It’s the moment many lovers of local food have been waiting for. On Saturday, September 14th, the Victoria Public Market officially opens for business in the historic Hudson Building. The backers and vendors of the project hope that it creates a hub for people seeking high quality products made here on the island. I took a sneak peek and ‘dished’ on All Points West to Jo-Ann Roberts.
When I visited on Thursday before the opening, lots of construction was still happening, workers all over the place, electricians, carpenters, the fire department was there doing an inspection, and even the cable guys were there! The vendors who are opening on Saturday were going a bit nuts trying to get the last bits of their infrastructure in place. I talked to George Szasz, formerly of Paprika and Stage, who along with Ryan McGregor, is opening a place called Roast. More about Roast in a minute, but first I asked George about what it meant to him to be one of the first vendors in the market.
“Ryan and I had a walk-through last night, and it was quiet, we had a look at the spaces that are building out and we reflected on something quite amazing, we thought wow, this is an exceptional venue to be at, and just to be part of something like this is mindblowing for us, I’ve never seen anything like this before, with really committed vendors and the focus on food and the passion and you know what, at this stage in the game, it’s not just the vendors, it’s the work crews and everyone pulling together and sharing tools and trying to get stuff done, this is really groundbreaking for me.”
The main thrust of their project is actually a bit of a throwback to the comfort food George grew up with, a combination of a rotisserie for chickens, and a carvery that will roast beef and carve it for you just before it goes into a bun. George basically grew up in a deli, so things like sliced meats and rotisserie chicken is old hat to him. They have a Rotisol rotisserie for the chickens, which will bathe the potatoes roasted below in all of their delicious drippings. Their carved beef rib will come from local sources and a place in Chilliwack will supply pork ready for roasting Sicilian porcetta style.
I also met Robyn LaRocque of the Victoria Pie Company, and she and her crew were just about to a clean up in advance of putting everything in its place, but she just happened to have brought with her today a pie she says is good for before lunchtime snacking, not too sweet, a local apple compote in a crust made with Island Farms butter and Olive the Senses olive oil, topped with local hazelnut brittle.
Robyn grew up making sweet pies but her husband, who is from Montreal, challenged her to make an authentic tourtiere, and she did. He figured she could start a business selling them, so she did. And now she’s here with a wide range of pies at the market, starting the day with some breakfast hand pies, stuffed with seasonal vegetables, and at lunch time they’ll do an assortment of personal pot pies, with fresh salads, mashed potatoes and gravy for their British customers! There will be family style pies you can pick up to take to a party or take home, all made with what’s local and seasonal.
On Saturday the market itself opens at 10, there will be speeches and a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11, and then a few famous chefs and a humble cook (that’s me) will be doing a series of cooking demos. Peter Zambri, Heidi Fink, Bill Jones, Dan Hudson, Marisa Goodwin of Organic Fair, Vikram Vij, who is opening his place called Sutra in the market. There will also be live music and lots of activities for kids as well. I’m on at 5pm, but I’ll be there ahead of that so I hope to see you there. I’m searing an albacore tuna loin with a special sesame crust on top of a blueberry fennel slaw. Many of the ingredients come from vendors at the market, Cowichan Bay Seafood, Island Spice Trade, and Olive the Senses with their special Persian Lime-infused olive oil.