15 May 2010

The City Market, May 2010 - part 2

Note: this is the second half of a 2-part post on my tour of the City Market earlier this month. Part 1 is here. Older posts from previous visits to the City Market are here and here.

Well, I can't believe almost a week has gone by since my last post but it's been a busy* few days. I'm about to head to the Food Show** (which is at Westpac Stadium all weekend) but first I want to share the rest of the photos from my City Market tour a couple Sundays ago.

Picking up where I left off... I had just gotten around to Zoe's Organic Seedlings' stall. Grow-your-own seems to be picking up speed lately (I planted my first vegetable garden last year!) so a stand selling locally-raised baby plants was hardly out of place here at the market.

Beautiful, healthy-looking vegetable and herb seedlings were arranged side by side, hand-labelled and wrapped in damp newspaper for the journey home. I picked up a pack of six cavolo nero seedlings ($2.50) - although I won't get to eat this particular purchase for a while yet, they look great in my garden and will be well worth the wait, I'm sure.

If you've wandered down Courtenay Place recently you might have noticed Brat Pack's little shop/stand right outside the Paramount Theatre.

Their bratwurst, venison sausage and more are popular among late-night revellers, but lately they've been just as popular with the Sunday morning crowd with their stall at the market. My favourite? Probably a tie between the venison & red wine brat or the cheese kransky, with onions and lots of mustard.

Just around the corner was Fantail Grove, a Greytown-based producer of olive oil, olives and hazelnuts. I loved the range of olive oil from different types of olive, as well as the different flavours - lemon was my favourite.

I love hazelnuts, so got chatting to Margot, the stallholder. She told me about the difference fresh roasting makes to the flavour - since the roasted ones were roasted the night before, I picked up a bag to snack on. She was also quite willing to give instructions on how to roast raw nuts yourself, which I might try next time I visit this stall.

Fantail Grove were also selling hazelnut pesto- fresh and herbaceous but with a sweet, nutty depth from the bits of hazelnut.

Their hazelnut & chocolate spread was also delicious: think Nutella, but not as solid, with a definite 'artisan' feel, a bit more elegant and refined.

Another Greytown stall, The French Baker has had a mention in my first post on the City Market, but it remains a Market favourite.

These brown sugar brioches ($4) are high on my list of reasons for getting up on a Sunday morning - sticky, soft delights. They're so good that I haven't even tried any of Moise the baker's gorgeous patisseries, though I'm sure they're just as delicious.

These plump, green gaeta olives ($6/pot) were one of several olive varieties sold by Olive's Olives (the name, I'm told, is a play on "I love olives"). I was eager to try them as I hadn't heard of this variety before (these olives actually come from Italy). They were quite unique with an almost-buttery flavour, and a firm texture; I couldn't stop thinking about them all week and had to go back last Sunday for a pot to take home.

They also sell beautiful Coromandel Smoked Fish, another one of the few things sold at the market that doesn't come from Wellington. I didn't try any this time, but apparently the smoked fish is to die for.

And they seem quite popular - I only just managed to sneak a photo of these garlic mussels ($5/pot) before another pot-full was spirited away by an eager market-goer.

Paula's Pantry was another one of the newer additions to the market, with gorgeous baked goods and homemade sauces and chutneys.

This dukkah spice mix was great with the bread and oil out for sampling, and I loved the suggestion on the package to eat it with soft boiled eggs and soldiers.

Of course many of us know Martin Bosley's as one of Wellington's finer dining establishments, but he's also got a weekly presence at the City Market. This blood orange syrup ($10) made for a delicious cordial with some sparkling water. I was lucky enough to receive a bottle from Martin and I've been drizzling it over yoghurt with sliced strawberries - divine!

The palm sugar dressing ($10) is a City Market staple, week in and week out. I'm more of a simple balsamic-and-olive-oil drizzle on my salads at home but I'm very tempted to get a bottle - it's apparently very versatile and goes on a lot more than salad!

Like the blood orange syrup, Martin Bosley's lemon syrup ($10) tasted delicious with sparkling water, like a tangy homemade lemonade. Sort of pictured (far right) are his spice blends ($10) - I loved the fragrant, anise-y duck spice.

Majo Aprons stood out among the other stalls with their range of colourful and cute aprons. They were all quite unique - there seems to be something for everyone.

I loved the little details on these kids' aprons - the lacy trim and bright colours screamed 'adorable'.

