On Saturday my older cousin and I went on a Queen Vic Market tour. It was a really fun and interesting experience that really inspires me to make better use of the market. We have this amazing fresh food resource literally smack bang in the middle of our city, yet most of us view it as a tourist attraction rather than a food market. The prices are great, the shop owners friendly and helpful and there is so much to love about all three of the food sections of the market.
The tour started with a little history about the area. It was interesting to learn how the market opened, that it was built atop a cemetary (spooky!), how the market used to operate in the past and that some of the stall holders have been there for years and years and years and passed the business down from generation to generation. Another interesting fact was that the market was almost closed down in the 70's, but remained open because of public uproar. Lucky considering that it now employs over 3000 employees and is a huge part of Melbourne's economy. And lucky for us because we can go there and buy great local produce!
We started in the meat and fish market, wandering around and learning about the different shops and their purposes. We discussed the difference between those that are selling upmarket produce and those that specialise in bulk purchasing, and also organic produce. We also found out the best places to buy 'niche' produce like duck, rabbit, goat, sashimi standard fish etc. The guide was very animated and shared little facts about some of the stalls, like one butcher that sells 3000 sausages a week!
We then visited the fruit and vegetable area where we were shown some unusual and rare fruits and vegetables, and tasted some great fruit. The rest of our tastings occured in the dairy hall, where we were spoilt. Cheese, dips, breads, homemade tortellini, smoked chicken, Koko black chocolate. We were so full afterwards, and tried some things we wouldn't normally choose.
The tour obviously serves its purpose because Jac and I went on a big produce spree afterwards, hiring a trolley and filling it up with yummy things! Between us we purchased things like sausages, sashimi grade kingfish, lamb cutlets, prawns, mussels, pippies, crab, salmon, dips, cheeses, artisan style sourdough and heaps of fruit and vegies. It was so much cheaper than the supermarkets and a really fun experience also.
I completely recommend the tour either as a visitor to Melbourne or a resident. It cost $40, included stacks of tastings and a free coffee, and is a great way to learn how to make use of our famous landmark market. Ask for Beverly, she was a great host and took excellent care of us!
PS. Check out my next posts to see some of the recipes I have made so far using the produce I bought :)