The Hamilton Farmers Market
I spent our last week in Hamilton packing up our stuff and visiting my favourite places. My absolute favourite place in Hamilton is the Farmers Market. Established in 1837, the Hamilton Farmers Market is home to over 60 vendors, and is a completely covered market. Until the mid 20th century it was the largest covered market in all of North America. Hanging from the centre of the ceiling inside is an antique clock from Birks - which used to have a storefront downtown - shaped like a castle and, when it chimes on the hour, two knights on horseback zoom out from either end with lances. Its a great piece of Hamilton history. There is a great variety of vendors at the market ranging from artisans selling textiles and homemade soaps and pottery, to traditional farm stalls selling local produce and, of course, the Real Food Court. I try to go to the market as often as possible, but if I can't make it there during the week, I make sure I go on Saturdays. My ideal Saturday looks a little bit like this:
I arrive to the Hamilton Farmers Market around 11am and immediately go to Lina's Coffee. On one side of the aisle are tables and tables of baked goods: cookies, tarts, pies, cannolis, and other sweet treats. Across the aisle is her coffee shop. Lina has the best coffee in the market (although many market regulars would probably fight me on this, as there are many coffee options at the market). She has beans from all over the world that you can get ground and take home, or she will make you a cup. I always get a cappuccino and a Sicilian cannoli. Having just got back from Sicily, I can tell you, Lina's is the closest thing you're going to get without going over there yourself.
Pictured here: Sicilian Cannoli from Lina!
After I have my coffee, I round the corner and walk down to Ercilia's Fine Foods. Ercilia's is owned by a lovely Portuguese couple. She makes the best pasteis de nata on the market (and probably in the city). When you order one, they will offer it cold (so good) or warmed up and topped with fresh ground cinnamon (so so good). They have a huge selection of honey, tea, spices, jams and mustards, including many that are homemade. Every year I buy my mom her favourite honey, imported all the way from Tasmania. Even if I don't need anything from Ercilia's, I love to go and see what new products they have.
Continuing down the row of vendors you get to Sam's Meat & Cheese. There are two Sam's cheeses at the market, and people are very opinionated about which Sam is the best. My "cheese" guys though always have been and always will be Sam's Meat & Cheese, who are located on the lower floor of the market. They have been open for over 50 years, and have the best selection of cheese, as well as a huge selection of meat (bacon, Canadian bacon, pepperoni, sliced ham etc). They are always shouting out hello to their customers as they walk by, they'll ask after my mum if she isn't with me, they'll give you samples, and recommendations and they make the best muffuletta sandwich. I usually grab a muffuletta sandwich for my dad to take home, and anywhere from 1 to 10 cheeses! We always get our cheese for family parties from Sam's.
Since it is my ideal Saturday, that means salmon is for dinner. My dad loves having salmon for dinner every saturday and they only place I will buy salmon in the whole city is Huong Trang Fish Market. Located at the end of the ramp in the market, Huong Trangs has the freshest salmon and their scallops are a fraction of the price at the grocery store and always much better. Their frozen fish section has everything. They are my go-to for any seafood. The couple who works every single day there are always happy and helpful.
Now that I have my salmon, cheese, and have had my coffee, I browse the local vegetable stalls. Many have been owned for generations and come from family farms in the Dundas valley and surrounding area. The vegetables are always local, and there is always a good variety and great prices. It just feels so good being able to talk to the families that produce the food.
Once my grocery shopping is done, I head to the "Real Food Court." This is a newer initiative to the farmers market. The "Real Food Court" has a handful of vendors that provide fresh lunches and to go options from different cuisines from around the world. My two favourites are Pokeh and The Flyin G' Nosh. Nick and I will routinely order from both and share our lunches. Pokeh is a traditional Hawaiian dish of fresh seafood served in bowls- kind of like a sushi bowl. They have a weekly special where they use ingredients from other stalls around the market. This week, Life is Peachy was their special: tuna sushi with ontario peaches, kale, honey garlic vinaigrette, lemon zest, taro chips, spicy sesame seeds, cucumbers, onions and soy-it was fantastic. You can also customize your bowl or get it with salmon instead of tuna, and they offer cucumber noodles to replace rice, so it is great if you are gluten free.
Pictured here: "Life is Peachy"
The Flyin G'Nosh is an Indian inspired food stall right next to Pokeh. They takes traditional Indian dishes and give them a twist. My two favourite menu items are the paneer tacos and the chicken tandoori tacos. The paneer tacos are served on soft almost naan-like taco shell with lightly spiced paneer, red onion and cilantro. It is fresh, delicious and just so satisfying. The chicken tandoori tacos are a little bit spicier, served on fried naan topped with cilantro.
Pictured here: Paneer Tacos
There are many other real food vendors: Slurp Ramen Bar, Nam Nom Bahn Mi, The Mexican Kitchen, Latin Food and Products, Best on Bread and a few more. They are all delicious and offer awesome take-out or eat-in options. Don't worry, I'll be doing a post about the other vendors at a later date, theres just only so much you can eat in one day!
Now that lunch is over, I usually just wander the market looking at the stalls filled with local artisan products, stop by the flower stalls, and maybe grab one more cannoli. I have started a collection of succulents all bought from the market, I love going to the different florists and picking out flowers to bring home or a succulent to add to my collection.
For people who live on the mountain in Hamilton, or maybe live in the east end or west end, coming down to the market might seem daunting or out of the way. Parking downtown can be expensive and hard to find, which is why it is amazing that the farmers market offers one hour of free parking at the 5 story parkade across the street. The York St. parkade is directly across the street from the market. It has five floors so you can always find a spot and when you take your ticket to the market, all of the stalls can validate your parking making it really easy to come down and get some amazing local food.
If you want to check out the market yourself here is a link to the website, https://hamiltonfarmersmarket.ca/- where all the vendors are listed. Also I definitely recommend you follow not only the Hamilton Farmers Market on Instagram but check out the Instagram of both Pokeh & the Flyin G'Nosh to see what weekly specials they are whipping up. I am going to miss coming down here every week, although I'm excited to see what the markets in Montreal have to offer.
Being a tourist in your own city is a super fun way to discover or re-discover some hidden gems. This is part 1 of my new series of posts about being a tourist in your own city, so follow along as I discover all that Montreal has to offer, as well as some throwbacks to what I miss the most about my hometown, Hamilton.
PS don't forget to follow me on Instagram @thenomadicbee to see how moving is coming along! You can also subscribe to The Nomadic Bee so you don't miss any posts!