A Food Lover’s City Break in Ottawa’s Byward Market

Ottawa has a bit of a bad rap amongst Canadians.

Visiting Toronto in Ontario and Montreal in Quebec, as soon as we mentioned that we were heading to the nation’s capital we were immediately asked why and told not to bother! Ottawa was dismissed as dull, boring and not worthy of our time by several people we encountered. I suspect a lot of this is down to the fact that for many Canadians, their first (and often only) experience of Ottawa is on a school trip where they are forced to traipse around Parliament Hill – the seat of national government, the Canadian Museum of History, the War Museum, the National Library and other such places guaranteed to make a teenager yawn.

But the reality is that Ottawa is a wonderful city to visit, especially for those of us with a love of beautiful architecture and good food and drink.

Of course, you can visit Parliament Hill and one or more of Ottawa’s many museums if you like – as well as the ones I’ve already mentioned, there are museums for Agriculture and Food, Aviation and Space, Science and Technology, History, Nature and Art.

Collage - Ottawa 2016

But we chose to focus our short visit on the food and drink delights of Byward Market and this bright and bustling neighbourhood quickly won over our hearts and our bellies.

In a rare case of perfect timing, we were able to stay in the brand new Andaz Ottawa Byward Market, which opened just days ahead of our visit. Located right in the heart of the neighbourhood, the Andaz provided luxurious rooms with beautiful views across the city, a good solid breakfast to start the day and warm and friendly service.

Andaz Hotel - Ottawa 2016

As soon as we had arrived, checked in and sent the car to be parked we booked ourselves onto a cruise along ‘the Canal’ with Rideau Canal Cruises. Unlike other tourist cruises we have taken, we really appreciated having a live commentary rather than a canned one, and our guide gave us a great introduction to the history of the canal, and the city itself.

Rideau Canal Collage - Ottawa 2016

In short, Ottawa was originally named Bytown for Colonel John By, the British royal military engineer who built the Rideau Canal, a strategic waterway between Kingston and Montreal. As the town grew, Colonel By also laid out street plans for two neighbourhoods known then as Uppertown, where the wealthier residents lived, purchased plots and built grand homes, and Lowertown, which was leased to Irish and French Canadian immigrants and labourers. Is is the area of Lowertown that is now known as Byward Market and is a bustling and eclectic food-focused neighbourhood. Just before being chosen by Queen Victoria as the capital of her colony in Canada, Bytown was renamed to Ottawa.

For fellow history geeks… click here for the longer version...

The place we know now as Ottawa has been inhabited for over 6500 years by native Canadian populations, chiefly the Algonquin people who settled along the banks of the Ottawa River which they used as a highway for trade and cultural exchange. It was first visited by European explorers in 1610, followed by traders and missionaries. In 1800, a New England trader settled there, creating a small but thriving agricultural community (called Wrightsville for its founder) and establishing an immensely successful lumber business.

But it was not until 1826 that the city proper really established itself, as hundreds of land speculators acted upon the news that British authorities were constructing a military canal that would connect Kingston to the south with Montreal to the North. The purpose of the canal was to provide a secure transportation route that would bypass the stretch of the St Lawrence River that bordered New York and had exposed British forces to American enemy fire in the War of 1812.

The building of the canal was overseen by British military engineer Colonel John By, and took six hard years. By’s amazing feat of engineering, during which he overcame all manner of difficulties – from malarial swamps to the requirement to build far more locks than anticipated to allow for changing levels – are clearly recognised today but at the time he was soundly derided for escalating costs, loss of life and the lengthy construction period. During the period of construction, By established a military barracks where Parliament Hill now sits and drew up street plans for Uppertown and Lowertown neighbourhoods. The growing city quickly became known as Bytown.

In those days, it was a violent and lawless place known for fighting, prostitution and thievery. Uppertown was a wealthy and predominantly Protestant neighbourhood where residents owned their lots and homes whereas Lowerton (where Byward Market sits today) was populated by poorer Irish immigrants and French Canadian lumberjacks, most of whom were Roman Catholic and were not permitted to buy land, nor participate in local governance. This resulted in huge animosity which often flared into vicious uprisings, culminating in a political crisis in the 1830s. At this point, the Crown finally allowed Lowertown residents to buy land and property and to vote, though it took another decade or two for the unrest to settle down.

The fate of the city finally changed for the better in the mid 19th century. In 1855 it was renamed to Ottawa and in 1857 Queen Victoria made the surprise decision to establish the province’s capital there, snubbing the political lobbyists of the fledgling nation’s more-established cities. Ottawa was far more defensible from American attack, being situated much further inland from the border, and the Rideau Canal meant that it was easy to supply from both east and west provinces. It was also the midpoint between Quebec City in the French-speaking Canada East and Toronto in the English-speaking Canada West. Soon after, construction of the rather grand Parliament Hill building began, now a key landmark of the Ottawa landscape.

Riding the canal was a very serene introduction to Ottawa, and we really appreciated the historical grounding we were given by our guide.

Byward Market Core Building Collage - Ottawa 2016

We built upon that by booking a guided walking food tour of Byward Market with C’est Bon, and were happy to find we were the only guests booked on that weekday afternoon.

Byward Market Neighbourhood Collage - Ottawa 2016

Our guide, Britney was a real food lover herself and enthusiastic about showing us around the neighbourhood, sharing lots of interesting stories about the area’s history as well as the various specialist retailers we visited. I loved learning that when Colonel By had laid out the neighbourhood street plan, he’d deliberately made George and York Streets extra wide to allow space for holding a market, and for the horses and carriages of both traders and visiting customers.

The tour includes lots and lots of stops at some of the best shops and stalls in the neighbourhood (including some in the covered market building itself) and tastings at many of them.

We loved trying Canadian cheeses at The House of Cheese, delicious raspberry cupcakes at The Cupcake Lounge (I’m not usually a huge fan of cupcakes but these were really amazing!), a cold fruit tea infusion at teastore (a store selling hundreds of homemade teas featuring all manner of teas, fruits and herbs ), maple syrup from producer Robert Hupé of Maple Country Sugarbush (who gave us a great primer on the production and types of maples syrup) and aged Parmigiano-Reggiano at Italian deli La Botegga Nicastro. And that’s not even the whole list!

One of my favourite stops was a specialist grocery shop called Byward Fruit Market, not least for the charmingly worn hand-painted shop sign outside. Inside, friendly staff proudly showed off their store and some of the more unusual produce and food products they stock.

Byward Market Fruit and Veg Collage - Ottawa 2016

I also loved the fresh produce market area, full of all manner of fruit and vegetables.

