Manly Market – a weekend delight

I love a good market – a well run one will have a plethora of stalls with a wide variety of different specialities to tempt you to part with your hard earned wonga. There’s nothing new with markets – they’ve been around since long before Alexander the Great’s time (although part of his success was due to his management of trading places) – but what is new is the resurgence in recent years in the interest in boutique stalls, local product rialtos, and the local customer… all this in a global, online world. Ah, the irony.

Today’s Manly Market (sadly the website is being worked on http://www.manlymarketplace.com.au/) was moved from it’s usual weekend location to along the beach front, to make way for the exciting Manly Food, Wine & Sustainability Festival (covered off in another blog). I have to say that the beach front is a much better location that the pokey street just off the Corso – it gives the organisers so much more room to play with (and money to make), and today was no exception: the quantity of stalls had at least doubled and there were a couple of notably interesting ones there.

Mike from T-nomics was telling me that he found it relatively easy to secure a pitch, especially where there are always so many jewellery and clothes hawkers desperate to get in on the action. “If a market has diversity,” he informed me, “people will come. But if they’re all the same, they become stale and punters are not attracted to them.” Makes sense really.

Mike’s offering was his carefully selected and sometimes home-blended teas (http://www.t-nomics.com/) – from Asia by the way (which made me think whether other continents, say, Australasia, also grew tea) – and I was grateful to him for giving me a Yunnan Gold sample to take home… the only concern I had was the stash of leaves were deposited in a small transparent plastic bag and could easily be mistaken for something that is smokable. “Well, officer, it’s like this…”

Fantastic to meet someone so passionate about the skill required to create the flavours of a great tea. Apparently, one can let the leaves brew for a few minutes (I recall the number 3 to be important in this regard), pour the liquid into the drinking vessel, then re-use the tea leaves again and again, siphoning off the fluid each time, whereby you then get to enjoy the subtle differences each brew imparts on the taste buds. Fascinating. It was a bit like discussing whisky, coffee, wine, cider, or beer tasting – I do hope Mike brings the craft to life, and in the next edition of Ian Bersten’s book “Coffee Floats, Tea Sinks” perhaps Mike will get a mention.

Janet Cooper, on the other hand, was offering beautiful photographs of the local Manly scenery, taken from unique vantage points, and so much better than what you can snap with your old instamatic, or more likely your iPhone. You wonder how one can charge so much money for a picture that yours truly could take… well, it’s probably down to 3 factors. Firstly, unless you’re an experienced, trained artisan, you probably have no idea what makes up a good shot – sure, occasionally you’ll get lucky, but you can’t rely on good fortune. Secondly, the larger the framed picture the better camera you need to take the picture with so that when the photo is blown up, it still looks crisp and not blurry- such a camera with lens are 10% average UK salary. Lastly, the process of blowing up the photographs and mounting them is very pricy – yes, a 5×7 cm is cheap enough, but once you start going large, so does the cost, even if mass produced.

In that light, you get a real appreciation for her work. One can only imagine Janet and Mike will spend hours, along with every other hawker, speaking of their passion. I may have to go back again tomorrow.

It’s been a long day at the market. Time for a cup of Yunnan Gold tea, sir!

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Manly Food, Wine & Sustainability Festival – the taste of Manly

As you walk down the Corso (manly’s High Street) on any weekend, you snake your way through small crowds of visitors pouring off the ferry from Sydney’s Circular Quay. It’s a great atmosphere – al fresco European style cafes along a pedestrian precinct. This weekend it’s even better at a balmy 20 degrees.

I follow the crowds towards a certain carnival mood that is the 15 year old Manly Food, Wine and Sustainability Festival – the lone street artist playing jazz on his trumpet tells me I’ve arrived. The Tourist Information lady at Manly Wharf warned me there are great live bands, not to mention gourmet lunches – it’s open till 5pm today and tomorrow – and, yes, she’s so right! The first band is Feeding Edgar – a local Australian rock band who are definitely worth finding on YouTube (http://m.youtube.com/user/feedingedgar)… the sponsoring “Old Manly Boatshed” stall next to the stage was selling their ‘Journey’ CD, so obviously I bought one. At only $10, they were selling fast. “Sustainability” is a key word today, and bands like these are definitely sustaining the rock industry!

Next stop: Tamburlaine Organic Wine (www.mywinery.com) stall was offering a commemorative festival glass with a refreshing tipple for $15. From their extensive range, I opted for the unwooded easy drinking Chardonnay – they’ve been Certified as Organic for 10 years, and a good example of making the sustainable dream a reality in the Hunter Valley only an hour north of here.

Little children are taken off mum and dad’s hands for 5 minutes at the New Leaf Nursery stall where the little mites chase around rabbits, baby lambs and multi-coloured fowl. Talking of fowl, the local gulls are out in full force – also obviously connoisseurs in gourmet cuisine.

The Italian chef on the main stage is from Whitewater restaurant and was the personal chef Giorgio Armani, who’s favourite dish is Risotto Parmegiano – I’d love to taste the risotto he’s making up there today. Time to grab a bite to eat, methinks. On route to find something that takes my fancy, I happen upon http://www.JayHuxley.com, who’s cooking up a curry… hmmm, smells good. I pick up one of his free recipe cards.

It’s interesting – a few years ago, I was at a seminar when the presenter asked if I would take up a free subscription of Time magazine or the Economist if offered to me, “Sure,” I said, never wishing to look a gift horse in the mouth. I was then lambasted when he said, “you must be crazy – have you seen the explosion of free information on the Internet? Nobody’s going to buy hard copy in the future. That was 10 years ago, and I’m still keen to pick up leaflets at fayres today.

At last, I found a couple of stalls with appetising looking grub – sugar and gluten free almond slice that went nicely with another Hunter Valley http://www.draytonswine.com.au brut, whilst the yum chow (dim sum) suited the palate of the Latitude 41 degrees Chardonnay from New Zealand, an absolutely awesome wine and my pick of the day.

The one disappointment for me was the lack of gourmet cuisine at the festival – yes, there was the rather lovely Hunter Gold Washed Rind (I procured a round for $20) from a cheesery with the worst website in the world http://www.huntervalleycheese.com.au/ but Rose and Peter are proud of their family made, preservative free ‘products’… makes it sound so stale. And next to their stall was the creperie, still not exactly gourmet.

Oh, and yes, “sustainability” needs a little more emphasis.

All in all though, a great afternoon out. I’m going to rush home out of the spitting rain now.

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