By Jill Currie
A farmer’s market, in the traditional sense, conjures images of brisk early morning air, local produce, meat and dairy, piled high in worn baskets, friends old and new gathering to discuss the week’s news. A tradition with roots that are almost as old as agriculture. But the perception of the farmer’s market is evolving and modernizing.
Realistically, getting up at 6am on a Saturday to get the freshest peaches and the best ears of corn seems romantic. But, for those of you with office jobs, it’s your day to sleep in, and to those of you with service industry jobs, well, at 6am, you’re probably just falling into bed. Thats where the ‘supper market’ comes in.
At the Supper Market, one can still enjoy catching up with friends and enjoy the bounty of the local farms, but it comes together on a plate or in a glass and is accompanied by live music and glowing sunsets.
The supper markets in Niagara happen on what would traditionally be understood as ‘off days’, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in Port Dalhousie, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Pelham & Grimsby, respectively. They can draw anywhere from 2000-6000 on average amongst them and they happen at night. From 4pm until dusk during the summer you can sample the best of the best Niagara has to offer from food trucks, local chefs, pop-ups, breweries, wineries, wood fired pizza and ice cream. All things local are celebrated on three consecutive days and nicely spread out throughout the region.
Recently, the Port Dalhousie Supper Market celebrated its inaugural event on a Tuesday evening in the park at Lakeside. It follows in the footsteps of the Niagara-on-the-Lake, Pelham and Grimsby Supper Markets that have enjoyed growing success over the last few years and have set the standard for what a supper market can and should be.
“There is an obvious demand for a vibrant community driven dining experience and given Niagara’s natural beauty, it only seems fitting that experience take place outdoors surrounded by local food and drink,” said Tamara Jensen, co-owner of Ontario’s first Gourmet food truck, El Gastronomo Vagabundo.
Katrina Steeves, Co-Owner of Tide and Vine Oyster Company agreed. “The opportunity to participate in community events such as the Supper Market bring us closer to our costumers and offer us a chance to showcase what we do best.”
What the Tide & Vine Oyster Company do best is oysters and seafood. They offer up an ever rotating selection of the freshest seafood available. Oysters are their specialty and no wonder, Co-Owners Katrina Steeves and Mike Langley regularly place among the fastest oyster shuckers in the Country and have recently found success at their new restaurant in Niagara Falls. Make sure not to miss out on the Lobster Roll that is featured on their market menu.
Chef and co-owner Adam Hynam-Smith of El Gastronomo Vagabundo is a rising star in the culinary world with his new book Curbside Modern Street Food from a Vagabond Chef and appearances on television (he recently appeared on CTV’s The Social, and has been featured on The Food Network). The Supper Markets provide us the opportunity to not only sample his creations (like his now famous Cod Tacos) but to talk to the man himself. Like getting to know a farmer, getting to know a chef can offer tremendous insight to what is on you plate.
At the Niagara-on-the-Lake market a few weeks back, those who were lucky enough to attend got a chance to enjoy a pop-up from Bolete, a joint venture by chef Andrew Macleod and Kyle Paton that has yet to even open its doors. For those who indulged it was a special experience and many are now looking forward to the restaurants opening in St.Catharines.
These are just a few of the dozens of talented people who helped paved the way for such an event to occur in the first place. Throw in a couple of dedicated organizers and volunteers who navigate the logistics and you’ve got a recipe for success. But none of it would matter if it weren’t for the community itself who line up week after week to fill their bellies.
During this busy tourist season when we welcome the world to our Region, it is important to stop for a moment and remember that Niagara has some of the most talented chefs in Canada, if not the World, that we can enjoy in our own backyards.
Ultimately, that is what the supper market provides, a place to gather together to eat, to drink, to enjoy some live music, to talk to the people producing Niagara’s bounty, and appreciate all that this beautiful region has to offer. So gather your friends and get out there, try something new, or revisit something familiar, wash it all down with a glass of something cold and enjoy this sunshine while it lasts.