Where & When: On Rte 845 at the end of the Perry Point Rd in Kingston 5km past the Gondola Point Ferry 0800-1300 every Saturday from early May thru mid November. N 45° 29.926 W 65° 58.411
‘Tis the season for outdoor markets in this part of the world and they have been springing up all over southern New Brunswick the past few years so I’m going to jump right onto the band wagon and talk about our Farmers Market here on the Kingston Peninsula. Now folks from “away” may wonder why the word “original” in the name of the market but those of us that live on the peninsula know the story behind having not one but two farmers markets in Kingston.
The Kingston Farmers Market was established in 1982 in a local Community Hall, now the location of the Original Peninsula Farmers Market (there’s that word original again). As the popularity of the market grew a number of vendors decided to look for a more suitable location and with much help and local support the “new” market opened in 1998. However… there were some people who did not wish to move and they stayed in the original location. For several years both markets laid claim to the designation of “original”; the original people vs. the original location until everyone woke up to the realization that two markets only adds to the draw of business. Whatever the names ended up being, even 16 years later we local residents simply refer to them as the “old” market and the “new” market. It is the latter that brings visitors to the peninsula in droves every Saturday and where, if you are even remotely from the area, you will be hard pressed not to run into at least one person that you know.
For us “foodies” the market is a veritable wonderland of things to try from the calorie laden deep fried curiosities, to organically grown health foods, the delights of international cuisine and the satisfying goodness of homemade baked goods. And of course there is breakfast; the reason so many people make the trek to Kingston, often waiting in the long ferry lineup to get here (hint: if you get to the ferry before 8:45 you should be good). Personally the breakfast is not a favourite of mine. I have had it a number of times in the past and will likely have it again sometime in the future as it is just fun to do in the spring as we shake off the binds of winter and venture out to meet friends and neighbours. The potatoes are the frozen variety and the bacon is precooked for efficiency. Jam and jelly comes in little peel top packets and the pancakes are probably the worst I have ever had; I poured several little containers of maple syrup (it IS the real stuff) over them and they still tasted like dry sawdust. When it comes to breakfast I think I would recommend the old market located just up the road from the Kingston crossroads toward Hampton. I say ‘I think’ because for years breakfast there was prepared by Alan and Oleta Nutter but with Alan’s passing a few years back the reins, or in this case the spatula, has been taken over by someone else. I dined there once shortly after and things weren’t running quite smoothly yet but likely are by now but I haven’t been back since and, as I said, it has been several years. The bread for toast there is homemade as is the jam to spread on it and I am assuming the potatoes are still the real deal as well. I rarely get pancakes (I rarely eat breakfast if truth be told) but when I did they were good, and with real maple syrup of course. BUT… it is the dining room in the “new” market that is packed each Saturday with a line zigzagging past the order window and often out the doors.
When I am on a gastronomical mission I look to share in several vendor delicacies with whomever I have conned into meeting me. I usually get there a bit early and spend time chatting with friends or co-workers that I inevitably run into as that is always the way of things at the market. Many locals go to sit at the picnic tables and chat with people that they know whether it be neighbours that they see frequently or friends that have been absent since the previous summer. There is ALWAYS someone you know at the market!
In 2007 thanks to a provincial grant, a covered area was added for the outdoor vendors and in the open center area are tables, a few vendors under canopies and a gazebo for musicians of a wide range of styles from country (sorry if you are a fan but it makes me want to plunge ice picks into my ear drums!) to classical.
I have a few “regular” vendors that I buy from; brown bread from ‘The Cookie Crumb’ bakery (first stall inside) and salmon from ‘Benson’s Seafood’ on the veranda. By now Liz who owns Cookie Crumb sees me coming and just hands me the bread. I was on a real search for several years to find my idea of the perfect brown bread and theirs comes pretty darned close. They also have lovely BIG cinnamon rolls for $2 that are great for splitting with a friend which is the best way to try a little bit of everything. Well, maybe not everything but one can always try…
Another favourite of mine are orange-chocolate chip oat cakes from ‘The Cape Breton Oat Cake Society’ (inside back isle). The “Society” consists of Greg Pringle, founder, president, baker and I’m pretty sure the entire membership. Greg told me awhile back that he has taken over the apartment next to his as his “kitchen”. He has a Farmer’s Market license so he can be found at various weekend venues in his full Scottish kilt regalia and ponytail. His cakes are $1.50 each or 12 for $12. They freeze beautifully and he will ship anywhere!!!
Benson’s is undoubtedly one of the most popular vendors at the market for either buying fresh salmon fillets to take home (I have a WONDERFUL recipe for maple glazed salmon that I make a lot) or for their grilled on the spot salmon burgers. I have never tried the burgers but judging by popularity they must be good!
Each year the market loses some vendors and gains a few more. This year’s loses apparently include the gourmet donut ladies (I am in mourning). I am including some photos just in case they return or someone finds them someplace else and recognizes their yummy treats, and I do mean YUMMY. (Please come back donuts ladies).
Another loss is ‘The Jamaican One Stop Patty Shop’ which had been a regular for years. Vendor Sonja Noye always whipped up some mighty fine food mon and her smile and colourful attire could brighten the day of even the sourest old fart. I really hope she comes back at some point but I have heard thru the grapevine that she can be found at the Sunday Queen Square Market these days. If you happen to see her (and she is hard to miss) be sure and stop by to say hello, have a taste of whatever she has to sample and groove to the reggae beat if she has her music playing. I guarantee you will come away smiling!
