This week was a ton a fun– musically, it started in a non-market troubadour kinda way when I played a set on Thursday afternoon for a private party at a daycare — that’s right, I finally went FULL KID MUSIC, if only for one event. To some, this is an ‘about time’ moment — to my 20-something punk rock self this would either have been the least or the most punk thing I’ve ever done, depending on one’s particular understanding of the dictum of that peculiar subculture. I think I’ll call it ‘most’, but mainly because I definitely didn’t do it for the money.
In other news, I’m now available to play your kid event — I can now, as of this week, officially play ‘Wheels On the Bus’ four times in a single set without flinching, which, I’m pretty sure, is the sign of a pro.
Later, on Thursday evening, I popped into the Marlborough Pub in North Gower to stand in for my pal Dylan Watts hosting the open mic… In theory, it should have been a bit of whiplash between the two sets that day, but I’m not sure if there really is that big of a difference between toddlers in the afternoon and the drunks at the end of the evening, other than… I don’t know… vehicular liability issues?
Anyway, by Saturday morning, your Farmers’ Market Troubadour was truly that, performing this week at one of my favourite (don’t tell Kemptville…) markets– The Carp Market!
The Carp Farmers’ Market (at “the Fair Grounds in Carp, open Saturdays 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. from May to October”) is one of the biggest, most well attended and most well known markets in the region, widely recognized as the largest producer-based Farmers’ Market in Eastern Ontario, it has been used as a model for many other Ontario markets. This is my second music gig at Carp and have been looking forward to it for weeks for a number of reasons:
- It is the home market for several of the area’s best producers and processors, many of whom I got to know well through either my years at Savour Ottawa or while running the food hub — attending for any reason just feels a bit like an ‘old home week’ with lots of hellos, hugs and catching up…
- It is very well laid out with a music tent efficiently placed in the middle of a ‘food court’ on the way to the washrooms (high traffic!) in front of enough seating for several dozen market customers, and, it is always full! And…
- Crepetown! (more on that later…)
As a musician, I love more than a few things, but having a captive audience who is already in a great mood is very, very high on that list. This is a fun gig!
Parking is on the road or in a large adjacent lot — the road parking seems to turn over frequently enough that it never feels like a long walk. Dogs are welcome, it is a blast for the family (dozens and dozens of kids were there this weekend, good thing I was all warmed up from Thursday!) And they do several special events throughout the year to keep things interesting.
Bring cash, a big bag or 2 and an empty belly — the food court is lined with amazing options including popular bacon on a bun, eggrolls, poutine, Brazilian, Lebanese and Thai options — my favourites are probably the pizza place (be prepared to stand in line and get there early before they run out…) and the aforementioned Crepetown… A gluten free crepery run by an actual neighbour of mine from Kemptville… Michelle makes an amazing fresh buckwheat crepe to order, filled with any of a dozen different options and with delicious seasonal specials– this week was asparagus with pea sprouts, spinach, almonds, garlic and olive oil; it was about as close to perfect as I could have asked for and was dairy free, hot, fresh and seasonally correct to boot!
There are probably more than 100 vendors between the indoor stalls (in the big barn) and the outdoor tents, so I will just focus on some top faves:
- The Ketchup Project — Chef David Schaub’s sideline-that-has-become-a-full-ish-time gig is in experimenting with the myriad of combinations that can be assembled under the big tent name of one of the most well known and strangely least explored condiments, Ketchup! Over the last few years I’ve tried many, my favourites tend to be his oddball experiments like his burnt onion or his rich dark brown mushroom ketchup — but there is a lot to be said for the strawberry, peach, pineapple and other sweet varieties. Start with the tomato, it is a classic condiment and worthy of any pantry.
- Earth’s Harvest Farm — Luke Swale started his farm locally (to me) in the early years of our restaurant and our farmers market, for many years, he was my ‘chicken guy’ and I still think he has likely the most flavourful, and certainly the most ethically raised birds in the area… I grabbed a pack of chicken sausage from him this week made with ramps and Milkhouse Tomme cheese!
