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Promote our farmer’s market Edinburgh, not hide it

7 Jul

Our Farmers’ Market celebrated its 10th anniversary last weekend (although the actual date was back in June). It’s hard to remember back to a time before farmers’ markets, when it was nigh on impossible to shop for local produce unless you happened to live near a supplier. Scotland’s produce is now prized at top restaurants here and abroad. Many new food businesses have started (and thrived) on the back of regular attendance at markets.

Many of us have been lucky enough to visit farmers’ markets in Europe and further afield. I’ve recently had the opportunity to visit the largest of Portland’s farmers markets with more than 200 stall holders and thousands of purchasers. They put ours to shame – we have around 65 (didn’t this number used to be higher?)

Mozarella Cheese at Edinburgh Farmers' Market

Mozarella Cheese at Edinburgh Farmers' Market

I am so frustrated with our market here. The company running the market often seems to be far keener on promoting foreign markets fetching up in Castle Street selling overpriced produce than ensuring that the farmers’ market thrives. We have some truly world-class suppliers, but who is singing their praises?

Where was the support needed throughout all the building work at the Usher Hall that reduced the number of parking spaces making it difficult to park anywhere near the market with the exception of the overpriced NCP car park (how many shoppers actually want to park for 2 hours and for more than £5?). As the number of permit holder places increased, where was the encouragement for shoppers to come to the market?

Did anyone log how much less the stall holders received each week? Special Saturday parking could be introduced, or validated parking if you shop at the stalls. Where is the support for those who come on their bikes?

Do you remember the last time you actually saw some advertising for the market? Did you even know that the 10th birthday was being celebrated? Market it to the locals, not visitors – they’ll not be buying meat to taken home with them.

In Portland, you can use your credit card to purchase items (by a token system); there’s a vegetable valet where you leave your heavy bags of vegetables then drive by in your car later to pick up; a lively interactive website (you can find where your chosen stall is located); token matching (for those on lower incomes), a full programme of appropriate events and much more.

Portland Farmers' Market

Portland Farmers' Market

So we will continue to brave the parking problems and visit Edinburgh’s market as often as we can. On Saturday we found cherries from Perth (yes – grown in pots in a polytunnel), strawberries, tomatoes, fresh fish, meat, vegetables, eggs, cheeses, German baking, Italian baking … – oh and also a Ceilidh band and an MC at 9 am in the morning (hmmm).

Come on Edinburgh, you can do SO much better. What do you think?

Compare and contrast:

Edinburgh Farmers’ Market (not updated since mid June, no mention of last weekend’s activities!)

Portland Farmers’ Market


Would you eat from a food cart? #pdx

23 Jun

You might (like me) think twice about eating from the average burger van, not fancying the fat laden offering. There are exceptions of course, at the farmers’ market, with trailblazers such as Stoats Porridge but these are few and far between. My preconceptions had to change in Portland. Here the food cart (van) is king and are the favourite places for city folk to grab lunch.

Portland Food Cards

Portland Food Cards

No-one seems to be able to quite agree just how many there are, but it could be anything between two and four hundred across the city – there is even a website dedicated to reviews and information on carts. Located on parking lots with tolerant owners (we frequented SW Alder, between 10th and 11th), the carts specialise in one type of cuisine, and sometimes even just one dish Pho for instance (a spicy soup). You can dine very nicely for $6 to $8 a plate (approximately £4 to £6).

Ziba's Pitas

Talking to a cart owner, you will encounter a very passionate person, for instance Ziba – her cart is dedicated to food from Bosnia. I discovered that she gets up at 5.30 am each morning to make the special pastry used in her pitas. It is similar to filo pastry is made all by hand with flour and water, she stretches and stretches the dough until it is almost see through. Stuffed with rich meat mixture, it makes a hearty and very filling dish.

At another cart, Aybla’s Grill we encounter Saied’s falafel which are light and spicy, at a third the most delicious soup a tasty broth with an Asian twist. At Savor, the most delicious clear soup with chicken and lemon grass kept us very happy.

Tim's Thai Food

Tim's Thai Food

Sometimes, such as at Tom’s Thai food (at the Saturday Market) when you cannot decide what dish to try, he will load your plate for a little for everything for $8.

The choice is astonishing, Egyptian, Vietnamese, Indian, Burritos, fish and chips, you name it, you will probably find it. The often lengthy queues do not deter office workers who wait patiently for their turn – nothing will deter a Portlander from his lunch!

If you do get a chance to try the cart in Portland (and they are in other cities such as New York and San Francisco too), make sure you seek them out Monday to Friday and in the main at lunchtime only, they’re mostly shut on weekends and evenings. Some also shut during the winter time – it’s just too cold to get the gas going sometimes.

So, do you think it could work in Scotland? An intriguing concept – or would our obsession with health and safety and the lust for parking charges kill any hope of an influx here?

Check out Ziba on VendrTV

Castagna Restaurant, Portland #pdx

17 Jun

Does it help to read restaurant reviews of places you might never go to? When I am researching a new place to travel to, it certainly does. Portland, Oregon is a true foodies heaven – the produce is remarkable and the range of food exciting. So for me, a fantastic place to visit. Continue reading