Britney explained how the signs above each stall tell customers more about the produce. A green sign indicates that the stall holder produces 100% of their goods themselves. If the sign is yellow, that indicates that the vendor produces at least 60% of their goods. And red is used for vendors who source most or all of their products from elsewhere.

While we were walking and talking fruits, Britney told us about a personal favourite of hers, the hardy kiwi aka arctic kiwi. To my delight, we found a stall selling these and bought a punnet – see the photo of bowls of red, green and blue fruit above? These smooth-skinned little green fruits are a type of kiwi fruit that can be eaten whole, skins and all and they are super sweet and delicious. We are hoping to grow them at home in our garden, thanks to the tip from Britney that these thrive in colder climates.

Byward Market Restaurants Collage - Ottawa 2016

As well as visiting so many food stalls and shops, we also stopped for sit-down tastings at a couple of local restaurants. We had some fresh guacamole and nachos at Mexican restaurant, Corazon De Maiz (considered by those in the know as one of the best eateries in the city), a fresh-out-of-the-tandoor hot-buttered naan at Shafali Indian (which we were able to watch being made), one of the best Naples-style pizzas I’ve had for a while at The Grand Pizzeria (where the pizza maker put on quite a show for us as he stretched the dough) and a amuse-bouche style taster of one of the sharing dishes at Play Food & Wine.

Byward Market is such a compact area – with hundreds of stalls, shops, cafes and restaurants – that you could certainly explore it on your own. However, we found the tour a really enjoyable way of getting a feel for the area, and then went on to explore it further on our own afterwards. C’est Bon offer several walking food tours in Ottawa including two in Byward Market, as there’s just so much to cover in this neighbourhood. We took the Byward Market Courtyards tour which covers the West side of the area; the other one is called the Lowertown tour and focuses on Dalhousie and Murray Streets.

Brew Donkey Black Tomato - Ottawa 2016

I mentioned right at the start that Ottawa is a great destination for food and drink lovers, and you may be wondering where the drink part of that is.

Although we weren’t in town on the right day to take one of Brew Donkey’s guided and chauffeured brewery tours, we were able to meet up with founder Brad Campeau who told us all about the booming beer scene in Ottawa. Within an hour of Ottawa city centre you can find nearly twenty craft breweries, many of whom have launched only within the last few years. There are a couple of micro-breweries right in the heart of town too, and several bars and restaurants that stock a great range of local beers. We met at Black Tomato, one such restaurant, and enjoyed a delicious dinner and some great beers.

If you plan in advance, you may also be able to coincide your visit with one of the beer markets or festivals run regularly in the city; a great way of meeting many of the brewers in one place, and sampling the range of their beers.

Beaver Tails - Ottawa 2016

One Ottawa institution I was very keen to visit was Beaver Tails, one of Canada’s most famous pastries, yet only harking back to 1978. It started out as a family-run food concession at a craft and community fair in Killaloe, Ontario before taking its first permanent home in Ottawa’s Byward Market. It’s now an international business with stores across Canada as well as franchises in America, Japan and South Korea.

Chloe Gervais, manager of the Byward Market store, was kind enough to let Pete and I have a go at making our own beaver tails, after showing us how it’s done.

Making Beaver Tails Wide Collage - Ottawa 2016
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These days the whole wheat cracked wheat dough is made in a a central production centre and sent out daily to each store. Each piece is stretched out into the elongated shape of a beaver’s tail, before being slipped gently into the hot oil and turned over a few times as it deep fries. Once it comes out of the oil and has drained for a few seconds, it is painted with melted butter and generously topped with the customer’s chosen flavours – cinnamon sugar, maple butter, chocolate hazelnut spread, fresh sliced bananas, peanut butter and even a savoury option of garlic butter and cheese.

Pete did a great job, and made a delicious maple butter beaver tail which he enjoyed hot and fresh. I had mine with hazelnut chocolate spread with fresh bananas. Delicious!

Beaver Tails really come into their own during the very cold Ottawa winters when the Rideau Canal freezes over and a long stretch within the heart of the city becomes the second largest skating rink in the world at nearly 5 miles long. Beaver Tail set up stands along the length of the frozen canal, and sell lots of hot, freshly fried treats to the many skaters braving the cold weather. An hour of ice skating sounds like a great way to burn off enough calories to indulge in lots of these deep fried treats!

Sash Gelato Collage - Ottawa 2016

If you love gelato, do visit Sash Gelato Cafe – a locally-owned gelateria. They make truly excellent gelato every day using natural ingredients and there are some wonderful flavours to choose from. We visited both nights of our stay in Ottawa and I can strongly recommend their hazelnut chocolate, tiramisu and pistachio gelatos, all of which were superb. Pete gave their coffee a huge thumbs up too.

Bridgehead Roastery Collage - Ottawa 2016

My last recommendation is a local coffee chain with twenty branches around town, including one on Dalhousie Street by Byward Market.

Bridgehead’s history makes for interesting reading – it was initially set up in 1981 to support small-scale coffee farmers in Nicaragua, and was the first Fair Trade coffee offering in Ottawa. It’s been through a few changes of ownership since then.

We visited the roastery on our way out of town. Built in 2012, this is where the chain’s coffee is roasted and baked treats for the coffee shops are made. The roastery, located between China Town and Centretown West, is a spacious, high-ceilinged industrial cavern with coffee roasting to one side, a coffee shop to the other side and kitchens at the back. If you have a car, or are happy to use public transport to hop around town, do drop in for some excellent coffee.

Our two nights in Ottawa flew by far too quickly – we could easily have spent another day exploring just Byward Market alone, let alone venturing out to the many other appealing neighbourhoods in the city. On our next visit, we will also set a day aside to visit some of the many craft breweries in and around Ottawa and see more of the beautiful natural landscape of the region too.

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Foodies Break in Ottawa Canada (tall)

Kavey Eats visited Ottawa as guests of Ottawa Tourism.

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Visiting The Suzuhiro Kamaboko Museum

Have you heard of kamaboko? It’s a type of surimi fishcake from Japan. Surimi is made by creating a paste of pureed white fish paste that is flavoured, formed into different shapes and steamed to cook. In Japan there are many surimi products which are sold both fresh and dried for consumers to add to their soups, hotpots and other dishes. You may already be familiar with one surimi product that is consumed around the world – imitation crabsticks, made from coloured and flavoured fish paste.

Kamaboko is a large loaf-shaped surimi fishcake that is cooked whole, most commonly by steaming, but it can also be fried, grilled or poached. It us usually served sliced, either on its own or within other dishes.

