Have you been to the new Christmas market at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa? It’s a romantic and festive market in one of Ontario’s most beautiful and historic buildings, the Aberdeen Pavilion. The Aberdeen Pavilion is a stunning 36,000 Victorian heritage building that held a variety of agricultural events in the late 1800’s and continues to do so today.
Christmas Markets are popular in Europe, they first began over 200 years ago. Cologne, Vienna, Nuremberg, Brussels, Munich, Prague, Berlin, Copenhagen, are the best (I’ve heard) and now they’ve spread to Rome and Paris. Christmas Markets are primarily outdoor markets that are different from farmers’ markets in that they have very few fresh fruits and vegetables and more items more appropriate for the season.
White tents decorated in colourful lights spill into village squares selling nutcrackers and Christmas ornaments, wooden toys and marionettes, candles and lambskin shoes. Foods offered include roasted chestnuts, baked apples, gingerbread biscuits, mulled cider and hot wine.
The beautiful new Christmas Market in Ottawa is indoors. Market stalls were decorated with twinkling lights, evergreen boughs and shiny presents. Carolers dressed in historic costume strolled the market singing Christmas carols. On the tables were prepared foods and one-of-a-kind gifts that added interest to the stalls of fresh produce.
It’s amazing how much fresh produce is still available in December. There were chestnuts, apples, pears, squash, kale, onions, garlic, leeks, beets, cranberries, green onions, spinach, potted herbs, fresh greenhouse tomatoes, carrots in rainbow colours and multi-coloured potatoes. There were long stocks of Brussel sprouts and pints of Jerusalem artichokes; pork and bison, sausages and pepperettes. I found green spiky cauliflower marketed as edible Christmas trees and a few honey stalls mixed in with maple syrup vendors; an artisan grain producer was busy grinding fresh flour.
In between the fresh produce was a wide range of wholesome and decadent foods made by culinary entrepreneurs. There was Ottawa’s popular Pascal’s Ice Cream (I had the egg nog flavour). There was sparkling apple cider, apple cider donuts and bags of dried apples, some dipped in yummy chocolate. Bakers with tables overflowing with artisan loaves of bread and bakers with pies; pies made of pumpkin, apple, turkey, steak and traditional tortierres. There were giant, soft cinnamon buns, vegetable stuffed breads and giant irresistible cookies.
There were cakes baked in mason jars, topped with icing and equipped with a silver spoon; bite size pieces of cake called Bombs, enrobed in chocolate and topped with yummy goodies of caramel, nuts, candy and fruit. There was a donut baker offering mini home made donuts in flavours of Pecan Turtle, Malted Milk, Coco Hazelnut and Maple Bacon.
Besides the fresh produce and decant foods there were pots of Christmas greens, holiday candles and wreaths of grape vines. There are hand crafted hats and beautiful scarves, jewellery, stunning cutting boards, artwork, hand made wooden toys and Christmas tree decorations.
Christmas markets are a step back to an old fashioned holiday where simple pleasures are paramount.
The worlds most decadent, beautiful and incredible Christmas market is in Paris, France where over 350 stalls spill out along the Champs Elyse with Christmas lights strung across the boulevard and around every tree, festive music plays while shoppers stroll casually with a cup of vin chaud (hot wine).
I can’t wait, I’m going to Paris for Christmas this year. I’ll be strolling the streets, shopping at the Christmas markets with a mug of hot chocolate. I have an apartment behind the Louve, I’ve packed my Julia Childs cookbooks and I’ll be making Beef Bourgogne on Christmas morning. I’ll write from Paris, but if I don’t, from my table to yours, have a very merry Christmas.