Shott Beverages have a pretty major presence on the cordial/drink mix scene in New Zealand, supplying to many cafes, and some might wonder what they're doing at a market selling mostly artisan goods. However, as Rachel (from Yellow Brick Road, co-founder of the City Market and my wonderful tour guide) explained to me, they're just as Wellingtonian as the rest of the stalls, with their base in Petone, and it's great for them to be able to interact with customers and get feedback as well. Their lemon, honey and ginger mix is probably the most popular, but I really liked the melon, lime and bitters, which was quite different and refreshing.

One of the cool things about the City Market is that they're licenced to serve alcohol, so there's usually a stand doing wine tastings. One of the regulars is Archer McRae Wine Merchants, who bring different Martinborough wines over to the market almost every Sunday. I had a big chat with Chris Archer from Archer McRae, who told me all about how they try to act as a 'cellar door' for the smaller wineries, getting them out to the Wellington public. That week they were selling Croft 2008 Chardonnay, 2008 Sauvignon Blanc and 2006 Pinot Noir, as well as the 2009 Pinot Gris from Pheasant Plucker. I don't profess to know too much about wine but Chris was more than happy to share some of his wealth of knowledge about the wine as well as the wineries that make it. Archer McRae are also making wine of their own, which will be available this year (if all goes well!).

Kapiti Olives have been another regular at the market, and I've tried their olive oil a number of times. This time they were manning the Market Kitchen, one of my favourite features of the City Market, where local restaurateurs and food producers sell light meals and snacks.

On offer that week were two different types of bruschetta, made with Kapiti Olive Oil. These were big and hearty enough to be open-faced sandwiches, with plenty of good stuff on toasted ciabatta bread.

I didn't try the mushroom and spinach bruschetta ($5) but it looked umptuous, shiny with olive oil and topped with shaved parmesan.

I got the tomato, bocconcini & basil bruschetta ($5) as a sort of lunch (as if I hadn't eaten enough samples already!), and it tasted fresh and delicious - I loved the avocado as an added touch, too. The only trouble I had with this one was that (perhaps because I was overeager and trying to eat too quickly) some of the toppings kept falling off while I was trying to take a bite, so anyone watching me eat would have been either amused or revolted as I frantically kept picking up the pieces and shoving them into my mouth. It was worth the minor embarrassment, though.

Second to last was Harringtons, a butchery and smallgoods producer based in Miramar. They always have a decent selection of meat (including free-range pork) and sausages, bacon and other smallgoods.

Before going home, I stopped to chat again with Rachel at the Yellow Brick Road stall, and learned all about the history of the business - how it began when Rachel returned from the US and began sourcing premium-quality New Zealand fish to supply chefs overseas, and how the focus shifted to supplying local chefs and restaurants as well. The fish is sustainably sourced, long-line caught, and flown in fresh. A lot of the fish comes from Leigh, north of Auckland, but Rachel has contacts with fishermen from other parts of the country as well.

The drawcard for me at this stall is always their Te Matuku Bay oysters ($1.50 ea/$7.50 1/2 dz/$15 dz). Yellow Brick Road is one of the few seafood vendors I know of in Wellington who sell unshucked as well as freshly shucked oysters, and I'm so grateful for it - you can definitely taste the difference (fresh is best!).*** Rachel told me that the unshucked ones are especially popular among the French market-goers, many of whom are used to being able to buy them in the shell at markets back in France. I totally applaud Yellow Brick Road's commitment to freshness and quality - Rachel also told me about about how she tries to emphasise whole fish or skin-on, bone-in fillets, which is not as common in NZ as in other parts of the world.

Perhaps the best thing about Yellow Brick Road is their seafood chowder ($5) - rich, creamy and satisfying. Rachel told me what goes into it but I forgot to write it down (oops!); I can, however, tell you that it included a whole lot of deliciousness. It did sell out, though - I managed to get the last bits from the pot - so get in early if you can!

Worth mentioning but not pictured here (I got home and realised I hadn't taken any photos!) is a stall selling the most beautiful flowers - I believe they're called Enchante Flowers. When I went back last weekend they seemed to be doing a bustling trade for Mother's Day.

The thing that impressed me most about the market is all of the hardworking stallholders who, on what should be their morning off, come in at the crack of dawn (some from as far as the Wairarapa, Kapiti Coast & Horowhenua!!) to talk to shoppers and sample their wares. Everyone seemed to be incredibly passionate about food and their products and their enthusiasm was really infectious - after meeting everyone and seeing what they do I couldn't help but leave with a smile on my face, a belly full of goodness and a shopping bag heavy with goodies. The only downside I can think of is that a lot of the products are not as cheap as their mass-produced counterparts in the supermarkets... but the rewarding feeling of building relationships with the people who make your food kind of makes up for the sting to the wallet (or at least that's how I justify it!). Do check it out!