Suzihiro, a traditional manufacturer of kamaboko, have created a centre where visitors can learn more about the history and manufacture of kamaboko. Originally a retailer of fresh fish and seafood, Suzihiro began making kamaboko in 1865, expanding their local customer base to Tokyo during the 19th and 20th centuries. Many Tokyo customers would purchase Suzihiro kamaboko on their journeys to Hakone’s onsen (hot spring bath) resorts.

Kamoboko Museum and Market in Kazamatsuri Japan. On Kavey Eats-105223 Kamoboko Museum and Market in Kazamatsuri Japan. On Kavey Eats-105551

The Suzuhiro Kamaboko Museum is located in the Kazamatsuri district of Odawara City, in Kanagawa Prefecture. Visitors heading to Hakone from Tokyo can easily make a stop at the museum, which is right next to Kazamatsuri Station, on the Hakone Tozan Line between Odawara and Hakone-Yumoto.

Kamoboko Museum and Market in Kazamatsuri Japan. On Kavey Eats-103836 Kamoboko Museum and Market in Kazamatsuri Japan. On Kavey Eats-103223

As you exit the station, the path from the exit will lead you straight to a large modern building which houses the Suzunari Market, an indoor food market selling a wide range of food including plenty of fishcake products as well as other local delicacies. There are a few eateries within the space, plus plenty of takeaway food to enjoy fresh. There are also products to take home, some of which are designed as omiyage – the customary gifts that Japanese travellers bring home for friends and colleagues.

Kamoboko Museum and Market in Kazamatsuri Japan. On Kavey Eats-103957 Kamoboko Museum and Market in Kazamatsuri Japan. On Kavey Eats-104537
Kamoboko Museum and Market in Kazamatsuri Japan. On Kavey Eats-104358 Kamoboko Museum and Market in Kazamatsuri Japan. On Kavey Eats-104203

A coffee shop overlooks the station, with a small garden area between. To one side is a store showcasing and selling ornate Suzihiro kamaboko products. If you exit the market building onto the main road and turn right, the next building along houses the Suzuhiro Kamaboko Museum.

Kamoboko Museum and Market in Kazamatsuri Japan. On Kavey Eats-103051

Admission is free. There are also paid activities to try your hand at making simple surimi products. These run at set times; contact the museum to reserve in advance if you want to participate.

There is very little information in English so having a good translation app on your phone will make it easier to understand the exhibits detailing the history and manufacturing process.

Best of all though is the opportunity to watch, through enormous glass windows, skilled workmen and women crafting kamoboko in the large factory kitchen.

 

Thanks to Robb at WhereInTokyo for his tip to visit the museum. You can see more photos of the museum exhibits on his site.

You may also enjoy my previous posts about my travels to Japan.

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Grow Buy Cook Eat | Niagara-on-the-Lake

Do you know Niagara-on-the-Lake?

No? Well you can probably guess a couple of things about it at least – that it’s near Niagara Falls, and that it’s on the shores of a lake! That’s all I knew too, but last autumn I visited for myself, and discovered a lot more.

What I came away with, as well as an appreciation of the warmth of the local population and the beauty of the landscape, was some serious envy about the quality and variety of fresh produce grown here. Readily available directly from the farm, at farmers markets and in local stores, it’s put to fantastic use by local producers, restaurateurs and home chefs.

Inn the Pines Farmgate Shop

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Very much a farming community, many of the farms have a farmgate shop – exactly what it sounds like, a shop or stall from which farmers sell direct to their customers just yards from where the produce is grown.

We stopped at Inn the Pines in St. Catharines to admire their produce, watch happily squawking chickens enjoy freshly harvested corn on the cob, and chat to owners Cheryl and Barney Barnes – that’s Barney posing on the back of his pickup and feeding the chooks. As we learned a little about some of the produce they grow and sell to both restaurateurs and home cooks, an elderly couple arrived to buy corn by the barrow-load, deftly peeling away the husks which will no doubt be thrown onto a nearby compost heap and bemused by my request to take a photo.

There’s something rather special about buying produce direct from the farmers; one of the things I can’t help but envy, as a London-based city slicker.

Whitty Farms & 13th Street Bakery

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Whitty Farms is another local farm just outside  St. Catharines, and like Inn the Pines, has been handed down through the generations. Today, it’s the turn of Doug and Karen Whitty, and just like Inn the Pines, customers can buy direct from the farm.

But there’s another treat not to be missed alongside all the fresh produce and that’s the output of 13th Street Bakery. Their butter tart may be a contender for best in Niagara, if not all of Ontario or indeed the entirety of Canada; if anyone is looking for someone to do a more comprehensive survey, point me at the application form right now!

Butter Tarts are a much-loved treat across Canada and there’s hot debate on just what a good butter tart should (and shouldn’t) be. A basic butter tart has a filling of butter, sugar, syrup and egg baked in a flaky pastry casing, often with the addition of Canadian maple syrup. Purists eschew the addition of pecan nuts or raisins, let alone anything more exotic . It’s less clear cut whether ‘traditional’ allows for a firmer or softer filling but the ongoing argument is a good excuse to taste as many examples as possible.

The Whittys, with their friends John and June Mann also set up 13th Street Winery at the same site, more of which in an upcoming post.

Upper Canada Cheese Company

UpperCanadaCheeseCo Collage1

Another favourite stop for me as a cheese addict, Upper Canada Cheese Company in Jordan Station is a small local creamery producing a range of cheeses from the milk of local Guernsey cows and goats.

We tried a selection including Niagara Gold, a semi-firm washed-rind based on traditional Loire Valley cheeses, Comfort Cream, a camembert-style soft bloomed rind cheese which is best when super ripe, the maple-smoked version of Jordan Station, another semi-firm cheese and Nanny Noir, a goats milk camembert-style cheese rolled in vegetable ash and allowed to ripen for four weeks. We also tried an experimental new blue cheese – great flavour but some more work needed on the texture.

This is everything you want of a cheese shop – great cheeses and very helpful staff happy to give tasters and help every customer find just the cheese (or cheeses) they need.

White Meadows Farms Maple Shop

WhiteMeadows Collage1

Maple syrup is produced across quite a swathe of Canada and I had already tasted and purchased a lot of it during the few days I spent in Montreal and Quebec, before heading down to Niagara. (So much, in fact, that my case was overweight and I had to post a box of goodies home to myself, thus instantly rendering my bargainous purchases into some of the most expensive maple syrup ever!)

But I was still keen as maple-mustard to visit White Meadows Farms and sample their four grades of maple syrup, and to taste their range of maple syrup products – sauces and mustards, vinegars and salad dressings,  maple sugar and maple butter (maple syrup boiled until it’s dry and whipped into a spreadable form, respectively), fruit and maple jams, and of course, traditional maple candies.

