When local businesses collaborate the result is usually impressive and the Stratus Vineyard and Gathering Niagara Kristlemas Market was no exception. On a crisp Sunday in mid-December a group of local vendors converged in NOTL at Stratus to people find Christmas presents (and keep them warm and fed in the meantime).
Stratus is one of the larger wineries that I have been to so I was a little concerned about all the listed vendors fitting inside. My concerns were unwarranted as the flow for the event was just fine – vendors were set up in the wine boutique, on the back patio, in press alley and the food trucks were in the front parking lot.
The Kristlemas Market had a real festive vibe – like a Christmas party and market had converged bringing together great people, great wine, great food and the opportunity to find gifts for those we love.
One of the first vendors that caught my attention was Rose’s impressive Christmas arrangements from Bartel Organics. The smell of the pine in her candled centerpieces was divine – like you were standing in the middle of a forest. Best of all, Rose makes her arrangements from mostly greens that grow right on their farm. Come to think of it, I was silly for not bringing one home.
Next I came upon Jolene Antle’s Garden City Essentials 100% natural handcrafted soaps. There are a lot of different soap vendors in Niagara that I enjoy – like JC Fresh – but what I really liked about Jolene’s display is that she had lots of small, inexpensive samples. They are so small and cute and perfect little stocking stuffers or for personal travel kits; I do not know about you but I am not usually a fan of hotel soap. She was also selling lip-balm (which I happen to be a little bit obsessed with; something a lady can’t ever have too much of.
The next sparkle that caught my eye was Special Silver Pieces by designer and silversmith Emma Symonds, especially one piece that I learned was fashioned from a newer medium called Silver Clay. Apparently gaining popularity among artists, one can fashion and imprint this clay and then fire it (with a torch) and it sets as silver. To my untrained eye it did not look any different than the sterling beside it, but I appreciate the new technique.
I was happy to see the familiar – A Knot Above – whose knitted owl toques for babies makes me wish I knew more people having babies because they are the perfect gift. At the Kristlemas market she had little owl “stuffies” out for purchase – too cute.
Finally, I met – for the first time – Madeline and Lillian from Letters from Niagara, a company that takes unique pictures across Niagara that look like letters. Then, people can fashion the pictures/ letters into words within frames. I like these kind of hidden words within art, it adds another dimension and I especially like experiencing the moment when people realize that it isn’t just art but spells a word also. A friend of mine uses similar framed letters to spell the names of her children on their bedroom doors.
Outside on the patio I ran into my pie, tart and square making friend Beth McIntee from Sweetie Pie’s Bakery. I had not realized that she was going to be at the Market but I am sure happy she was. She had made home-made Stratus Icewine Riesling Marshmallows and was selling them with chocolate and graham crackers. How could I resist being offered to make a smore?! I couldn’t – the result was ooey-gooey deliciousness and I ended up taking home a bag of Beth’s home-made marshmallows.
Also on the patio with Beth was Pingue (Niagara Food Specialties), Smoke’s Poutinerie and the new Oast House Brewers. Although I really wanted to, I did not indulge in the Pingue sausage or Oast House beer but I do have plans on setting something up with Oast House soon. Considering Dave (hubby) is keen on trying Oast with me I didn’t think it right to try it without him (I’m such a good wife – no? *wink*)
After being out on the patio with all that food it was time to head out front and try my luck at picking just one thing for lunch from the food truck menus. For me it was a toss up between a savoury crepe from Curbside Crepes or the Fish Tacos from Elgastronomo Vagabundo. In the end, Elgastronomo won – I have heard such great things about them and passed them up at other events that I just couldn’t do that again. The fish tacos were delicious and very spicy! I am a spice lover but these challenged even me and with a few bites left I just had to find myself a glass of milk (or some crackers). I will absolutely eat from Elgastronomo again.
Last, but certainly not least, and to the tunes of The Permtones, we headed into Press Alley to see what other goodies the Kristlemas Market was hiding. The Ravine Vineyard market had brought some of their breads and goodies from the marketplace and it was in Press Alley that Stratus was tasting their Wildass Red by the glass. Provisions Food Company was also there with their savoury cheese and herb shortbreads and jellies.
Candy by Katie was serving up some colourful holiday treats and I was very very tempted to buy some of her chocolate peppermint almond candies and her gourmet covered pretzels. Considering my maid of honour duties coming up in 2013 I am keeping business cards from candy-masters like Katie in my back pocket.
For the first time I got to meet Leslie Edwards – the Head Jelly Maker for Tree and Twig Heirloom Vegetable Farm in Wellandport. I was especially intrigued by the Heirloom Tomato jam which she explained is great in place of ketchup with grilled cheese sandwiches. Linda Crago, Tree and Twig’s owner, was also at the Market — this is another one of our hidden gems in Niagara that I am hoping to cover in 2013 once it starts getting warm and her garden is in full swing.
The show-stopper for me at this market – and a pleasure to meet – was Dorian Andrewes from YUM Jams & Jellies. Dorian uses fruits grown right on her farm in Beamsville to make her absolutely superb jams and jellies. I, no exaggeration, have fallen in love with her A-pear-ently Delicious Jam and have discovered quince. Quince, unbeknownst to me, is a fruit rarely grown in many places because you cannot eat it raw, you must “do something” with it – like make YUM jam! I took both of these jams home and am looking forward to trying many more of her creations. Dorian also does sauces and salsas and you can find YUM products at a few local stores in west Niagara (listed on her website). As much as I loved making home-made peach jam for family a few Christmas’s back – I will not be making jam again with these so close-by!
To the dismay of friends and family reading this particular piece, I did not end up leaving the Kristlemas Market with any gifts – everything I took home with me is staying in my pantry. But, here’s hoping that Stratus and Gathering Niagara team up again next year so that I can do a better job at spreading the Kristlemas cheer!