(and thanks again to Rachel from Yellow Brick Road for taking the time to show me around and introduce me to everyone - it was such a great experience!)

The City Market
The Atrium, Chaffers Dock Building
1 Herd St
Wellington Waterfront

Sundays 8:30am-12:30pm
City Market on Facebook

View Gusty Gourmet in a larger map

Sundays 8:30am-12:30pm

* (among other things, I got a kitten named Frankie who is the coolest cat ever!)
** I probably don't even need to say this but I'm SO excited, mostly about going back late Sunday afternoon for the end-of-show markdowns ;)
*** In what seems like a previous lifetime I worked in a seafood restaurant in the US which served oysters freshly shucked by a dedicated oyster shucker - I'll never forget my first raw oyster I had during my time working there.

08 May 2010

The City Market, May 2010 - part 1

Note: Mostly due to my excitement last Sunday at getting to meet and chat with so many stallholders, I have so much to share. I was going to do it all at once but thought it'd be better to get part of it out there first, so... this post will be divided up! Come back soon for Part 2 :)

If you've been reading this blog for a while you might have read the last couple posts on the City Market. Last Sunday I was lucky enough to be given a tour by Yellow Brick Road's lovely Rachel Taulelei, a co-founder of the market (along with Martin Bosley). Although I'm a pretty regular shopper at the City Market, I was super excited to get to learn more about how the market came about and chat with so many people who are so passionate about what they do best - food.

Rachel shouted me a flat white ($3.50) from Emporio's stall; although it wasn't too early I definitely appreciated the Sunday morning caffeine kick. Quite decent coffee too.

While we sipped our coffees, Rachel chatted to me about the story behind the market, how they wanted to highlight Wellington producers making top-quality products, get shoppers interacting with the people behind the food, and how the indoor location was ideal for those blustery Wellington days.

Having called Wellington home for many years now I'm definitely aware of the fierce pride that Wellingtonians have for this city, and this market seems to be a manifestation of that pride. Lots of people (myself included) are more willing to pay a little more for products when they're good quality, made locally and the producers themselves are willing to have a chat to you.

Which is exactly what I did. So, without further ado, here are the (first batch of) stalls I visited last Sunday:

First stop was Angie O, a producer of limoncello and other homemade goodies like pickled garlic and garlic sauce. I have to admit I was a bit hesitant to mix limoncello with coffee at 9 o'clock in the morning, but I'm glad I got past that to taste the three liqueurs on offer. The limoncello was quite sweet and lemony, and not at all strong (only 12% alcohol). The liamcello, made with limes, was quite sharp and sweet and possibly my favourite flavour of the three, but I was most intrigued by the alloro, a bay leaf liqueur, which was very sweet, smooth and quite full-flavoured.

Angie O also sells garlic sauce and pickled garlic. I expected the pickles to be quite strong, but they were actually very mild, more like pickled onions. Very tasty, and no scary garlic breath here!

One of the neat things about the City Market is that although around 80% of their stallholders are there on a (mostly) weekly basis, there are always new and semi-regular stalls popping up each week. One of the newer ones last week sold deliciously fresh organic apple, ginger & carrot juice from the guys behind Organic Boxes, which is similar to a CSA in that they'll deliver a box of veggies to your door every week, but without a time commitment. Hmm... this may have potential!

A weekly favourite of mine is Le Marché Français's cheese stall. Rachel explained to me that this is one of the few stalls whose products don't come from Wellington, but the variety of French cheeses on offer is to die for.

I always try to bring home a different cheese each week. They're really good about letting you have a taste, too - which can be great for those who might be overwhelmed by the array of unfamiliar varieties.

Esque Chocolate was next. I especially loved the thyme dark chocolate; the thyme brought an herbaceous freshness, like a twist on mint chocolate.

This stall has caught my eye a number of times before because of the gorgeous presentation - the detail that goes into the chocolate wrappers is breathtaking.

Brezelmania always has a stunning display of baked goods, and this week was no exception. I picked up a soft prezel for E, who loves their salty chewiness.

Brezelmania is based in Petone but also has shops in Kilburnie and Kelburn. The owners have spent time in Germany and have German friends, and sell a range of German breads and other baked treats like these gorgeous loaves of Nusszopf and Quarkzopf above.

