There is something about the festive season that irks. Perhaps it’s the rank materialism underlying hundreds of ordinarily mild-mannered people, crowding into shopping malls, everyone driven to comb store shelves for gifts. As children start to wail and hopelessly overplayed Christmas carols drone on, civility gives way to aggression. Perhaps it’s the shallow commercialism that sees retail stores, especially membership-only warehouse clubs, assemble displays of construction paper red, metallic gold, and tin foil silver in August. Elsewhere, Halloween aisles give way to Christmas almost overnight with businesses looking to shift doodads and whatsits before having to liquidate inventories at fiscal year end. It seems a tell-tale sign of the madness to come when Starbucks switches to serving its coffee in snowflake emblazoned red cups.
Starved for sunshine (seasonal affective disorder) and suffering the inevitable blood sugar crash (partaking of too much shortbread), festive misery seems unavoidable.
Making matters worse, major chain grocery stores are no better. Even the animatronic monkey in the produce aisle gets made up for the season!
Thankfully, there are shops like the self-proclaimed artisan delicatessen The Piggy Market (400 Winston Avenue) in Westboro. Owners Dave Neil and Warren Sutherland don’t bother dressing up their now 4-year-old venture. They care more about helping their customers celebrate.
- Pasture-raised Mariposa Farm goose, available for order at $9.10/lb (approximately 6-8 lb/bird)
- Lyons Family Turkey Farm turkey, available for order $4.85/lb (approximately 13-26 lb/bird)
- Pasture-raised Mariposa Farms duck (previously frozen), available for order $6.50/lb
- Seed to Sausage smoked hams (prepared and smoked in Sharbot Lake), available for order $9/lb
- Pasture-raised and grain-finished O’Brien Farms Prime Rib Roast, available for order $17.27/Lb
- House-made Tourtiere (locally raised beef and pastured Berkshire pork, allspice, cumin, and caraway, rye sourdough breadcrumbs, and rolled oats), sold frozen, available for order $25/pie (serves 4-6)
- Also available for ordering: cranberry sauce, sausage stuffing, turkey gravy, rum balls, signature pig-shaped Speculaas cookies, and butter cookies
Not an urban “general store,” the intention was always to create a country oasis.
Several weeks ago, we sat down with Neil at the Hintonburg Public House (1020 Wellington Street W.) for a beer and a chat.
Since its opening, The Piggy Market has seen a number of renovations, one stemming from the departure of Pascale Berthiaume.
When then pastry chef Berthiaume left The Wellington Gastropub (1325 Wellington Street W.) to largely establish Ottawa’s craft ice cream scene, she churned every addicting pint of ethereal Pascale’s All Natural at 400 Winston.
When she left The Piggy Market, Neil re-purposed his former tenant’s space, installing more retail freezers and fridges. He added a display case for locally blended tea and confections like Michael Sunderland’s michaelsdolce jam. He now stocks a bookcase with noted tomes on butchery, artisan cheese, and locavore-culture.
At the same time, Neil brought in weather-worn wood planks reclaimed from barns, using them to create a service counter around his growing kitchen.
“Piggy Market is a work in progress,” explained Neil. “It adapts and changes according to the needs of its customers.”
[Loyal customers, many leapt heroically across a causeway to enter the store during November’s road work.]
This time ’round, the “expansion” will again re-organize the floor, but will actually decrease its square footage.
The renovations will install bar rail seating against his new front windows. The front steps will be extended somewhat to accommodate an outdoor deuce (two-seater) or two.
The big gain will be a second walk-in refrigerator and prep area, both of which will be installed in the basement. All butchery, from duck to pork, lamb, and beef (even veal) will be moved downstairs.
Store hours will change, opening 7 am and closing 7 pm 7-days/week. This means breakfast service with drip coffee made from Happy Goat‘s locally roasted beans, new breakfast sandwiches, and more in-house baked bakery from scones to croissants.
Expect more product options when The Piggy Market re-opens April 4, 2014, its 5th birthday. Lunch offerings will include more sandwiches, hot soups, and salads. The stromboli, signature Jamaican patties, and tacos remain. Though, Neil is considering making now weekly tacos a daily occurrence.
There will be more in-house pickled products beyond kohlrabi. Ever consider freshly made sauerkraut, jarred in time for Christmas dinner?
“I want to start a take-home meal program [dinner solutions],” explained Neal.
“The menu will change regularly and be released once a week for pre-orders.”
“Meals will be pick up only.”
Expect better store signage, smarter packaging, concise labeling, and better branding.
Neal also wants to diversify his catering options. Presently, his charcuterie boards include meat selections from Toronto’s Dolce Lucano and Seed to Sausage and cheese from Stradford’s Monforte Dairy, Lancaster’s Glengarry Fine Cheese, and St-Sixte’s (Quebec) Fromagerie Les Folies Bergeres.
Finally, he and his butcher Kyle envision teaching artisan butchery and sausage making during the day. Presently, he can only offer classes during the evening. Cooking classes are also being considered.
All this said, The Piggy Market will keep its doors open until December 31, 2013. Whatever remains in the fridges and freezers that evening will be delivered to the Parkdale Food Centre (424 Parkdale Avenue), a local food bank.
Demolition is scheduled to start January 2nd. Though, you can still find bakery during the renovations. Neal and baker Elizabeth plan to continue baking for accounts like Thyme & Again (1255 Wellington Street W.).
Good luck, Dave!
The Piggy Market
400 Winston Avenue