Maple syrup, made from sap collected from maple trees, is graded by colour into Light, Medium, Amber and Dark. Canadian maple syrup must be 100% maple sap, and the finished product must have a sugar level of 66%, achieved by boiling natural sap to evaporate the water content which thickens the consistency and concentrates the sugars. The boiled syrup is then filtered before being packaged for sale. The colour is governed by the sap, with early season sap usually producing the lightest finished syrup. Dark is harder to find, as it’s produced right at the end of the season when the sap is at its richest and the strong flavour is not to everyone’s taste.

Dark proved to my favourite, and I bought a few bottles to bring home.

Welland Farmers’ Market

Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-103102 Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats-103825
Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats-104204 Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-105952

Wellands Farmers’ Market is not as huge as the amazing markets I visited in Montreal and Quebec but it’s the perfect place to buy local produce, and there’s a great selection. However, I was focused on just one main ingredient, after our hosts chefs Anna and Michael Olson set us a cooking challenge! More on that cooking experience in an upcoming post…

The best thing about the market, aside from the top quality produce itself, were the very friendly stall holders, keen to tell us about their goods and to welcome us to their town.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-104052

The market consists of two main buildings dating from 1919, and some outdoor marquees as well. Alongside fruits and vegetables you can find fresh meat and eggs, charcuterie, local honeys, fresh baked goods, cheese, chocolates, flowers and wine.

Kavey Eats visited Ontario as a guest of Destinations Canada. With additional thanks to Anna and Michael Olson for being our hosts, and Diane Helinski for being our tour manager and guide.

Markets of Canada | Quebec City’s Marché du Vieux-Port & Île d’Orléans

The first produce market I visited in Canada was the impressive Marché Jean-Talon in Montreal, a wonderland of fruit, vegetables and other produce, plus a paradise of specialist food shops and delis. I’ll be writing more about my non-market food finds in Montreal soon, but next I want to tell you about the next destination (and food market) to win my affections.

Quebec City lies just 160 miles North East of Montreal, also on the banks of the St Lawrence River. I journeyed between the two by train, taking VIA Rail’s comfortable direct service from the heart of one city to the other. Next time I’d like to drive the whole stretch, to better appreciate the beautiful scenery and small towns along the route.

Whereas Montreal offers a energising mix of old French and English plus modern North American culture, architecture and language, Quebec City is altogether more French. The old French architecture is spread more widely around town, French is the dominant language spoken, and one could easily imagine oneself back in a corner of France, culturally-speaking. Of course, it’s a modern city too, but its heart is a little piece of France in North America. It’s an enchanting place to visit.

You’ve probably already realised how much I’m drawn to food markets and Marché du Vieux-Port de Québec is another fabulous example, located directly opposite the Gare du Palais, the city’s central station.

Under cover, the market is open all year round. It sells produce direct from the farmers and artisan produce is often sold by the people who make it. You will find fruit and vegetables, meat products, maple syrup, cheese, charcuterie, jam, sweets and more. Stall holders are friendly and happy to answer your questions about their products.

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Though I’ve jumped in to tell you about the market first, I actually visited just before leaving Quebec City; taking the train back to Montreal before flying down to Toronto for the next segment of my trip. Before that, I discovered the other attractions of the city and surrounding area.

On my arrival at Quebec City Gare du Palais (train station), I was met by local tour guide Michelle Demers. We headed straight out of the city to Île d’Orléans, a large island located in the river just off the shores off Quebec City. Accessed  from the city via a narrow road bridge, the island retains a feeling of rural peace and detachment. Though some residents do commute to the mainland for work, the island’s primary industry is farming, and much of the landscape is put to agriculture. We spent a lovely afternoon driving a circuit of the island, enjoying the pretty villages along the main road and the stunning views of the river and mainland to both sides.

Michelle told me a little about the history of the area – the island was one of the first areas of the province settled by early French colonists and many French Canadians trace their ancestry back to the settlers of that period. The island was also occupied by the British during the Seven Years’ War (1755 and 1764), after which Britain took ownership of much of what had previously been known as New France, in North America. In the 19th and 20th Century the island also became known for it’s boat building, and developed a thriving fishing industry, both of which have declined in the last eighty years.

One of the joys of exploring the Île d’Orléans are the farm gate stalls along the roadside, from which local farmers sell produce to passers by. Some are manned, others operate on the honesty box system. All were piled high with beautiful fruit and vegetables of the season.

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We stopped in at Cassis Mona, a family business specialising in blackcurrant products including a range of delicious wines, vinegars, syrups, jams and sweets.  You can taste before you buy, and I wish I had more space in my luggage to bring back a treat or two.

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My favourite stop on the island was at a cheese dairy, one that has won awards for its high quality cheese. One of their cheeses, La Faiselle de l’Isle d’Orléans, is the fresh version of the very first cheese made in North America. I loved it fresh with maple sugar and pressed, squeaky like halloumi and served hot from the pan.

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One of the most famous products of Canada is maple syrup and Michelle told me about the traditional sugar shacks of the region. In times past, the season for harvesting and processing maple sap was short, and producers called in their extended families to help during the busiest period. The sap must be harvested and cooked down to make the syrup we know and love. Food traditionally cooked and served to workers during the harvest have become a nostalgia-inducing comfort food for locals and a tourist attraction for visitors. Serving up the kind of hearty food enjoyed for generations, sugar shacks also teach visitors about the traditional production process and let them enjoy snow taffy – maple syrup that has been reduced to a thicker consistency than usual is poured onto fresh snow where it quickly starts to solidify and can easily be wrapped around a stick to eat as a chewy lolly. These days, shacks use shaved ice made in modern freezers to replicate the snow taffy experience even when it’s warm and sunny outside.

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During my visit to Quebec City I stayed at the Auberge Place d’Armes, a beautiful French-style inn with an unbeatable location. My room was utterly gorgeous, one of the most charming of my trip, and service from the front desk was helpful and genuine. I appreciated the voucher for a sweet treat which I was invited to choose from the crepe stand in the cathedral grounds opposite or the ice cream shop beneath the auberge. Delicious ice cream, which I ate perched on the window ledge in the ice cream parlour, watching people walking by.

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From my room windows I looked out onto the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity and the famous and enormously grand Fairmont Le Château Frontenac. There’s a wide wooden boardwalk that extends from the chateau – a lovely walk on a sunny day.

