Calgary Farmers' Market at Currie Barracks:
I've always thought that the real test of a market's longevity and vitality in this climate, is the ability for it to survive the off season. When the produce is Mexican, and the novelty of rhinestone encrusted hammers has worn off - You really get down to the grit of the issue. Over the last year, it's almost been a weekly sojourn to the Barracks to stock up at the market. I thought I would put together one big post about the food available and my experiences with the different vendors.
Generally - the price point is just a tad more then Superstore, but the quality is far higher. Of course there are several suppliers. You can pretty much get everything produce wise that you need. One of the benefits is, they stock for a 3 day trade week. This means much less overstock, and fresher produce (even when they are using south of the border produce, the format favors the farmer's market).
The Cherry Pit - Often have fruit that is sublime, though the type changes. This weekend, for example, they had pineapple that was dynamite. Good tomatoes, cheap peppers and best of all two tills so you never have to wait around to pay them off.
Walkers - Situated along the same front wall that the Cherry Pit is, has a ridiculous variety of apples. Jonas Gold, Pink Lady and so on. When I was growing up, it was Macintosh and Golden D's; This place is a haven for apples. They might have other stuff, but I never get past the apples.
Alf's Greenhouse - Across from Walker's, they only sell cucumbers. Big and mini. 3 bucks for three or four big ones. Besides being the best price, the fact they only sell cucumbers makes them charming.
Prairie Farms - Down the aisle in the bathroom corner, they have lots of herbs. This weekend I picked up some thai basil. They have bags of B.C. shallots for 2.50, beets and onions on the cheap.
Blush Lane Organic - Just about the only place on the verge of being obnoxiously ethical/fairtrade/organic. Avoid the cookies at 5 bucks for 6 - they taste like diet bars. However, swallow your cynicism, they have the greatest mushrooms in the city. Shittake, Button, Oyster.
I've done everything I can to add to my personal Noah's Ark from the market. Elk, Ostrich, Buffalo and so on. I'm not a big fan of the meat available. I found the buffalo to be inconsistent. The elk was not bad, but poorly portioned and frozen. The cold smoked ostrich at Patsy Clark Ostrich farms held promise, but comes pre-sliced, and is far too thick (ever had a jerky sandwich?). As far as beef goes, there is no better place in the city then The Better Butcher in Acadia. However - carnivores need not suffer - Cunningham's cold smoked fish is unbelievable. The cold smoked trout is possibly my favorite food discovery this year. The salmon and arctic char are also excellent. I prefer the trout for the flavor volume is a touch more subtle then the salmon, and the colour is unreal compared to the char. The candied fish is also great, but I end up eating 20 bucks in five minutes. The other seafood provider is King's Catch, but the three times I've tried to get help there, they've been too busy. In addition, most of their product looks freezer burned, thawed and refrozen, and poorly wrapped.
I've often touted the grand qualities of Manuel Latruwe. Indeed they still have awesome icecream, excellent waffles and the greatest mini-cakes ever. I believe Brullee's lemon cake still reigns in the full size cake category.. BUT, Lady Bug, run by a former Latruwe employee, is a heavyweight hitter. The croissants are the best in the city! They sell Brioche!! Insane small lemon, chocolate, praline and brullee tarts! They also sell crepes!
If that wasn't enough in the bread category, there is also The Daily Bagel. Run by the same fellow who has that place off Heritage and Elbow, these bagels have ridden out the wave of garbage, bready garbage bagel trends. Boiled and fired in a wood oven - These bagels are dense, chewy, proportioned properly. They have that unbelievable smokey, carmelized surface that only comes with wood firing.
There are a lot of other stalls at the market that I haven't talked about. I'm not ecstatic about the nut supplier or the cheese stall. The gelato is excellent but not as big a flavour variety as other local places. A lot of the snack foods are rather pricy. The jams I've had have been fairly good. I found the cider at that Pearson's Berry Farm to be obnoxiously sweet - and their pies to be the same. The cookbook company has some great salt, but avoid the many varieties of yuppie ketchup (lol honey basil mustard for 14 bucks, lol). It's an excellent market, with almost everything you used to drive all over the city for, in one place.