Totnes Good Food Market is the new kid on the block in Devon. It has only been going a few months. So I thought it was time I headed out to see what this upstart was all about.
So while Flavour Fest was raging to great effect in Plymouth I dropped off the A38 and into the green metropolis on the River Dart. I decided to stick two fingers up to the town’s Morrisons by abusing their free parking. I’m hardcore, I know.
The farmers’ market is held in a square at the top of the town. I got there just before noon and there was a pleasant buzz about the place – not hugely busy but a good throng of people milling around, trying things and buying things.
On sale were the usual fares – artisan bread, amazing sausages, cakes and deli stalls. But there were some nice Totnesian extras – a guy making Indian sweet pancakes (well, at least that it what they looked like) and a Thai food stall. My favourite was (shock horror!) a vegetarian delicatessen which was selling a variety of goodies like mini pizzas and pastries. I picked up a spinach and feta filo parcel for lunch which was pretty damn good.
I also came away with a great loaf of multi-seed bread (£2.50) and the steal of the day, a large chicken pie which cost me £3 and which would feed two people for a dinner with ease. Or just me, as it transpired.
Overall there were about, by my reckoning around 12 stalls, a decent show for a young market.
What was also nice to see was shops around the market were also open, though whether they always open Sunday or were cashing in trade from the market was not clear.
Anyone else been, would live some second opinions…
The next markets are on September 19, October 17 and November 21.
I was back in Bristol at the weekend and because my olds were coming for lunch, my girlfriend and I popped out to get them some decent nosh. We went to Woolies Indoor Market, which I may have written about before but am too lazy to check back now. It essentially is a former Woolworths now turned into an indoor market. But, being Bristol, this one sells middle-class goods instead of pegs and plastic toy guns.
Joking aside it is good, it has a butcher, a baker, no candlestickmaker but a greengrocer to compensate. My only bugbear in the past has been that it didn’t open on a Sunday. I have a real problem with small independent shops and traders who don’t open on Sundays. It is like they are handing business to the supermarkets on a plate, no pun intended.
I admit I don’t know the ins and outs of the food retail world, but I strongly believe that lots of people would buy locally for their Sunday lunch or dinner if the shops were just bloody open. Close Wednesday or something, or just open an extra day and make some bleedin’ money!
But anyway, getting off my soapbox I was very glad to see that Woolies, previously a Monday to Saturday operation, is to start opening on Sundays as well. Finally some common sense has prevailed and they have realised there is literally a market for Sunday opening. Let’s hope that it catches on.
Of course I’m talking about locally sourced and well-cooked sausages, served with mash and cabbage, what else?
This is part two of my St Nicholas’ Market mini-adventure. I would normally wrap both parts in one but I thought that both were worthy of some attention, like two twins that both want mummy’s love.
As my lovely girlfriend and I ate our Moroccan lamb at Al Bab Mansour’s place, my eyes shifted away to what was around us. immediately to my left was the Bristol Sausage Shop.
Now this was something of a coincidence. Just that morning, my girlfriend had remarked about how she’d forgotten to buy one of the ingredients for our dinner that night when she went shopping on Friday.
“What did you forget,” I asked.
“Sausages,” she replied.
“What are we having for dinner,” I tentatively asked.
“Bangers and mash,” was her retort.
“So you went shopping for bangers and mash but forgot the bangers?”
The conversation ended abruptly there, it’s hard to have a conversation with only one person in the room.
So you can imagine that I was delighted when we went out later and happened upon a sausage vendor right in front of us. You might say the sausage god was smiling on us, if you were weird.
Made by a butcher in Cirencester, there were loads of varieties on offer, the hard part was whittling it down to a firm choice of two flavours. There were many types of pork sausage, ranging from the herb-heavy Cotswold to the herby Toulouse or the straightforward classic Gloucester Old Spot, all made with the best local ingredients.
Because we’d just eaten a hefty meal and because each of the sausages was the size of a cucumber, we only bought five. But my god, they were great.
We bought two of the Cotswolds and three of the shop’s signature St Nicholas 1743 bangers. They were then kept in a handbag for three hours while we went and watched Exit Through the Gift Shop, giving them time to, ahem, mature.
For the rest of the enjoyment I must hand all the credit to my girlfriend, who, while I reclined watching England play pretty badly at Rugby against France, prepared the food. I should point out that she was quite happy with this arrangement, as long as I kept her wine topped up. Which I did.
In return she cooked the sausages to perfection. It may be a cliché that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but it is pretty much true for me. Dinner was excellent, the massive sausages were ace, the herby ones herby and the St Nicks ones oozing with their cider and mustard flavour. I was truly a happy man. A couple down the local and I went to bed content, falling asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. Well, almost…
I’ve just returned from a mini foodie adventure and I didn’t go more than a mile from my front door.
One of the commonest arguments of the supermarket lobby and, indeed, families, is that supermarkets help time-pressured families by providing everything under one roof.
It is hard to argue with the one stop, one trolley, one happy family idea.
But the thing with independent food shops is that they are realists and don’t expect you to do your weekly shopping there. If they aren’t already they should be branding themselves almost as destination shops – you go there for something a bit special.
That was the idea in my head when I awoke this morning (food is not usually very far from the front of my consciousness). So I decided on a simple case in point.
One of my workmates is off sick, which meant that today I am covering his graveyard shift. So having the majority of the day to myself, I showered and made myself presentable (just) and headed out. My quest was to buy myself the ingredients for a nice lunch without bankrupting myself. The criteria was that they must be from independent shops, and locally sourced as well if possible. Could it be done?
Of course it could, this would be a pretty crap blog if it couldn’t. I headed out of the house and my street onto Hyde Park Road, where I knew there were some independent shops, because I had used them (briefly) before.
Within an hour I was back with lunch for two. My wallet was lighter by £2.37. Yes, £2.37. £1.18p each and a penny for charity.
I can hear some people saying “an hour!”. But factor in the fact that I walked on to Mutley Plain (10 mins) to get cash and then spent far more time than I should have in the guitar shop, playing on guitars I cannot afford.
So really, the shop time was about 20 minutes. And this is what I got.
What you see is four spuds, a Savoy cabbage and six home-made English pork sausages. Ready to be consumed as a good-old fashioned bangers and mash.
The sausages came from Voisins. This place is a tiny little shop, but great. The sign says poulterer but it sells everything from chicken to port chops, ox tongue and quails eggs.
I had the choice of chunky sausages, thinner old-fashioned herby ones or spicy chorizo-style. All were made on the premise. I opted for the thin and herby. Six of the little beauties cost me £1.21, which in my book is a bargain.
Next it was onto The Four Seasons, a tiny little greengrocers. For £1.16 I came away with a plump cabbage and the potatoes, which were grown in Devon.
But that is not all there is just on this little one street in Plymouth. There is also a nice little bakery, which I barely resisted going into for a restorative pasty.
The best part of this was that a) I had good local food for lunch, b) I had got some exercise and c) all of this was within a mile of the house, probably half a mile.
Now I’m lucky, I admit. I live in a nice part of Plymouth, with these shops almost on my doorstep. Other people will not be so lucky. All i would say to them is find out where there are little food shops near you and go to them. You don’t have to go every day or every week, but frequent them when you have a little time (and you will) and treat yourself.
Got kids? Take them with you! Educate them a little about what food is, instead of raising them thinking that a McDonald’s Happy Meal is the creme de la creme of fine dining. I’d rather my money went into a shopkeeper’s pocket than some faceless corporation slowly causing the downfall of Western civilisation.
And deep down, so do you.
A gentleman amateur food and drink lover celebrating the best the South West of England has to offer.