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The auberge was also just steps away from the furnicular down to the pretty Quartier Petit Champlain, an area full of cafes, restaurants and tourist shops. The central square here was rebuilt to original plans and is a beautiful place to stop for a hot chocolate or coffee.

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I particularly enjoyed several modern art installations around the Petit Champlain area and further afield in the city.

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I only had a short time in Quebec City, as I also made a visit to Huron-Wendat to visit the museum, hotel, restaurant and visitor facility; these collectively showcase the culture, traditions, food and hospitality of the Huron first nation. More on that in a future post.

Next time I visit (and I will definitely go back!) I hope to explore more of the city’s many attractions, including world-class art galleries, beautiful parks and excellent restaurants.

 

Kavey Eats visited Montreal courtesy of Destination Canada, with the assistance of Tourisme Quebec.

Markets of Canada | Montreal’s Marché Jean-Talon

Visiting the Marché Jean-Talon in Montreal’s Little Italy district, I felt like a kid in a sweet shop; overwhelmed by stall after stall piled with beautiful, fresh, brightly-coloured produce, I didn’t know where to look next.

Punnets of tiny physalis, known locally as cerise de terre (ground cherries) sat next to the last of the season’s blueberries. Bowls of aubergines ranged in colour from the almost-black of a midnight sky through day glow purple to white; the latter a reminder of why Americans call them eggplants. Peppers glistened in traffic light colours of red, orange, yellow and green. Cabbages, leeks and all manner of greens sat next to red and white onions as big as a baby’s head. Teetering piles of plump cantaloupe melons released a heady scent, as did sun-warmed figs. More exotic fruits such as prickly pears, mangoes and papaya vied for attention with grapes, plums and luscious peaches. There were boxes, buckets and baskets of brussels sprouts, green and yellow beans and multi-coloured carrots. Courgette flowers with no hint of a wilt must have been picked just hours before. Ropes of garlic and chilli hung like garlands above the rest. Stall-holders invited shoppers to taste the season’s tomatoes, finally ripened much later in the year than usual.

The majority of the produce was locally grown either in Quebec or neighbouring Ontario, with just a few of the more exotic items sourced from further afield.

Marche Jean Talon in Montreal - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-1328 Marche Jean Talon in Montreal - Kavey Eats (c) Kavita Favelle-1334
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Jean-Talon Market, originally known as the Marché du Nord, opened to the public in May 1933. It soon took on the name Jean-Talon after Jean-Talon Street along its northern boundary. The street commemorates Jean Talon, Count d’Orsainville, the first Intendant of New France in 1626 – the French colony that comprised a swathe of modern-day Canada and the United States.

In 2004, renovations provided parking beneath the market and created a semi-enclosed structure to one end of the market space; this now houses speciality food shops. Here you can find a fishmonger, a bakery and various patisseries, a number of butchers and charcuteries, a juice bar and an oyster bar, a maple syrup specialist, a marvellous stall specialising in foraged foods such as wild mushrooms, a fresh pasta maker, a dairy shop, a cheese deli, a sandwich bar (known locally as a brûlerie), an artisan ice cream maker and many, many other delightful delis and shops.

I had a lovely meeting with Arik de Vienne at his family shop, Épices de cru, during which I learned all about how his parents came to source spices from around the world to sell in Montreal. He and his sister have now joined the business, expanded to include her specialist teas and his hand-made ceramics. I’ll be sharing more on Épices de cru soon.

Unlike many farmers markets, Jean-Talon is open year round, albeit vastly smaller in size during the coldest months – in winter the newer permanent area is fully enclosed against the elements and the outdoor fresh produce stalls sit vacant.

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During my visit, local shoppers are busy buying groceries, eyeing up produce from different stores to pick the best quality or most keenly priced. In amongst them, foodie tourists like me gawp in utter envy.

Marche Jean Talon Collage - Kavey Eats

Kavey Eats visited Montreal courtesy of Destination Canada, with the assistance of Tourisme Quebec. I was shown the foodie delights of Montreal by Mélissa Simard, founder of Round Table Tours; Mélissa offers a range of guided culinary tours of Montreal.

Mini City Break: Borough Market, Maltby Street, Bermondsey & Bankside

There’s something very indulgent about taking a mini city break in your own city of residence.

Holidays at home (or staycations, in the American vernacular) usually involve heading out of town; a shorter journey than heading abroad, perhaps, but further afield than the place you live. On the rare occasions we allocate leisure time to our local area, we tend to day trip, returning home to our own beds overnight. But booking a night in a hotel in your own city transforms a couple of day trips into what feels more like a proper holiday. It’s so much fun! Added bonuses: the travel is easy, and you don’t need to take much luggage.

Pete and I recently spent a night in the Citizen M Bankside hotel, within easy reach of Borough Market and Maltby Street Market, as well as other local attractions.

Read on for my personal guide to the area, plus a review of the hotel.

Borough Market

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Borough Market needs little introduction from me; a food market much loved by locals and tourists alike.

I love to come and shop here; browsing through the huge array of fresh produce – meat, fish, fruit, vegetables – and a vast selection of other food items; bread, cakes, biscuits and doughnuts, charcuterie, cheese (oh my, such wonderful cheese), honey, truffles, coffee and tea, fresh filled pasta, beers and wines…

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Some of my favourite stops include:

  • Neal’s Yard Dairy is an Aladdin’s cave of cheese – all kinds and all in perfect condition – served by enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff who are happy to guide you and give a few tasters as you make your choices; I always buy some delicious Coolea plus an oozer and a goats cheese as well and often a piece of Stichelton.