And of course I couldn't stop drooling over these danishes. If I'm lucky sometimes I'll pick one up to eat while I shop.

Le Canard's stall is another perennial favourite at the City Market. Although their Thorndon restaurant is fantastic enough, they're also here every Sunday selling duck liver mousse, duck rillette and duck terrine (true to their name - le canard translates to "the duck" in French) along with jars of stock and little pots of steak butter.

I usually get a piece of duck terrine with fig & walnut every week and have it as a Sunday afternoon snack.

The figs and walnuts give it a real earthy heartiness, and it's savoury yet almost sweet.

Raine & Taylor, another newcomer to the market (they also sell products at Kirkaldie and Stains' cafe), had a stall full of gluten free baking. I do love my wheat products, but these were tasty anyway.

Plus it's exciting to see a stall dedicated to well-made, gluten-free goodies. I know quite a few people who are gluten intolerant who would be thrilled to find these guys!

Loukoumi Turkish Delight have been featured before on this blog - they make a really diverse range of flavoured Turkish delights.

Loukoumi make their Turkish Delight here in Wellington based on a traditional recipe the owners acquired when they bought the business a few years ago. The range of flavours is impressive, and although rose is the most popular, other traditional flavours like hazelnut and pomegranate are superb. My favourite, though, has to be feijoa - that distinctive taste goes beautifully with the soft, melting texture of the sweets.

Cupcake Sweeties is one of those stalls that I would normally gaze at longingly, but never actually indulge in. I'm so glad that I stopped by this lovely corner stall last Sunday to have a chat (and get a closer look at those darling cupcakes).

I loved the cute packaging idea for these mini cupcakes - they're the perfect size for the egg cartons. You can buy them individually or as a pack of 6; I had one lemon yoghurt mini cupcake ($2) which was tangy and moist and the perfect size for grazing. Winner!

A cool aspect of this stall is that not only do they sell exquisitely decorated cupcakes, they also sell little bits and pieces so that the DIY-minded can bake and decorate their own exquisite little cakes. A lot of these (like edible glitter) can be quite tricky to find in New Zealand so it's good to know you can get them here.

24 Carrot Dream Produce occupied the other corner stall - what a beautiful spread.

Although they don't grow the fruit and vegetables themselves, 24 Carrot Dream Produce, as suppliers to some of Wellington's top restaurants, have got top-quality produce for sale.

These baby beetroot and carrots were so cute next to the comparatively-monstrous looking garlic.

Although I usually get my fresh vegetables from the Harbourside Market next door, these veggies really did look high caliber.

The stall next door, Farmhouse Kitchen, was selling a couple different things like gigantic jars of pickled onions (so tempting) and homemade applesauce, but the star of the show here was the Macadamia Gold Muesli.

It's actually made in Cambridge and Farmhouse Kitchen have arranged to sell it at the market. At $24 per 600g bag, it's certainly not a budget cereal, but it's delicious: crunchy, nutty, quite sweet (but in a good way). And you could partly justify the price tag based on the high nut content... macadamias aren't that cheap! In fact, aside from some sweeteners, it's mostly nuts and seeds (not to mention it's gluten free!), so it's relatively healthy too.

If I wasn't pacing myself (had to leave room in my stomach to try everything!) I would have had this parfait ($6.50): muesli, yoghurt, fruit and two types of homemade fruit compote.

Apple Quarter, from Te Horo in the Horowhenua, showed off their spray-free apples and pears in full seasonal glory. The fruit trees are not only spray-free, but they're also treated using homeopathic remedies, which sounds quite intriguing.

They weren't as big or beautiful as the specimens you'd find in a supermarket, but they were crunchy and juicy and so full of flavour - a good honest apple. And pretty good value too; I got myself a 2 kg bag of Pacific Beauties for $4.

I'm going to stop here for now, but keep your eyes peeled for the next instalment - highlights to come include hazelnut pesto, smoked mussels, buttery-soft green olives, Martin Bosley's palm sugar dressing, and my thoughts on the market so far (fast approaching its 1st birthday next month).

And a preliminary thanks to Rachel Taulelei who so graciously took the time to introduce me to everyone and explain to me what goes on behind the scenes!

The City Market
The Atrium, Chaffers Dock Building
1 Herd St
Wellington Waterfront

Sundays 8:30am-12:30pm

View Gusty Gourmet in a larger map