Friday, September 28, 2012

The NEST eats: Ottawa Farmers' Market, part I

The Ottawa Farmers' Market ROCKS.
Ottawa is a lucky city: we are surrounded and saturated with fantastic farms, apiaries, sugar bushes, and countless culinary artisans. It's the kind of city where you could conceivably eat year-round without ever heading to a traditional grocery store, and that's pretty impressive. Brian and I try to support local as much as possible, but it's a learning process: you've gotta get out there and discover what's available right in your own back yard! So when the Ottawa Farmers' Market showed up with a basket of goodies for us to try out, we were thrilled to participate. This is part I of a two-part post about the goodies we tried from the Ottawa Famers' Market.
What is the Ottawa Farmers' Market?

The Ottawa Farmers’ Market has grown to over 100 vendors of the best locally-grown and locally-made food, farm products, arts and crafts within 100 kilometres of Ottawa. Now in Westboro, Brewer Park and OrlĂ©ans, the markets boast some of the City’s favourite artisans – Pascale’s Ice Cream, Art-Is-In Bakery, Flatbread Pizza and the Hot Potato Company, not to mention more Savour Ottawa certified growers than any market. 
Ottawa Farmers’ Markets promote healthy eating and the local farmers who feed us.  The markets support the local economy – farmers, chefs, crafts people and entertainers – while providing the public with an opportunity to get outside, learn about local food and culture, and to buy the freshest, local products the season has to offer direct from the people who produce it. 
Head to their website to find out locations and times, including their Brewer Park and Westboro spots!


When we opened up the package, our noses were assailed by a rather intense burst of stinky feet smell. We were delighted to discover this was emanating from two varieties of gorgeous cheese, made by Glengarry Fine Cheeses. The first one we grabbed was the beautiful blue cheese; it turned out to be a wonderful treat, very flavourful but not overpowering. I threw it into a whole-wheat penne dish with olive oil, seared kale, and roasted sunflower seeds--now posted, and titled Penne From Heaven. The cheese was the star of the show; I didn't even have to add any spices for this dish to have major flavour impact. Mmmmmm!

At the last minute, I also ran out and grabbed the Bearbrook Farms Kolbassa that the Farmers' Market had sent us. This stuff is amazing, people. Its flavour was a cross between salami and ham, and the piquant spicy flavours made me think of a late summer harvest. We tossed some cubes of this into the pasta as well, and found ourselves rolling our eyes in delightful pleasure as we chewed.


For dessert, we basically ate jam off of spoons. I kid you not. How could we resist, with four Michaelsdolce jams sent to us? We hadn't actually had Michaelsdolce before, though we'd heard a lot about it, so as a jam fanatic I was excited. Every flavour lived up to Michaelsdolce's reputation for being clever, complex, and delightful. Here's a quick rundown:

This beautiful apple-green jam is sweet with a serious citrus kick. The tart bite at the end reminded me of genuine key lime pie that I've had in Key West. The jam was dessert-y, but also palette-cleansing. It reminded us of a mojito, and if you ask nicely, we can provide you a recipe for one using this jam. 

Blueberry & lavender:
One of my favourite things is lavender in food, and this jam wowed me. Made with real Nova Scotian blueberries, this jam was so sweet, you can literally taste the blue. The lavender flavour was subtle but created an almost smokey taste, a bit like eukalyptus or rosemary. This jam is light on the palette and calls for fresh scones. 

Strawberry & Balsamic:
What a jam! The balsamic is primarily evident in the aroma--and if you're not take a good sniff before eating each of these jams, you're missing half the show. The vinegar pairs with the strawberries to create an almost rhubarb-like flavour. Brian suggested it would go well with pork, so on a lark we tossed some on a slice of the Bearbrook Kolbassa, and sure enough it was fantastic. I also think, though, that it'd spruce up a bowl of vanilla bean ice cream in a very special way.

Citrus Ginger Marmalade:
I LOVE marmalade, and this one is definitely my new favourite. The simple citrus aroma does nothing to prepare you for the bitter, kicky flavours of orange pith, and the warm heat of the ginger. Brian said it called for a bagel with cream cheese, but personally I'd eat it on a thin, crispy slice of light rye bread.

Glengarry's blue cheese.


We finished up our evening of fine home dining by devouring the Glengarry Fine Cheeses goat cheese and the honeycomb provided by Halsall's Honey at the Ottawa Farmers' Market. Much to my surprise, the goat cheese was actually the stinkier cheese of the two we tried, but the flavour was quite lovely. It is a hard, more crumbly cheese with a mild but bitter flavour, short on the palette but lots of flavour. At the suggestion of Tara from the Market, we popped pieces of cheese into our mouths while gnoshing on chunks of the incredible honeycomb, and the pairing was superb.

Let me talk about that Halsall's honeycomb for a minute: I am still carefully, lovingly, rationing it out. If you've never eaten honey straight from the comb, I heartily recommend you try it, because it's always an amazing taste sensation; but this particular honeycomb was really very excellent. I shared some at work, and the response (from honeycomb virgins, no less) was always the same: this is the freshest-tasting honey they've ever tasted. 

Brian suggested that a lovely picnic snack could be made of a fresh french bread, a hunk of that goat cheese, and this fine honeycomb, paired very nicely with an Indian Pale Ale or a Belgian Wit beer. 

Maybe the most stunning item in the basket of goodies we are reviewing is the cutting board, by Joseph Henri. This beautiful piece of workmanship is what I used to create my Penne From Heaven meal, and we're leaving it on display in our kitchen. I love the idea of picking up one of these for a wedding gift or Christmas present for someone who takes pride in their cooking. 
Part II is soon to follow, and includes some lovely personal care products, as well as dulce de leche, pickles, and grapes. Sounds like a perfect night in by myself, watching Pride & Prejudice and painting my toes. Stay tuned for more local awesomeness. Because nothing rocks more than our local artisans and farmers.

1 comment:

  1. Loving the reviews of local food and where we can find it! Oh I do have a thing about GLENGARRY cheeses!