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Neal’s Yard Dairy

  • Jumi is the outlet of a small and young cheese producer from Switzerland, I recommend their marvellously pungent Murgu (blue) and the creamy soft La Bouse – don’t be put off by the cowdung translation!
  • Cheese lovers will also love The French Comte stall, selling not only the cheese but other items from La Franche-Comté. And there are many more cheese vendors besides these.
  • Utobeer has a fantastic selection of bottled beers, making it a great place to buy gifts for beer lovers.
  • Turnips is one of the larger stalls at Borough, almost a mini-section of the market on its own and has a fabulous range of produce. I often find the fruit and vegetables a little pricy but I do make a beeline for their mushroom stall; there’s a fabulous selection, in very good condition and fairly priced. I can recommend the king oyster mushrooms in particular, but have bought many different mushrooms over the years.
  • Visit The Tomato Stall for full-of-flavour tomatoes and juices from Arreton Valley, on the Isle of Wight.
  • Bread Ahead Bakery has created quite a stir, most notably for their doughnuts, the creation of baker Justin Gellatly. I’ve been unlucky the previous two visits to their stall, once I was too late and the doughnuts had run out and the next visit was over Easter, and they had replaced them with hot cross buns. When I finally got to try them on this visit, I loved them so much I went back for more the very next morning! Of course, do try their other baked products as well.
  • I first discovered Caroline’s Free From Bakehouse after I met her through blogging and social media. She’s won many awards for her gluten-free range and also offers some dairy free and sugar free items in her range.
  • Tartufaia Truffles sell fresh truffles as well as truffle-infused products, including a very tasty truffle honey.
  • If you love charcuterie, you’ll be spoiled by Borough Market, as there are many stalls and shops to choose from, offering British and European charcuterie of different types. I don’t have a single favourite, but have enjoyed items from several stalls over the years.
  • Although you can sometimes now find Chegworth Valley fruit juices in supermarkets and farm shops, you’ll find an impressively wide range here, plus fruit from their farm too.
  • For fish lovers, there are several fresh fish mongers (Furness and Shellseekers are two from whom I’ve bought good quality seafood), I’d suggest checking all of them to see what appeals on the day. You’ll also often find high quality smoked fish and eel on sale; House of Sverre and Muirenn Smokehouse are two such vendors.
  • Meat is readily available too. I’ve loved the game birds and venison I’ve bought from Furness, and the bacon, sausages and various cuts of met from the Ginger Pig. There are also several butchers selling meat directly from the farm, including Rhug Farm, Sillfield Farm, Northfield Farm, Hillhead Farm Wild Beef, Wyndham House Poultry and many others. For those looking for camel, ostrich, zebra, crocodile and various antelope, try The Exotic Meat Company.
  • There are a number of stalls selling products from France, so do explore. I tend to head to Le Marché du Quartier as my first port of call.
  • Indeed, it’s not just France that’s represented at Borough Market; there are stalls selling produce from Argentina, Croatia, Grenada, Italy, Morocco, Spain, Turkey… a lovely way to travel the world without leaving London!
  • I’ve only recently discovered Spice Mountain, but want to explore further, as based on my brief initial visit, they offer a really wide range of spices, including a selection of spice blends.

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There are also an ever-increasing number of street food vendors, selling hot and cold food to eat there and then. I’m not a huge fan of eating on the hoof, so I’ve not paid much attention to these, but there are plenty to choose from.

For more information on traders and opening times, visit the Borough Market website.

 

Cheers!

I’ve already mentioned Utobeer within the market (and there are a number of wine vendors too).

Take a very short detour out of the market proper to Laithwaite’s Wine, at the north end of Stoney Street. It’s a great shop in its own right, with a wide range of wine and helpful staff. But in the Favelle household, it’s better known as the easiest way to reach The Whisky Exchange (the other way in being through Vinopolis); a small shop space housing a truly impressive selection of whiskies from around the world.

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The Whisky Exchange

Back to beer lovers, there are several breweries to visit in the area around Borough, Maltby Street and Bermondsey Street. Look up Anspach & Hobday, Brew by Numbers, Bullfinch, Four Pure, Hiver, Kernel, Southwark Brewing Company, Partizan

Local pubs include The Rake, a favourite with lovers of real ale but frustratingly tiny inside, so best visited during warmer months or very quiet times of the day.

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Umbrella art installation just outside; Brew Wharf

Another great place to stop for a pint or two is Brew Wharf, within the larger Vinopolis complex, which offers a range of beers from London, the rest of the UK and international breweries. They also brew on site in their own microbrewery.

Wine Wharf, just in front, is the wine lovers option; another lovely space in which to enjoy a drink is Bedales Wine Bar and Shop, within the market area.

 

A Warming Pit Stop

I love to stop regularly for coffee or hot chocolate, especially during the colder months, but let’s be honest, I find excuses in the summer too.

The Rabot 1745 cafe sells a tasty selection of hot chocolates; their salted caramel is my current favourite.

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Monmouth Coffee is the best known caffeine option, but I’ve only once been able to find an inside space to sit in all the many visits I’ve made to Borough Market over the years; I’m not one for drinking on the go, nor do the benches outside appeal. The coffee is, of course, super.

Round the corner, Gelateria 3Bis offers coffee, ice cream and hot chocolate and has the advantage that there’s usually a couple of spaces free at the tables and staff are friendly.

For those who don’t mind drinking and walking, there are also a number of takeway coffee vendors within the market.

 

Maltby Street Market

About twenty minutes walk from Borough Market is the much smaller but altogether funkier Maltby Street Ropewalk Market. You might think it’s not worth the walk, since Borough is so much bigger, but you’d be missing out. The small selection of stalls, tucked under the arches or along the narrow alley are charming, and most are not duplicated over at Borough. I don’t think the vendors list on the website is up to date, but there is always a good range of high quality produce, some to buy and take home and some to enjoy on site.

My picks include African Volcano for the best peri peri sauce and delicious hot food made with the same (the sauce itself is a must-buy ingredient but save space to order Grant’s pulled pork in a bun, peri peri prawns or peri peri burger are), Monty’s Deli for pastrami and salt beef sandwiches, Hansen & Lydersen for smoked salmon, St John’s Bakery for doughnuts. There are usually also a range of beer, wine and cocktails on sale from various of the stalls and arches such as Bar Tozino, which also sells fantastic jamón and other tasty Spanish snacks. Next time I visit, I’m keen to try Gosnell’s London Mead.

Open on weekends only, and do check dates as can vary during winter.

If you enjoy rooting through architectural salvage, a rummage in LASSCO is in order, at 41 Maltby Street.

 

Bermondsey Street

Bermondsey Street is the trendy hub of a local community that clearly values good food, a relaxed vibe and quirkiness. Where once it might be have been described as up and coming, it’s now firmly “upped and comed”; gentrified but still rather hip. Deserving of a post in its own right, I’ll simply point you towards Pizzaro (and older sibling Jose) and Zucca and suggest you explore this neighbourhood on your own. Do share your favourite finds with me, though!

 

Tourist Attractions

Southwark Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral, dating mainly from 1220 and 1420, although the nave is a late 19th-century reconstruction. All are welcome to attend services. Visitors may also enter to admire the cathedral, unless it is closed for an event. Do be mindful not to disturb those at worship.

HMS Belfast is a floating naval museum within a warship permanently moored alongside Tower Bridge. Adult entry is £15.50.

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I can’t believe I’ve not yet been inside The Shard, though I’d love to enjoy the views from the higher floors and I’m keen to try Hutong and Lang for high end Chinese and afternoon tea, respectively. You can buy tickets to access the Viewing Gallery online, though be warned, it’s £24.95 for an adult ticket.
 

