Thursday, 12 April 2012

Why an artisan market in Tokaj-Hegyalja?

Well, the idea started with a conversation in the Arany Kaviár in Budapest a couple of years ago and has been developed into a fully-fledged market about to start this weekend, the first regular market of its kind to be held in Tokaj-Hegyalja. It is guided by a team of women passionate about local food and handcrafts who wish to ensure that consumers (you and me) can regularly meet the producers of quality products produced locally with care and love. Markets provide an alternative form of shopping for people disillusioned with mass-produced food and other goods to access local products direct from their maker and to find out more about how they were actually made, re-establishing the traditional link. They also ensures a stable outlet for producers, meaning they do not have to travel far to sell their wares and, in the grander scheme, allows more money to remain within the local economy.

And what about the producers themselves? Well, over 40 will join us for the first market and new applicants are appearing daily! News spread fast on the grapevine! Small producers of high quality food and non-food products, artisans who take great care in making the best they can, usually from their own or local materials. There will be cheese (cow, sheep and goat), cured meats and sausages, honey, oils, vinegars (from Tokaj wines too), spelt and other bakery goods, organic foods, jams, syrups and hopefully home-dried fruits too. But maybe we'll have to wait for the new season...

Craftsmen and women will bring their ceramics, hand-carved wooden objects and toys (and a swing too if the weather is fine), felt, embroidery, jewellery, designer clothes, leatherwork, wrought iron, and - of course this is the Zemplén after all, home to some of the finest oak barrels in the world - barrels too.

As you can see a fine display of the creative locals ready to show their wares to you and others.

We have received many messages and gestures of support and encouragement by those delighted to see the first shoots of a venture for the community smaller and wider. We have been delighted with the response from the artisans who have come forward in ever increasing numbers to participate in what promises to be a fun and exciting meeting of minds and hearts. The authorities have also been extremely helpful in setting up the market - and the local waste management company offered 3 selective bins for the rubbish. All of their own accord, they rang back to say that actually they felt this fitted better with the spirit of the market! How right they are.

To add to the true spirit of the fair, we have invited a popular local folk band who will play throughout, as well as holding a couple of dance houses for children (though I'm sure enthusiastic adults can also join in!). There will be a film showing too and the opportunity to explore the vineyards, climb to the top of the estate and enjoy the fabulous view of the Toka Hill, out over the Great Hungarian Plain and round to the historic centre of Mád. We suggest kite enthusiasts bring along their kites to try out the flying at the top where the air is always moving (that is one of the factors in the estate being an excellent site for aszú development on the grapes). Older locals have told that this was always a site where people came to fly! So another tradition to be revived?

And naturally no fair would be complete without food and Eszter Fűszeres, the gastroblogger from Erdőbénye and the Sárga Borház restaurant on the estate will be preparing delicious dishes. The Sárga Borház will be roasting a lamb, true seasonal fare and local too - from the Gonda organic farm in Erdőbenye not far away.

Obviously Tokaj-Hegyalja region is famous first and foremost for its legendary wines, the Aszú wines. Thus there is a parallel event to be held in the impressive rooom above the Sárga Borház restuarant, a Furmint tasting to which we have invited ten of the top winemakers. This is the first of a series and on each of the market days there will be the chance to taste a spectrum of the best wines on offer and find out for yourself just why Tokaj-Hegyalja and its wines are so famous. A true community spirit.

Come along and join us - and experience Tokaj-Hegyalja! Look forward to meeting you.

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