Wednesday, October 12, 2011

News Flash - The Bench Market

I've been traveling with the acceleration lever set on warp speed and I am actually looking forward to spending some time indoors for some rest and relaxation.

Photo Courtesy of The Bench Market

Dawn Halladay - co-owner
Picture Courtesy of Wine Trails

 During my trip to British Columbia's wine country, the Okanagan, I had the pleasure of stopping into a terrific spot called The Bench Market. Hanzel and Gretel are attracted to a gingerbread house filled with candies. I'm attracted to markets that are filled with savory delights and local products that tantalize the foodie's taste buds. I wrote about it back in September.

I got in contact with Dawn Halladay, one of the owners of The Bench Market and she took the time to share some history and information about her labour of love, provides some advice to the foodies, and spills the beans on some up and coming projects that The Bench Market will be unveiling.  Dawn even shared a couple of recipes that I'm looking forward to whip up in the next week or two.

1.     You and your sister are originally from Victoria. What brought you to Penticton?
The short, corny, honest answer…LOVE.  Our brother was already living in Naramata so we visited quite often.  I met my husband, Doug, in Naramata when visiting so eventually I decided to relocate.  Deb still lives in Victoria, but we collaborate on the phone at least 5 times a day!

2.     When you first opened The Bench Market, were people receptive to “gourmet” foods?  How have things changed since you first started?
It has taken time to build our local customer base as it does for any restaurant or any business, but I would say that the residents of Penticton and the Okanagan are very receptive to not just “gourmet” foods, but supporting local and sustainable foods.   Things have changed a lot over the past six years since we opened.  Local, seasonal, sustainable…we hear these words all the time now in the restaurant and food industry.  Eating foods more seasonally available and locally grown has become more and more “mainstream” and is definitely a way of life for many people now which is great.  These words have been part of the core of our philosophy on food since we opened in 2005.

When we first opened we were the only spot in Penticton that you could find many of the “gourmet” specialty ingredients that we carried.  Now, even the big chain grocery stores are doing a good job of carrying many organic and specialty products.  The focus for us now in what we offer on our shelves is not just gourmet food products, but locally produced, small batch, artisan food products.  Even the import products that we carry like olive oils, spices etc. are from small producers and family run operations…this is very important to us.  We pretty much use the same set of criteria to select every ingredient we use in our kitchen and on our coffee bar as well.

Photo Courtesy of The Bench Market
3.     You have a fantastic selection of vinaigrettes.  Can you give me some advice which brands and blends to choose? 

a.    What would you recommend for someone who prefers savory dishes? 
My all time favourite vinaigrette is Little Creek Gardens original from Kelowna.  It is wonderful on salads, of course, but it’s great to use as a dip for veggies, as a dressing for coleslaw or added to sauces and marinades for that little extra zing.   So full of flavour! 

b.    What would you recommend for someone who prefers lighter faire? 
There are two from Wineland Dressings in Penticton that are nice and light, but still very flavourful.  Raspberry and Black Pepper…awesome on any mixed green salad, especially if there’s goat’s cheese involved and Cilantro and Lime…great on mixed greens as well, but also makes a great dressing for a lighter style potato salad.
4.     There is such a great array of products that are from BC.  Can you tell me how you discover these independent food artisans?  Are there any “neat” products that you’d like to tell us more about? 
At first, when we first opened…lots of research.  Now many of the local food producers find us,   which is great.  I am always looking around for new products…I read all the local food mags and papers, there are a few websites for small scale food producers as well where I have tracked products down. 

Quench Cordial Co.

I love the new fruit cordials from Quench Cordials out of Naramata.  They do a sweet fruits version and a spiced fruits version.  They are so unique and very versatile…served with sparkling water, in sangria, salad dressings, mulled wine, bread dipper, it!

Photo Courtesy of The Bench Market
5.     My girlfriend who went on a morning run and came back and told us it was a “must visit” spotted The Bench Market.  What do you think lends to your success?  When did your realize that The Bench Market was a success? 

