May the spoon be with you!” and “You can’t handle the spoon!”. The fun continued with their fill-in-the-blank napkins.

Spoon Me

Frozen yogurt treat

At $5 for a small (with three toppings), it was on par with other frozen yogurt bars, but between the interior and the laugh we had reading through some of the napkins pinned up to the wall, it was well worth it.

Spoon Me

And it just keeps on growing…

I really appreciate that such a lovely food city is only a few hours from us – and though we share many similarities with Calgary, it always feels a bit like a world away. I’m looking forward to our next trip down already!