Tag Archives: local

Seattle’s Fresh Market

Pike Place Market is one of the most popular places to visit when touring the city of Seattle, and it’s for good reason. The local farmers, fishmongers, and produce sellers always have great energy and their products are fresh. The atmosphere of the place is crowded and often times frenetic. People love the live fish sailing through the air, the harsh calls of the fruit sellers, and the smell of every imaginable food pervading through the area. Sadly, as Pike Place Market becomes more of a tourist attraction than a genuine food market, many of the fruit, fish, and grocery sellers leave in favor of those offering souvenirs, arts and crafts, and curios. While Pike Place Market is unique in having a wide variety of retail stalls as well as local coffee shops and restaurants in the area, the true initial appeal of the market for me was the fresh produce, the day’s catch, and the lively community of local farmer vendors. They give Pike Place Market the genuine feel of a local open air market and keep the place interesting and colorful.

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At dawn, it’s the illuminated neon sign that catches my eye first, followed by the few early morning fish mongers who are already icing their bins and transferring the fresh halibut, lingcod, and salmon into their stalls. The nearby floors are washed down of fish scales and even the chill air can’t diminish that distinct smell of fish permeating the market. As the day wears on, I love the colors that appear everywhere in the stalls. Red neon lights and deep blue sky give way to bright red peppers, white mushrooms, and green apples. Fruits and vegetables mingle in a riot of vibrant colors that makes me hungry from the start. As I wander from stall to stall, merchants eagerly shout out sale prices and point to the crisp leaves of lettuce and plump carrots to sway me. A couple of flower shops are filled with fragrant lilies, crimson roses, and mixed bouquets of daisies, but they seem to pale in comparison to the unbelievable hues flashing from the produce stalls. I’m not sure what I would cook, but my eyes impel me to purchase a brisk bouquet of celery, a bag of seedless maroon grapes, and a handful of multicolored cherry tomatoes. The variety of crops available in the food stands makes me forget that the market is also home to some renowned restaurants, which might come in handy as the skies darken and a handful of chill raindrops pelt down on me. However, the change in weather doesn’t affect the atmosphere of the market’s main arcade. The crowds keep warm wandering from vivid shop to shop, the vitality of the produce markets keeping the grey dampness at bay. I ponder buying a bag of pistachios before heading to the neighboring movie theater, but the antics of the fish mongers and the shouts of the fruit sellers keep distracting me. I think I might examine those bright yellow ears of corn for sale before making any decisions.

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Eating and Shopping Local While Traveling

When the weather is warm my thoughts turn to eating fresh corn and the raspberries that grow at a farm nearby. The reward of tasting corn after hand picking it from its stalk, or preparing raspberry pudding with fresh berries makes the result taste sweeter and juicier. In the winter finding fresh fruits and produce is a little more difficult for me. Cooking with winter vegetables is also limiting since there’s only so many ways to cook kale, radishes, and turnips. Several of my acquaintances have begun small home gardens where they grow seasonal vegetables and fruit, some of which they are kind enough to let me taste. They’re always boasting about having a garden to table menu at home.

When I travel, I try to keep things fresh and local by eating at smaller, independent restaurants near my neighborhood or purchasing food from the farmers’ market. Farmers’ markets all over the world are always a colorful and exciting experience as well as the chance for me to talk to knowledgeable locals about their best produce. My favorite discoveries are the bodegas and fruterias right around the corner that stock unusual regional cheeses, cured meats, and fresh fruits. Many of these stores have a small dining area that’s perfect for a delicious meal and people watching the locals who come in to buy their bread, meat, and vegetables for daily meals. Along with farmers’ markets all over the world, specialty stores are wonderful places to uncover that special cheese, the exotic fruit, or a local recipe you won’t find at restaurants.

Specialty stores in Europe go by various names that indicate what they specialize in. The following is a small list of stores to help in your next search for that special treat you might be looking for:

  • Charcuterie – the word is French for cooked flesh, but these stores are all over Italy, Spain, and Portugal, countries which pride themselves on preparing cured meats. Depending on the country you’re in everything from handmade local sausages to pâté, salami, and chorizo is found at a local charcuterie.
  • Carneceria – the Spanish word for a butcher shop. In France they are called boucheries, and in Italy they are known as macelleria, but whatever the name, the butcher shop specializes in cuts of meat the way museums specialize in artifacts.
  • Fromagerie – this is the cheese shop in France where Brie, Camembert, and Reblochon are sold according to the region you’re visiting.
  • Forno – is an Italian bakery shop, and if you have never visited one, you’re in for a treat. Besides cannolis and tiramisu, the forno hand makes amaretti, cassata, and powdered pizzelles, each a heavenly concoction that tastes as sumptuous as it looks.
  • Patisserie – the patisserie is the French sister to the Italian forno and this is where you can purchase fresh made croissants, eclairs, macaroons, and pain au chocolat.
  • Alimentari – the name Italians give to their general grocery store. The alimentari sells fresh local fruits and vegetables in season as well as bread and a few other necessities.
  • Fruteria – In Spain, the fruteria is a cornucopia of fruits in a colorful combination that immediately pleases eye and palate. This is where you’ll find chirimoyas, persimmons, lemons, and olives in abundance.

It takes time and effort, but the experience of finding and eating local on my travels has been rewarding and unique, giving a whole new perspective to traveling. I hope you find it to be the same.

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