Ever since I moved to Halifax over a decade ago, the Halifax Farmers’ Market has held a special place in my heart. Then, it was about getting lost in the corridors of the old brewery and looking for a late morning breakfast to take the edge off of the…dehydration…that I sometimes suffered on Saturday mornings.
Now, I show up a few hours earlier than I used to, buckle Ada into her baby carrier and wander through the new Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market. One thing that the market has always nurtured for me is a sense of connection. The market is like my Cheers – I almost always run into someone I know, and most of my favourite vendors know me.
Lately, as I’ve tried more and more to use local ingredients in my cooking, I feel connected to the seasons when I head to the market. There’s something kind of wonderful about knowing when the first fiddleheads are harvested, or when it is time for roasted Brussels sprouts to become a more regular part of our dinner menus.
This past Saturday at the Seaport market gave me the opportunity to hang out with a good friend, shop for my Sunday dinner, and enjoy a few treats along the way. I met my pal inside and we headed up to Bramoso Gourmet Pizzeria so I could grab one of their famous breakfast pizzas. We caught each other up on the week’s events while I chowed down on my egg-topped slice and tried not to let any bacon pieces fall on Ada’s head. Eating while wearing my baby in a carrier is an art that I’m still learning!
After breakfast we started our slow, meandering walk through the market, weaving around fellow shoppers, squeezing fresh breads, smelling herbs, and listening to the soulful serenades of buskers tucked into various corners. I piled my shopping basket full of colourful root vegetables and apples from Noggins Corner Farm.
We stopped amongst a group of taste-testers surrounding the Ironworks Distillery stall and decided to join the fun. I tasted a sample of their arctic kiwi liqueur – yes, these strange little kiwis do grow in Nova Scotia – and their pear eau de vie. Strong enough to put hair on your chest, the eau de vie comes in a beautiful bottle with a pear in the bottom of it. The folks at Ironworks slide the bottle over the pear tree branch in the spring to achieve this unique presentation. Isn’t that the coolest?
Fox Hill’s corner of the market was bustling with what seemed like a conveyer belt of people unloading empty milk jugs from their grocery bags and backpacks and replacing them with freshly filled containers. I picked up some chocolate milk, feta cheese and a little bowl of pistachio gelato for the road. As we headed outside, the mid-afternoon sun threatened to melt my ice cream, making it even more difficult to transfer from the bowl, over Ada’s head and into my mouth, but the sweet, nutty confection motivated me to do my best.
After a fortifying swig of my chocolate milk right out of the bottle, I went out on the deck to fire up the grill. Ada sat in her bouncy chair on the kitchen counter while I took a pop can I’d filled with Garrison Nut Brown Ale (a fixture in our fridge, kind of like the chocolate milk is going to be) and put it inside the cavity of a small chicken I had thawed earlier. The chicken went on the barbecue while I started dicing the carrots, turnips, parsnips and beets that I had picked up from Noggins.
All this dicing made me hungry for a little pre-dinner nibble, so I warmed a gluten-free biscuit, slathered it in butter and molasses, and poured myself a Garrison chocolate soda (evidently I have a bit of a thing for chocolate in its’ liquid form). I tossed the vegetables in some olive oil, salt and pepper and slid them in the oven.
As the chicken and vegetables cooked, I quartered some zucchini, poured some vanilla balsamic and olive oil over them and placed them on the sizzling grill. Soon, I was holding Ada on my lap with one hand while using my fork to chase my awesome dinner around on my plate with the other hand. ‘
The roasted root vegetables were naturally sweet and complemented with a crumble of salty Fox Hill feta cheese; the chicken was tender with just a hint of maltiness from the beer, and the zucchini, topped with a bit of shaved Parmesan, rounded out the meal.
For dessert, I put some diced apples in ramekins, squished a buttery, oaty, sugary, cinnamon-y mixture on top and baked them. A dollop of cold whipped cream on these hot little crisps made my local food-inspired meal complete.
As I hung up my grocery basket for another week I reflected on how my Saturday morning excursions to the Seaport market, though different now than they were in my undergraduate days, have become a staple in my weekend routine.
The market is such an energetic, thriving place; a venue that fosters an appreciation for homegrown foods, talent and artistry, a place where friendships are cultivated, and a true fixture in our city’s culture.