- Kricklewood Farm — Dale and Brad are THE go to for local cold pressed gourmet oils — they also host an annual Sunflower Festival at the farm that is well worth the drive.
- Wild Oak Homestead — Sarah does good ferments… The mustard was my favourite last year, this year I grabbed a turmeric kraut that has ALL the yummies!
- Waratah Downs Farm — John Weatherhead is a wizard with organic veggies and has excellent taste in hats…
- Tasha’s Table — VERY tasty sauces, jams pickles and cool labels too! Excellent for gifting.
- Dobson’s Grass Fed Beef — the first organic beef producer I met in the region, one of many at this point but still one of my favourites; also the heart and soul behind the Ottawa Valley Food Co-op, a proto food hub that is celebrating its 12th birthday this year!
- All About the Soup — Andy Tout’s vegan soups are almost as good as mine! (wink, mine are pretty darn good, but seriously, he is amazing — try the Yam/Peanut, probably my fave…)
- Acorn Creek — I first met Andy Teraud on the Savour Ottawa advisory committee in the lead up to the establishment of the Landsdowne Farmers’ Market — he was a passionate and powerful voice pushing for the importance of locally sourced food then and now… He also has a knack for producing some of the best hot peppers in the area which will always give him a special place in my belly…
- Ugly Cider Co. — these folks are doing something special with the apples the rest of thought we didn’t want… thank you!
- Tirasalin Fold — Rosemary Kralik is still bringing the best yak I’ve ever had… Ok, probably the only…
- Hmmm… I also saw maple syrup, pork, other veggie and pickle producers… Bearbrook farms… Lots of crafters… Gosh darn it, there were so many! Oh yeah, Dasha from Artizen Kombucha was there! Great to see her and hear about the new factory in Perth! Many, many folks are at the Carp Market and I can only say that it is WELL worth the visit.
The Coffee Situation:
This is probably my favourite coffee situation so far — DELICIOUS coffee is available onsite from Engine House Coffee; I had a refill halfway through, went by to tell him after how much I liked it and he hooked me up with discount bag as a thank you for the tunes!
I half expected to hit Carp local haunts like Alice’s Village Café or the Cheshire Cat for coffee after, but there was no need… But I can still tell you that from previous visits, I can wholeheartedly recommend either of those places for a hearty lunch (if you don’t fill up at the market…) I’m especially impressed by the Cheshire Cat’s unwavering commitment to local sourcing for their menu; working with them at the food hub was a true treat, they we among the few ‘all-in’ clients I worked with, and their continued success is a model for anyone still living under the mistaken notion that local sourcing means making some kind of business sacrifice. Just look at the parking lot when you drive by, as someone who would know, I can promise you that a full to bursting parking lot is not a sign of someone making a sacrifice… 🙂
Well what can I say — big crowd, happy people, beautiful day… I went for the toe-tappers, the smile makers, the ‘oh you thought you were in a good mood? Well try this!’ types of songs… Here are some highlights:
- Ob-La-Di, Ob La Da made a second appearance– caught a few people singing along for this one… Played a lot of Beatles songs actually, it was just that kind of day…
- Played “Ripple” by the Grateful Dead and had a kid request “Wheels on the Bus” right after, a deadhead came by after and told me he had never heard that exact segue before… I guess I forgot to do Drums, Space and Dark Star first…
- Had a good response to my old time and bluegrass numbers, (Keep On The Sunny Side, Will The Circle Be Unbroken, You Are My Sunshine, etc.) I think my fingers were just warmed up from the multiple sets this week so I was able to nail the picking a little better than usual…
- Asked a different kid for his favourite song and he said Purple Rain, first of all, cool kid! Second, I actually play that tune (and had the chord chart with me!) and I would have nailed it if the wind hadn’t stolen the chord chart halfway through the second verse… In short, I owe a very cool kid about 33% of Purple Rain next time I’m in Carp.
- Dale from Kricklewood requested “Far Away”… I think he was kidding, but I also think I’ll try to learn it anyway just to surprise him at some other market down the road…
Sorry, no Story Time this week– There was just TOO much market to write about.
Thanks for reading, and I hope to see all of you soon at a market near you 🙂
Next Week: North Gower!