Diane Selkirk teams up with the chefs of Campagnolo to scour the new farmers market on Main St for the night's ingredients
Shopping at the farmers market is something of a summer tradition in my family. There’s nothing better than wandering from stall to stall, chatting with farmers who tell you they have the ripest berries or the crispest greens. But it’s not just people like me that head out to the market to shop for local produce—chefs from a variety of Vancouver restaurants also load up with seasonal fare.
This past week we decided to explore the new market at Thornton Park, near the Main Street Skytrain Station, with the chefs from Campagnolo. I wanted to see how the market was settling in to its new, slightly downtrodden urban digs and learn from an expert about how to get the most out of the market.
Campagnolo is the restaurant we wish we had in our neighbourhood. Its rustic Italian fare is created from locally sourced ingredients, and the menu is priced to fit in its lower-Main St digs. Chef Robert Belcham says he was thrilled when he first heard that the adjacent Thornton Park was being considered as a market site. “This is a neighbourhood that really needs access to good, fresh food.”
Belcham says the restaurant immediately threw its support behind the market and developed a plan to promote the farmers and their food with a weekly “Market Menu” inspired by whatever he and chef de cuisine Alvin Pillay happened to find at the market that day.
Thornton Park Farmers Market
On the Wednesday we went, it was the Tribute strawberries that first caught Pillay’s eye. I would have walked right by the funny little berries, but when the farmer gave us some to taste, their flavour won me over (although I only got a couple because Maia took over the basket…)
“They are the best berries here,” Pillay told us, “They’re going to go perfectly in a lemon curd tart with basil.”
Located across from the Main Street Skytrain Station, the Thornton Park market runs 3–7 p.m. on Wednesdays and is the perfect commuter’s market. It’s only a couple of weeks old, but already it’s starting to find its stride.
We continued down the stalls and Pillay pointed out highlights from the Campagnolo menu: raspberries that the bartender was mixing into a martini, spinach, English peas, spring onions, and new potatoes. Both Belcham and Pillay were excited by the market’s potential: “It changes every week, which is the essence of Italian food—it’s the best you can get from the garden that day.”
The way Belcham and Pillay shop is very much the way sustainable food experts say we should all be shopping if we want to promote health and reduce waste. The chefs walk through the entire market, plan their menu, then go back and purchase exactly what they need for the evening’s meal.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel—up until recently most people chose fresh food for the day’s meal,” Belcham told us.
After a walk through the market we were hungry and ready to try out the market-inspired menu. So we headed back to Campagnolo and made our way through a meal of Sloping Hill Farm’s pork with greens and peas, a spinach soup, Skeena River Spring salmon with new potatoes and spring onions, and the lemon tart with strawberries. Maia gave the meal two thumbs and two big toes up. Then she informed us that this needed to be our new Wednesday tradition—forever.
The new Wednesday afternoon farmers' market in front of Pacific Central Station, near the Main St/Science World Skytrain Station.
Fresh strawberries from a local berry farmer.
Campagnolo chef de cuisine Alvin Pillay offers Maia a Tribute strawberry.
A market vendor interacts with a customer at the Thr Farmers Market.
Bunches of garlic scapes, which are the stems of the garlic plant.
Campagnolo chef Robert Belcham examines some garlic plants.
Our server at Compagnolo brings us our fresh, locally sourced meals.
Pork with greens and peas from Campagnolo.