Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Melbourne Markets Awards 2013

Well the people have voted and the results are in - your favourite Market traders are ....

Coffee:                       Market Lane Coffee

Deli:                            The Cheese Shop Deli

Fruit and Vegetables:Pino's Fine Produce

Meat:                          Gary's Quality Meats

Poultry:                      John Cester's Poultry and Game

Fish:                           Claringbold’s Seafoods

Specialty:                   Mister Nice Guy Cupcakes

General Merchandise: Prahran Market Hardware

Our winners will now compete against the winners from the other Markets of Melbourne to be crowned Melbourne's best market trader, within their category.

And it got me thinking - what makes someone my favourite trader? Obviously I shall not name names (we don't want bloodshed on the Market floor. Especially since it's all nice and new and level now.)

I've shopped here for over a decade and at first I'd pick and choose from amongst the specialists. A few potatoes here, my mangoes there. Eggs from one and honey from another. Fish and seafood based purely on the catch of the day.

When I was feeding a small family Hagen's Organics got a lot of my business. Until one day, when my toddler threw a $4 lamb cutlet on the floor and I sat down and wept into my paraben-free-moisturised-hands. All the butchers starting seeing me after that debacle.

But I got to start to know people. Conversations struck up over celery selection. Recipe-talk became ingredient-talk, family-talk. And once someone starts ribbing you about your love life, it's very hard to suddenly up and leave them for another stall. Even if that stall has better broccoli. Because it's not just about the food here, it's about the connections.

All that said, if the quality at a shop fell off consistently, if another fruit and veg trader began bringing in dazzling produce, then my allegiances would shift. Slightly, and not noticeably (I am sure I am not the only person to dash past a former-beloved when they weren't looking). Perhaps I would make a few small purchases from one while doing the bulk of my shopping just before I left.

But the people who have stayed with me all these years, the traders who I have gone back to time and time again, who know my name, the names of my children, that I like a chicken cut into 10 and not 8 pieces, are the ones who know their business inside out. Who source carefully and have close relationships with suppliers. Who keep their displays exciting and fresh, who always have a new idea for how to serve a meal but respect old traditions too. When they care about what they're selling and how they're serving. This makes them my favourites and there are more of them than I can count. 

Love you guys.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Your Favourite Market Moment

The paint's drying on the Elizabeth Street signs, traders are shifting the last of their stands into place and we're all buzzing about the Grand Reopening of Harvest Hall on Saturday 17 August. There are new traders and tastes still to come but everything's running smoothly.

And to thank our dear Market customers for sticking by us, through thick and thin, there's a little competition with some gorgeous shiny KitchenAid prizes. To win, all you have to do is jot down your favourite Prahran Market experience in 25 words or less.
Is it the time you found an amazing ingredient? Or when a trader introduced you to something new that changed a favourite dish? The first time you ate an oyster, the last time you came here with your grandmother.
Preparation of Spinach and Cheese Gozleme at Anatolia Gozleme Kitchen

Rummaging around in the entries, I found this one:
When my father came shopping with me and he found soutzoukakia like my mother used to make. We both teared-up.

Sweet Greek

And particularly liked this:

When I realised that I never needed to debone a chicken again and that Kevin's Poultry would do it for me. Yay!

Angasi oysters at Theo & Son's Seafood

The sheer simple enjoyment of:
Eating chilli mussels in the shell while the kids run around with gingerbread gelato.

Oh and:
When I walk in after a hard week and a trader greets me and holds out a new berry to try. It's the best!

If of course you don't need a new stand mixer or food processor, then just tell us about your favourite Prahran Market experiences just for the sheer joy of it. The love of sharing. And the love of food. That's what we're all about, after all.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Keeping up with Kale

Cam: How was the market? 
Mitch: Well, it was great, but guess what the new spinach is?
Cam: Um, radicchio? 
Mitch: Kale.
Cam: No! 
Mitch: I know! I was just as blown away as you are.
Modern Family, Two Monkeys and a Panda

Photo by Ruby Fenn

Kale seems to have swept into our consciousness, on a whirlwind of antioxidants and superstars, touting its many benefits. Taste, unfortunately, does not always appear to be one of them.

What kind of produce needs disguising, both as a chip and a smoothie? Can you imagine a potato smoothie? No.

And yet, the kale juggernaut marches on, sweeping telly hosts and nutrionists in its wake. There are now numerous single subject cookbooks about kale, including Kale Recipes For Kids and Fifty Shades of Kale by Dr Drew Ramsey. Right.

Now I've always thought that kale was lovely, as a flower. As a potted plant. You can find these charming displays at our flower sellers and Prahran Garden Centre. But when other people started bringing kale smoothies and salads in for lunch, when a colleague bolted down the stairs to get the last bunch for her Friday night dinner, I knew it had reached critical mass.

And so I yielded. Not particularly graciously, but yielded nonetheless. I tried sturdy, dark green kale from F & J Fruiterers. I tried the leafy, red-tinged organic stuff from Paddlewheel (grown by Wayne Shields on the Mornington Peninsula). And then Damian Pike was sent a box of baby red kale by mistake and I knew I'd found the one for me.

In its baby state, the stalks are still soft(ish). A quick wash and it's ready to be popped in the pan. The first time I cooked red kale (truthfully more a dark, blackcurrant colour), the leaves began to turn green in the heat, heading back to purple as it cooled. I'm used to it now and when my dinner guests are startled, just say offhandedly "Oh that's kale. Doesn't yours do that?" 

So kale may be a superfood but even the most confirmed sceptic can find the one that fits. If I can, anyone can. Trust me. And Dr Drew.