Eating Out

If I offered a list of every good restaurant within the area, this would soon turn into a book!

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Breakfast at Rabot 1745

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Elliot’s Cafe

Favourites in 2014 include two meals at Rabot 1745 (which offers a great breakfast menu, as well as their regular lunch and dinner offerings), some delicious dishes at Elliot’s Cafe (I did feel a few dishes were much pricier than justified; then again they’re always full!), a simple, tasty and reasonably priced menu at Hixter Bankside (but we had some frustrating issues with service which were eventually resolved by managers but not reflected in the bill), and I’ve always enjoyed Brindisa for a snack or light meal.

 

Hotel Citizen M Bankside

My first encounter with a Citizen M hotel was up in Glasgow; it was the perfect option for an overnight stop en route to Islay and had vastly more positive online reviews than other budget chains I considered. The Bankside property offers much the same and is less than a 10 minute walk from Borough Market.

The immediate vicinity is the focus of a lot of recent development, with several new restaurant and cafe openings along the short stretch between the Blue Fin Building and Citizen M.

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Exterior and internal garden area, images courtesy of CitizenM

Check in is meant to be self-service, with a bank of check in computers provided just by the entrance. It’s very straightforward, so we find it a little disconcerting that there are always at least two members of staff to assist, and they tend to step forward immediately, rather than allow guests to self-service first. It’s friendly, but somewhat negates the point of self-service over a traditional check in desk.

Lifts to residential floors can only be operated by those with a room key card, which is good as the open-plan ground-floor lobby is enormously busy throughout the day and evening.

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Rooms are small but have been very cleverly designed to maximise space, and a lot of thought has been given to convenience and comfort; these are too often overlooked in favour of funky design. Beds are huge and very comfortable (though rather high off the ground, and it’s a bit of a clamber for whoever gets the window side). Storage is minimal but sufficient for a one or two night stay. Keeping the sink outside of the bathroom cubicle makes both seem more generous; the shower is much larger than the cruise-ship-style pods often used by budget chains. Much appreciated touches include a large TV with a good selection of films available on demand (and without extra charge), power sockets that cater for various international plugs, a USB charging point and a funky lighting system that allows you to set mood with coloured lighting; I particularly appreciated the ability to keep an unobtrusive red light on in the bathroom pod overnight. Despite the small size, I find the Citizen M rooms more comfortable and appealing than many poorly designed larger rooms I’ve stayed in over the years.

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Another thing I enjoy about Citizen M hotels is the very bright, colourful and quirky design. The public spaces are a sensory overload of funky lighting and Vitra furniture, and all kinds of artwork and random objects to add interest. This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I love it, and very much enjoyed wandering around peering at all the things.

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Ground floor spaces

The lobby is cleverly divided into areas for lounging around reading or chatting, for working (power sockets provided), for eating breakfast, for relaxing. The only slight issue is that, as it’s open to non-residents too, it can be hard to find space during busier times.

You may decide not to eat at the hotel, surrounded as you are by so many fantastic food options, but the hotel does provide breakfast and dinner. The former is in the form of a breakfast buffet; you can either include it when you book or pay on the day, as you prefer. The quality is better than I’ve experienced at far more expensive hotels, the pain au chocolat was superb, and the sausages and bacon good quality. For dinner there are just a handful of choices, but again, what I tried was tasty and decent value too. You are also permitted to bring food in from outside, so go ahead and buy yourself a picnic from Borough Market or order a takeaway from a local restaurant.

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Top row, breakfast; bottom row, dinner

In another nice change from other budget chains I’ve stayed in (and indeed, higher end places in the UK too), service is friendly and helpful to everyone, something we noticed at the Glasgow property as well.

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View into the internal atrium area from the corridor to our room

I’ve also now signed up for the free-to-join Citizen M club which gives me 15% off the best available rate when booking future rooms at any of the Citizen M hotels.

 

Kavey Eats were guests of Citizen M Bankside hotel.

Images from Toji Temple Flea Market, Kyoto

I’m conscious that nearly a year has passed since our last trip to Japan and I still have so much about the trip that I haven’t shared yet.

One of my favourite mornings was a visit to Kyoto’s Toji Temple for the monthly Kōbō-san flea market that’s held in the grounds on the 21st of each month. It was surprisingly busy, with a food-to-eat-now and produce market alongside the stalls selling both second hand goods and new products. I loved it! I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Click on any image to view a larger version.

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Approaching the entrance; entering; within the temple grounds

 

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An area of prayer by a statue of Kōbō Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism in Japan and the head priest of the temple about 30 years after its establishment

 

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Random market wares

 

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Food vendors, to eat on site and to takeaway; I was surprised to recognise the man in the yellow apron and headgear from our trip the previous year, I remembered him being at Takayama Miyagawa morning market!

 

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There were peaceful corners even amid the bustle of flea market day

Find more of my Japan content, here.

Eat & Drink St Pancras International

Following a recent invitation to discover some of the food and drink highlights available at St Pancras International station, Pete and I had a lovely morning visiting Benugo’s Espresso Bar, Searcys Champagne Bar and Sourced Market.

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Unlike the downstairs branch of Benugo, the upstairs coffee bar (near the Martin Jennings sculpture of poet John Betjeman) is much quieter and cooler. An original tile floor leads to the service counter; the seating area next door has been designed to evoke rail travel of old; gentle jazz music completes the retro feel. During our morning visit, we tried coffee and cake (the shop has one coffee blend for espresso and espresso-based drinks, and another for drip filter coffees). Manager Ondrej was on hand to give further information about all the options, including some good quality loose leaf teas, for those who aren’t in a coffee state of mind. I particularly enjoyed my chocolate, pear and rosemary tart and the biscotti served with coffee.

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Searcy’s champagne bar might seem like an option better suited to summer, given that the concourse is open to the elements at both ends. But booths have little heaters at foot level, and guests are offered blankets and hot water bottles too, so it’s actually rather cosy as a winter destination. I found my hot chocolate excessively sweet but Pete enjoyed his rose champagne tasting trio (£19 for 50 ml each of Henri Giraud Esprit Rose, Besserat Cuvee des Moines Rose and Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rose). It’s also a lovely spot to admire the beautiful architecture of the station.

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Sourced Market, downstairs, was a revelation. This little store has crammed in a lot of great products into their wide but shallow floor space. As well as delicious lunch options such as a variety of pies (with mash, gravy and peas), sausage rolls, scotch eggs, charcuterie and cheese platters, soups, sandwiches, salads and more you can also buy ingredients to take home. Pete was particularly impressed by the excellent selection of bottled beers, with small London breweries particularly well represented. I loved the cheese counter and the bakery table. There were lots of delicious treats and I’ll certainly pop in again before long. My only gripe about this lovely place was that all the seating provided was stool-style chairs and table, which are really challenging for those of us with hip, back or mobility problems, not to mention difficult for small children.