That’s always great to hear…we try really hard to create a fun, friendly, comfortable atmosphere where people want to come… and come back again.  We have a great group of staff that care about and are proud of the food and the products that we carry which contributes greatly to our success.  Attention to detail and never straying from our core concept of what we offer I think keeps our quality and consistency there which is definitely the key to any successful food business. 

6.     Can you please tell me what inspires you? 
Food!...the way food brings family and friends together…Sunday family dinners, birthdays, picnics, BBQ’s, romantic dates…food is always at the core of every celebration no matter what the occasion.  I love the endless possibilities of combinations of ingredients and how personal food is…how two people can take the exact same ingredients and both come up with something completely different and prepared in their own style. I could go on forever because there is so much that inspires me about food…but these are the first two things that popped into my head.
7.     Who creates your dishes?  Is there a certain ‘style’ that would describe the food that you serve?  How do you decide what goes on the menu?

Photo Courtesy of The Bench Market
We have a great chef, Stewart Glynes, who came on board in  January 2010.  Stewart has done an awesome job of expanding our daily selection overall.  Most of our menu items are a collaboration between Stewart and myself.  

We change things up depending on the season (eg. house smoked brisket in the summer, house made corned beef in the winter).  Our style has been described a few times as Mediterranean by others, but I think of our style as fresh, made from scratch, tasty, healthy food…which is not really a style…Mediterranean food is fresh and healthy too, so maybe that is the best description of our style…

8.     I am noticing a trend towards comfort foods and heavier, savorier faire in Vancouver.  My overly simplistic hypothesis is that this turn is related to the current economy – typically, West Coast faire, which is characterized by clean and simple flavours are associated with the finer dining establishments are now considered a luxury to many. I find people are taking great efforts to keep their wallets full and would rather eat something that not only keeps their stomachs full but they want food that envelopes them in flavours that will leave a lasting and lingering hug.

 Have you noticed any changes in your customer’s tastes and if so, what do you think lends to this change?
I think the biggest change I have noticed over the past couple of years is that people really want to know where their food is coming from.   I think people are becoming more educated about the whole food chain and I think more and more people are willing to pay that little bit extra to purchase quality over quantity.  More people seem to be growing their own vegetables and herbs, raising chickens….they will make the extra trip to the local butcher, bakery or vegetable stand rather than the one-stop box store concept.  Our customers know that we can tell them exactly what farm the pork in their pulled pork sandwich comes from or where the cheese was made that is on their Bench take and bake pizza.   That makes us feel really good about what we do.

9.     Do you have a favourite new food, style of cooking or ingredient? 
I love all the hearty new grains that are available…red quinoa, black barley, farro, to name a few.   They are so versatile…great for salads, soups, stuffings etc., and they’re healthy too!! There is also some great locally produced vinegars and flavoured balsamics and balsamic reductions available that I think are really great to have on hand.  They are very versatile and can add so much flavour to dressings, marinades and sauces.  I love the Vinegar Works Verjus from Summerland, Edible Gardens Roasted Garlic Balsamic from the Lower Mainland and Nonna Pia’s Strawberry Fig Balsamic Reduction from Whistler.

Vinegar Works Verjus from Summerland, Okangan, BC
Edible Gardens Roasted Garlic Balsamic from the Vancouver
Nonna Pia’s Strawberry Fig Balsamic Reduction from Whistler

10.  Do you have any new projects coming up?
We are offering fresh, Fraser Valley, all natural turkeys for Thanksgiving which is something new for us…they will be available for order at Christmas as well.

We will be selling some of our housemade products such as granola and 100 mile gift baskets at the Santa Presents Christmas Craft Fair this year in Penticton, November 5th and 6th at the Trade and Convention Centre…our first time at a craft fair!

We have a couple other ideas in the works, but you’ll have to stay tuned for more info…

If you are in the City of Penticton I highly suggest that you check out this gem.

368 Vancouver Avenue
Penticton, BC

You May Also Be Interested In:
News Flash - Leftovers, SF
Dirty Laundry
The Bench Market
News Flash - Styling in SF

No comments:

Post a Comment