But enough about what isn’t at the market, and more about what is… A new addition this year is ‘Lobby John’s’ lobster rolls, hands down the best lobster rolls in Southern NB! HUGE chunks of the meaty crustacean with no filler and lovely buttered buns grilled fresh on the spot for $10.75. I was STUFFED after eating just one! Chase is the young man running the business and his father fishes on Campobello. When I first met Chase in mid-June the lobsters were caught fresh the day before. Once the season is over (that is the end of June for this part of the Bay of Fundy) he uses “sinkers” to keep them fresh but only until the end of July and then they will be done. Word has spread about this vendor and there was quite a queue when I was there this past weekend. Chase says they have been known to run out by 11:00 so make sure you get there in time. Right next door is fresh squeezed lemonade which seems a perfect combination with lobster. Friends of mine tried it one day with their lobster rolls and said it was very good but thought it a bit pricey at $5 for a large or $3 for a small. I usually stick with water myself.
There is wood baked pizza in the courtyard that I have had on several occasions which never disappoints (try “the works”) and Chantharas Thai Food next to the veranda. I am a lover of Thai food and I have good friends from Fredericton who make a habit of picking up food when down for the weekend from Chantharas (although this past weekend they were all about the lobster rolls). I have indulged myself on several occasions and waited while the food is prepared fresh to order. The spring rolls are delicious but I personally find the Pad Thai a bit on the dry side. It is hard for me to be too objective when I compare all Pad Thai to that of Suwanna which I love!
Still haven’t piqued the interest of your taste buds? Well with over 60 vendors and about 2/3 of them having something to do with food there has to be something for everyone. Internationally there is Thai, Mexican, Jamaican, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, German, Korean, Lebanese, and English (yes English, and if you don’t think their food is different then you have never been to England). For the sweet tooth there is candy, fudge, pies, cakes, cookies, squares, cake pops, waffles, and decadent little desserts that look almost (I said almost) too good to eat. Just want to snack? How about roasted nuts, popcorn, candy apples, cotton candy, curly fries, beef jerky, and kettle corn. Guests dropping in later for drinks and need nibblies? Smoked char spread, hummus, or fresh salsa and chips. What about breakfast for those who don’t want to sit? Several coffee vendors, fresh squeezed OJ (the orange stuff, not the wife killing, Bronco driving kind), muffins and breakfast sandwiches. Of course no farmers market would be complete without the local products that everyone looks for. There is all kinds of fresh produce in season including spring fiddleheads when the market first opens and crisp apples in the fall. Meats of all sorts (including organic) and homemade pickles, jams and jellies. Perhaps the best of what nature has to offer… gorgeous honey and good local pure maple syrup.
Last summer I ran into was a co-worker from the city who rarely comes to the market. While her 7 month old son was lulled into an almost hypnotic state by the fabulous Lydia on Cello (note to self, always have cello music on hand when around small children) we chatted and she asked ‘so, how do you come here and not want to just eat everything in sight?’ ‘You don’t’ I replied,’ just give into the temptation to indulge yourself’! (Lydia, BTW, was charming us all again this past weekend).
And don’t forget the market isn’t all about food (what???) Lots of local artisans and crafters on hand selling their wares. Jewelry, fiber works, yard ornaments, paintings, photographs, books, cut flowers, potted plants and much, much more.
This past weekend I was thrilled to find Danny Roberts of Atlantic Clay Works at an outside stall, THRILLED! Danny had a stall at the City Market for years selling his Bay of Fundy red clay pins and necklaces. I always wondered how successful he was because his generous, friendly nature had him giving away more than he sold I think. Danny was sort of the unofficial face of the City Market, and given time probably even Saint John had Market and City officials been smart enough to realize the gem that they had. But they didn’t and Halifax did so two years ago Danny packed up lock stock and barrel and moved to Halifax where his business has flourished (I think he might actually be rich now). So why was he hocking his wares in Kingston on a Saturday morning in late July? Because Danny loves people and people love Danny and it is just what he does!
Got kids??? Lots for them to do and see at the Kingston Market. There is always someone perched on the stool at the face painting booth and for the price I can see why. $3 for a cheek or $5 for a full face seems a small price to keep the kiddies happy (and quiet). This past weekend there was also someone set up making balloon animals and as for food there is usually a trailer in the courtyard that serves sausages, hot dogs etc which seems to be a favourite with kids (actually I think they have fresh cut fries which are next on my list). Sadly for a friend of mine they were absent this past weekend so while the adults were salivating over lobster rolls Amy was in a bit of a panic because her 5 year old daughter was about to find out that the hot dog guy wasn’t there.
Yes, the Kingston Market has something for every palate and every pocketbook whether you are there to “graze” your way thru, sit for a hearty breakfast or to shop for fresh local food to serve at your own table. So come for a drive in the county some Saturday but leave early or be prepared to wait in a ferry lineup and DON’T complain about the ferries; we like the system, mostly because it keeps us rural and not a part of the metropolitan sprawl taking place on the other side. Even if you have never been there is a good chance that you will run into someone you know because it is the place to be on Saturday morning rain or shine. See you at the market!!!