I have high expectations when it comes to farmers’ markets. Before I moved to Ireland I was living in Madison, the capital city of Wisconsin and home to the biggest producer-only farmers’ market in America. With 300 vendors, it completely encircles the huge capitol building and has everything you could possible need or want and a great buzz. It’s pretty hard to compete with.
Nicola from The Big Red Kitchen
I’ve been to plenty of fantastic markets around Ireland — the English Market in Cork, Limerick’s Milk Market or Belfast’s St George’s Market — but there’s no market in Louth, where I live, where you could do all your weekly shopping. A weekly market has finally started up in Drogheda, but only after I moved away and it’s on Fridays, which would mean taking a day off work to go to it. Until recently, any local markets were usually only run once a month, which is all well and good for a fun little weekend outing and if all you want is some nice olives or a pot pie to have for lunch or some handmade candles. But it’s no use at all if you’re hoping to connect with and support local producers in a meaningful way.
Lisa from The Natural Sauce Company
Which is all to say that Honest2Goodness is the market I’ve been hoping to find all these years. It does what it says on the tin — it’s a real deal, honest to goodness market where you can buy everything from basics like bread, milk and eggs to meat, fish and preserves through to baked treats and wine. Brid Carter, who runs the market, also set up The Pantry section specifically to stock everyday essentials so that regular market customers would only need to visit a big supermarket about once a month.
Pat O’Dwyer, aka The Spud Man
There’s a café on site too, where everything is sourced from the market. You can have a ham sandwich, then go meet the people who baked the bread and raised the pigs for the ham. How’s that for provenance?
Beautiful treats from The Wild Flour Bakery
The market is full of many, many good things, but here are some of my highlights:
- The pineapple and chilli chutney and pear and vanilla jam from The Big Red Kitchen. The (very!) good news is that you can also order Nicola’s products online.
- The romesco, muhammara and harissa sauces from Lisa and Ailbhe’s Natural Sauce Company are the best new products I’ve tasted this year. I was blown away by the bold, fresh flavours. The sauces last for a month in the fridge and can be frozen too, so stock up if you can.
- Gorgeous sourdough breads from Arun Bakery, made by Vlad Rannis, a master baker from Prague.
- Old school treats like homemade marshmallows, florentines and chocolate biscuit cake from Blas na Talún.
- Pat O’Dwyer, aka the Spud Man, sells a wide range of seasonal fruit and vegetables, which are Irish wherever possible. Anyone looking for Irish apples or picture perfect produce (food bloggers, I’m looking at you), head here for beautiful French garlic or unwaxed lemons with the stems and leaves still attached.
- The delicious treats from Sticky Fingers Bakery — you’d never guess they’re all gluten free.
- Anything and everything from My Mexican Shop. I’ve been buying toritllas, tostadas and chipotles from Lily since she launched her business, but I’m crazy about the Gran Luchito Chili Paste she just started stocking.
- Kate Packwood at the Wild Flour Bakery is surely one of Ireland’s most innovative, creative bakers, layering flavours in imaginative and beautiful ways. Weeks after visiting, I’m still thinking about her caramel and sea salt brownies — the best I’ve ever had. Get to her stall early though, because she regularly sells out.
Brid’s enthusiasm, energy and generosity are infectious and I only wish her market was closer to where I live. Couldn’t the Honest2Goodness market be copied elsewhere, especially given all the empty industrial estates all over the country? And wouldn’t everyone — farmers, food producers, consumers and the community — all be the better for it if it was?