I’m trying to get around all the Coastal produce markets, but recently have found myself gravitating back a few times to The Entrance market – probably because of our recent discovery of The Entrance Lakehouse, for a spot of lunch.
Having visited the Creative Berowra market in its infancy (OK, so maybe not strictly the Central Coast) I’d been initially a touch disappointed by the limited number of stalls, then revisited and was impressed by its increase, so I figured it was time to go back to a few others.
Starting with the Woy Woy Arts and Produce market – second Sunday of the month. It’s another one that started small, but the last time I was there, it had some stalls I recognised from my last visit, plus newcomers such as Brasserie Bread along. Always a good sign; a market needs a few anchor stalls. Woy Woy itself is not the most cosmopolitan of townlets; in fact other than the awesome hippy monopoly that is the famed ‘Gnostic corner’, it seriously hasn’t much going for it. So I confess I really wasn’t expecting much. But here was a lively, albeit still pretty small, little group of stalls, occupying the grassy space by the Fishermans Wharf.
The emphasis is about 50/50 food vs crafts and art, a reasonable mix to keep a foodie’s interest, particularly as it has encouraged ‘single subject’ stalls; ie those who specialise in one thing. You can be sure that they know their subject well.
In this category are the lovely honey people, Honeybee Mine:
Probably the most keenly advertised of all the stalls – the only ones with signs outside the market encouraging people in – but happily not tedious hard sellers (don’t you hate it when people jump on you before you’ve had a chance to have a good stare?), these people really seem to know their honey. Whilst not operating any bees themselves so far as I could tell, they sell on for apiarist Greg Mulder, who operates out of the Hunter Valley and surrounds.
So: local, and it’s nice stuff too. Who doesn’t need a tub of honey in the larder? Always puzzles me how they can tell what the bees have been feeding on; one of those dark arts perhaps. Bee surveillance? But the honeys do actually taste different – there must be something in it…While I was there, a bee flew in to have a taste of some of the honey on a tasting stick – so I guess that is the ultimate seal of approval!
Even more local was the mushroom man Margin’s Mushrooms (his sign prominent on the windy road up out of Woy Woy to the freeway). As a fungi hater I avoided it like the plague, especially as he was frying up a storm and the smell of cooking mushrooms hung over the whole area. Mr C – who’s been known to gorge on the vile things when I’m away – was delighted.
Then there were the rosy, shiny trays of apples and plums on another stall – picked from the farm yesterday I was assured – $4 & $5 a box. Beautiful plump sweet plums with pale unblemished flesh. This is what I love about the one hit wonder stalls – they may only do one thing but by god they do it well.
On that same theme there’s the chilli man – I have a glut of super hot chillies at home so I didn’t partake, though I’ve stopped for a chat in the past and he was happy to chew the cud. And I think that’s what does it for me with these small markets in their early days; people have time to pass the time of day. Stop and chat. Tell you about their produce. Of course, this probably means they’re not as busy as they’d like to be, but hey ho, I’m the consumer, so obviously, it’s all about me.
Meliora Farm stall, teeming with oranges, who seemed to have his whole family along, his home grown credentials on display:
Keen youngsters hanging around the fruit
And of course, Brasserie Bread. Who, amongst a huge range of goodies, do a mean sour cherry fruit sourdough that is to die for.
Amongst the others, who I neglected to snap, there are stalls for homemade cheese, native plants, fresh juice and stuffed olives.
The organiser’s stall with juice and mostly organic veggies
Even canine chums are catered for, with the Gourmet Dog Biscuits and Treats stall, who brought their own fan club/product tester:
Their puppy pizza and doggy doughnuts made me smile:
Of the many craft stalls there was a British guy, James, over since the early 70s, keen to tell me about the inspiration behind his oils:
And these guys – injecting a somewhat funkier note than the crochet and beads people:
The prints reminded me of the last time I was in Long Jetty, at the Glass Onion Society.
Paintings got another airing at this stall, where this lovely tatooed lady multitasked stall holding and art creation:
Photography for sale
Plus, there were oils, bath things, body art, clothing and these hypnotic spinning mobiles. Wonder what the lorikeets will make of them:
Should you need small signs telling people you’re out fishing, well, you’re in luck there too.
One thing that does differentiate between this and purely food markets is the entertainment. Truly family friendly were the Drumbala folks, who’d brought a shedload of drums with them and were thrilling the kids with their drumming class:
There was such a happy vibe around these folks. Grinning kids, happy grown ups and a booty swishing beat!
While they were setting up, this guy sang wry songs on his own:
Most impressive of all to me is the motivation behind this market. There’s a friendly vibe, a sense that it’s about community and change. Everyone knows Woy Woy is a bit of a sophistication black hole in an otherwise beautiful area, but these people, along with the Gnostic chaps, are really trying to do something about it. Talking to Liam Grant, one of the organisers (and running the organic veg and juice stall), made this clear; all the proceeds after running costs are spilt between 2 charities. One is local, for homeless folks and those down on their luck – Mary Mac’s. The other is PA Nepal, an international charity assisting the children of Nepalese prisoners. Yet this is done quietly and without fuss; it’s not advertised much, it’s just what they do.
I’ll be back to this market. I think I may become a regular. Owner/producer stalls have that special connection to their food, and they’re interested – obviously in a vested way, but that’s great for us the consumer. It makes for a way more satisfying food shopping experience. I imagine this was what life was, before the supermarket. Yes, I know, great if you have the time and resources. But for people like me, this is how I like to spend my downtime – browsing. And from the looks of the crowds around me, I wasn’t alone.