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Kavey Eats were given a guided tour of the above venues at St Pancras International.

A Meander Through Kyoto’s Nishiki Market

Like our fascinating walk through Takayama’s Miyagawa Morning Market, Nishiki in Kyoto is full of wonder.

Stall after stall of fresh and processed produce, kitchen cookware and tableware line a long and narrow glass-covered arcade that runs parallel to Shijō Street, a main commercial artery running east to west through the city. With Teramachi and Shin-kyogoku Streets and the department stores on Shijō nearby, this is a great destination for browsing or shopping.

Some of the produce is familiar but much is not, and without a guide or translation tool, it’s hard to identify. Some stall holders are clearly not very interested in tourists, and that’s fair enough – I doubt they get many sales from us. But others are happy to share a smile or try and help explain their products.

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Passing through Teramachi and into Nishiki; Vegetables that seem to be preserved in sand; fish

 

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Dried fish; Chestnut salesman

 

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This strange decorative fruit is known as Fox Face in Japan, and as Nipplefruit, Titty Fruit and Cow’s Udder elsewhere!

 

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Persimmon; dried snacks; a dried tofu specialist

 

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Preserved vegetable; fresh mushrooms; apples; beautiful fresh seafood

 

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Eggs; seafood; fried snacks to takeaway; unidentified preserved produce

 

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Browsing; pumpkins; ceramics

 

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Singing pickle salesmen; live clams; sweets

 

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Buying vegetable; Pete checking out the chop sticks shop; restaurant front on Teramachi Street

 

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After exploring the market, delicious cakes and iced coffee in a tiny cafe in a nearby side street

 

Catch up on previous posts about our trip to Japan.

Miyagawa Morning Market, Takayama

There are two morning markets in Takayama, the Jinya-Mae Market near Takayama Jinya (a historic building, dating from the 17th century, that served as a regional government office during the Edo period) and the Miyagawa Market along the Miyagawa River. The latter runs North from the centre of the old town, in the direction of the Hachiman Shrine.

We visited Takayama for the Hachiman Autumn Festival so, as well as the normal morning market, there was a street food market extension. Happy day!

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Strange pot-bellied man-beasts on Kaji-bashi (bridge).

Miyagawa Market  is arranged along a short stretch of road less than 350 metres in length, between Kaji-bashi and Yayoi-bashi (bridges). I hadn’t expected it would take us very long to meander through its entirety but there were so many fascinating stalls and shops selling fresh produce, pickles, traditional snacks and sweets and even traditional crafts, that we whiled away most of the morning here.

And then we moved seamlessly on to the street food market for the next hour!

Like most places in Japan, Takayama and the surrounding area have many products which are unique to the region, not least their style of pickles. We saw and tried a great many and failed to identify most, though there were a few more familiar ingredients such as red turnips and ginger and I think the first picture may be fiddlehead ferns.

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One of the dishes we most enjoyed, in the expansive breakfast we were served each morning at Ryokan Tanabe, was hoba misomiso with mushrooms and spring onions heated on a ho (magnolia) leaf set atop a shichirin (charcoal grill). We mixed it into our rice, and found it delicious. There were a number of shops and stalls selling different types of miso, ready-wrapped in leaves, pre-bagged or available to buy by weight.

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In some of the kaiseki ryori multi-course meals we were served in various ryokan, one of the tiny components of the intricate starter plates was a small pale dense cube studded with dark-skinned circular fruit or vegetables. It didn’t taste of much, actually. One of our hosts told us it it was made from rice flour and had tiny baby potatoes in it. Knowledgeable web friends have suggested that it may have contained mukago, which are described as mountain yams, though these tiny potato-like bulbils grow on a bush and not underground. They’re definitely in season during October. However, it’s commonly made with black soy beans, in which case it’s known as mame mochi.

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Genkotsu ame, which translates as fist candy, is another regional speciality and is a very popular sweet in the area, as was evident from the fact that we encountered three different vendors making and selling it along the short stretch of the morning market. Also known as genkotsu kikako, it is made by mixing kinako (soybean powder) with mizuame. Mizuame itself translates to water candy and is a starch-based liquid sweetener much like corn syrup. Once mixed, the dough is kneaded, dusted with roasted soybean powder, rolled into a thin sausage shape and chopped into bite-sized pieces.

Not only did it taste great, it was almost heart-stopping entertainment watching the knife skills of the men making them, as they cut the pieces so fast, their knives seemed to blur in front of my eyes!

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Watch this video of one of  the genkotsu ame makers to marvel at his knife skills.

There were many different types of fish sold pickled or preserved in different ways. Some were for taking home. Others were definitely street food.

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Speaking of street snacks, I’ve already posted about owara tamaten but can’t resist sharing again this photo of the gentleman cooking the sweet marshmallow delicacies.

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Shichimi or shichimi togarashi is a seven spice mix which can be readily found throughout Japan. Togarashi means chilli, which it commonly contains along with sichuan pepper, sesame seeds, ground ginger, orange peel, nori and a variety of other spices. This lady sold her own pre-mixed shichimi as well as a few individual spices and other mixes.

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Senbei (rice cakes) were another popular snack. Most stalls had bags ready to go but you could also watch them grilling a fresh batch, if you passed by at the right time.

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There were many varieties of sweets on sale, some boxed up to make pretty gifts but most in small packs ready to rip open and dig in. My favourites were ones featuring sesame seeds.

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One stall sold a range of dried nuts, fruits and seeds.

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Much of the market was given over to local produce. There were many familiar fruits, vegetables and mushrooms and a few unfamiliar ones too!

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There were also a few craft shops including one which sold incense and hand-made candles. The candlemaker sat cross legged outside, in front of the shop. As he made the candles, he beckoned passers by closer and told us more about what he was doing. The wax was made from a local nut or berry and he applied it to the wicks by dipping one hand into a bowl of warm melted wax and using the other to roll three or four candles on sticks against the liquid wax.

Before we moved on, he gave us each a small gift containing one of his small, hand-made candles, and a sheet with more information, which I wish I could find!

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I resisted these pretty doll cans containing green tea and genmaicha (green tea with roasted brown rice).

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And lastly, some views of the river and houses on the other side.

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With thanks to Akiko Tanabe at Ryokan Tanabe, Takayama for her kind help identifying genkotsu ame.