Raymond and I were in Toronto last weekend, and visited the much-vaunted St. Lawrence Market. Now, both of us had been there in the past – but it was the rather distant past, so it was kind of like it was all new. All around the place were signs proclaiming that National Geographic had named it “The Best Market in the World.” Man, typical Toronto “we’re world-class” attitude. The St. Lawrence market is perfectly all right, I suppose, but (on a Saturday morning, anyway) it is wildly and most unpleasantly overcrowded. And you know what? When it comes to gorgeous super-local produce and general friendly ambience, it has nothing on Montreal‘s Jean Talon Market. Trust me on this. (And the next time you have a chance to get anywhere near Montreal, go visit Jean Talon. As should National Geographic, by the way.)
Anyway, my point here is not compare big farmers’ markets in Montreal and Toronto. I’m actually trying to lead you in to a story about a different sort of market, a much smaller and more local and quite exciting one, that Raymond and I visited one recent weekend.
It was a special event called Feast from Farm organized by the economic-development and promotion folks at the Municipality of Tweed, and it was held outdoors in downtown Tweed, in a park right beside pretty Stoco Lake. It wasn’t huge; there were about 15 booths featuring products from the area, everything from home baking and jams to pickled eggs. There were also four booths where chefs were cooking up samples of local products, two where beers from local microbreweries were featured, and – most exciting of all, as far as I was concerned – one featuring what I believe is the very first winery in Hastings County. It is called Potter Settlement Winery, and happily for us here in the Queensborough area, it is very close by – just a jog down Potter Settlement Road, which is in the vicinity of the hamlet of Sulphide, not far from Tweed. I just think it is the coolest thing ever that we have our very own local winery. Prince Edward County, look out!
I have been hearing bits and bobs about Potter Settlement Winery (here is its Facebook page) for the past two or three years, but learned that they were still in the building stage, working toward their first harvest and first year of wine production. Well, guess what: this is the year! At the Feast from Farm event, winemaker Robin Johnson was offering tastings of the first two wines, a red called Marquette Rouge and a white called Frontenac Gris. Since trying out these local wines was the primary reason Raymond and I attended the event, we beetled over to the booth and did just that. And were very impressed! We bought a bottle of the Marquette Rouge, and guess what: it was the very first bottle they’d ever sold!
On the front page of the Tweed News the following week, there was a photo of Robin Johnson at the event and a writeup about it, and in it he was quoted as saying they’d sold their first-ever bottle of wine there. Raymond and I are very proud to have been the buyers! It is stored in the wine cellar, perhaps permanently since it’s such a one-of-a-kind thing; I think we’ll have to stock up on more bottles for actual consumption.
The other highlight of the Feast from Farm was no less than the best sausages we have ever tasted. They came from an operation based in tiny Sharbot Lake, Ont. – about 45 minutes due east of us on beautiful Highway 7 – called Seed to Sausage. Neither of us had ever heard of it before, but you can bet we will be paying attention from now on. Seed to Sausage makes sausages (of course) and also salami, pancetta and a variety of other kinds of smoked meats. What they were serving up at Feast to Farm, alongside some good mustard and splendid sauerkraut, was a sausage that included – get this! – cheese curds from Empire Cheese of RR#5 Campbellford. (The best of the local cheese factories, we are reliably informed by locals who know their cheddar cheese; you can read my post about Empire here.) Now, I love sausages, and enjoy buying ones made with interesting ingredients like shallots, wild mushrooms, white wine and herbs – even curry. But I’d always steered away from sausages mixed with cheese products, because that seemed like a weird combination. But man oh man: the Seed to Sausage cheese-curd sausages were absolutely the best ever. I cannot wait to stock up on some!
(Seed to Sausage supplies high-end restaurants, and operates a store in Ottawa. There’s also a retail outlet in Sharbot Lake, but after this coming long weekend it’ll be closed till the Victoria Day weekend in May 2015. I think I need to talk them into setting up shop in Madoc or Tweed.)
Anyway, there you have my foodie report, and information on where to get great Hastings County wine and brilliant Frontenac County sausages. I promise that if you check them out (and support fantastic small producers into the bargain) you will not be disappointed.