Bilby Bites - the food blog from Bilby Marketing

Totnes Good Food Sunday Market

If I had to make a list of my top ten towns in Devon, then Totnes would come right at the top of said list. I love the alternative, chic vibe, with an abundance of great places to eat and independent shops. It helps no end that it is a very pretty town as well. Just before Christmas I was in total and utter food mode, even more so than usual, and desperate to visit a market that would get me in the festive mood. It just so happened that the Totnes Good Food Sunday Market was on the Sunday before the big day and made for the ideal destination. I could get my local food produce fix, as well as set myself up for the following weekend's Yule celebrations.

I contacted JC’s mum and we organised what I hoped to be a lovely day out for us both. With Totnes a very easy 30 minute train ride from Exeter, there was nothing remotely stressful about getting there. Once we arrived we were keen to start the foodie proceedings with a coffee and cake. La Fourchette, on the high street, has an incredibly inviting façade and as it was a very cold day, we hurried into the warmth of the French style brasserie in the hope of defrosting a little before beginning our wander around the market. We weren’t in La Fourchette for long, but it was long enough for me to want to return again, as the lunch and early evening menu was riddled with tempting classics such as Croque Monsieur, Soupe à l’Oignon, Steak Frites, Coq au Vin and Confit de Canard. They change their menus with the seasons and of course, source locally as much as possible. They even make their own stone-baked pizzas. I’ve marked La Fourchette down as my preferred birthday dinner location in April.

The Totnes Good Food Sunday Market has been running since June 2010 and now attracts more than 50 traders. It runs on the 3rd Sunday of every month which is perfect - you can stock up for a few weeks and pop back to buy on a regular basis. The market has even had very positive feedback from the national press, including an article published on Saturday 17th December in The Times travel section, which stated that the amount of free-range food available at the market makes the farmers’ markets in most towns look like roadside burger vans. Now that’s some compliment. The market is held in the market square on the High Street as you might expect, so it’s very easy to find if you’ve never been to Totnes before. The minute we arrived, the usual enticing smells engulfed us. My cake and coffee had satiated my appetite for food for the time being, so I was able to resist an initial mad, buying frenzy.

We passed a number of stands that turned our heads including Karen’s Cakes, piled high with cupcakes that had me regretting my earlier cake consumption and Ock’s wonderful gluten-free, dairy-free and free range Indian Food that smelled fantastic, but for the time being at least I was focussed on Barrington Garlic Farm’s pitch that was covered in strings of shallots and piles of garlic. After coming across an article on the internet about John Rowswell and his Westcountry shallots and garlic, I was very keen to sample these. I must admit I paid little attention to the prices which isn’t very helpful, but I think I paid around £10 for a decent string of banana shallots and a string of large pink garlic bulbs (about 5-6 bulbs). Given the flavour and local provenance – the farm is in Somerset – this is a bit of a bargain. The stall contained brussel sprouts, pears, carrots and lots of other tempting local fruit and veg, but I stuck to my allium siblings and moved swiftly on.

The problem I find with a good food market, is that you don’t have enough capacity … and that goes for financial capacity, physical capacity to carry everything, tummy capacity, etc. Therefore, it is important to make notes … lots of notes … so that you can return another day. We moved on with our reconnaissance mission, another important food market discipline. If you still crave something after a good loop round the market, it’s worth having. The whole market looked very beautiful, including stalls containing everything from bright green salad leaves to rich red venison sausages, from pink strawberry cordial (at Tom Morrow’s juice) to the dark yellow ochre of the Fancy That goat curry. We sampled a gorgeous Indian treat which may, or may not have been, a masala dosa and I was determined I would be back for one of these at lunchtime. Unfortunately, when we went back they were all gone and the stall was packing up. I sadly, have no idea what the stall was called either.

During our final half an hour at the market we managed to pick up the more cumbersome items that any seasoned food market shopper knows you shouldn’t buy at the beginning of your visit, in our case, 3 jars of pickle. It all adds up. The Cherry Tree make some of the best chutneys, jams, marmalades and pickles I’ve ever eaten and I’ve already mentioned in a previous blog my love of their Mild Garlic Pickle. A visit to their stall naturally encourages much concentration as you sample your way through the incredible range of products, all of which are of top quality. We managed to walk away with 2 jars of the mild garlic pickle as well as some lemon curd that I love using in my favourite Australian Women’s Weekly friand recipe. My one disappointment was that I didn’t buy any of The Potted Fish produce which includes Old English Potted Crab, Potted Brown Crab with Chilli and Potted Brown Crab with Smoked Paprika. I tried the Old English Potted Crab and it was delicious. When I got back home I looked at their site and some of the recipe suggestions were very special – the Potted Brown Crab with Chilli stirred into tagliatelle with samphire, crushed black peppercorns and lime juice OR steamed cod with the Potted Brown Crab with Smoked Paprika stirred into mash and served with greens. Luckily you can also get these products from the Powderham Country Store and Kenniford Farm around Exeter.

At this point, we realised we still hadn’t picked up any lunch – how both ironic and dangerous, forgetting to eat at a food market. On the way in, we had spotted the Veggie Deli selling some very enticing tomato and basil pizza slices and vege hotdogs which we tucked into before heading back to the train station. To top things off, the vege hotdog had The Cherry Tree spicy tomato & caramelised onion relish on it. A fitting way to end our Totnes Food Market expedition.