Reporting Jay Lloyd
Adventurous vacationers are going native. Instead of hotels, rental apartments are the hideaways of choice for growing legions of travelers who want to feel more like a resident than a tourist. Get to know your neighbors, do a little entertaining and shop for familiar or exotic food at unique marketplaces. Most major cities have them, and many are destinations in themselves. Here are a few favorites to try on your next getaway. Then compare them to our own! – Jay Lloyd
READING TERMINAL MARKET
This sprawling marketplace deals out everything from chicken feet (great for soup!) to chiles and has become the hub of lunchtime activity in Center City. Baked goodies vie with raw bar offerings for munchers on the go. Lunchtime strollers compose mental shopping lists for roasts, seafood and after dinner treats to be bought on the way home. Three separate seafood vendors, six butchers and colorful produce stalls fuel a home chef’s imagination. Ethnic gems form a global smorgasbord; there’s traditional South Philly Italian, Jewish deli and Asian delicacies everyone. Just looking at the array of goodies is a treat.
Going to New York for your summer getaway? You may find yourself in the historic meatpacking district, now known as Chelsea. Head for:
This dynamic stone structure with a catacomb-like ambiance began life as the home of Nabisco bakeries. It was built on cracker cash. When it outlived its usefulness, it was repurposed and redesigned to become a landmark public market. I get cravings, and one of them can only be satisfied at Chelsea Market. The thought of pickled herring at the Lobster Place, which occupies a prominent spot at the market, has me salivating all the way from Times Square. New Yorkers take home the finest meats, seafood and produce from Chelsea, while visitors eat in. Go from stall to stall and put together a buffet lunch, sampling as you go. If you’re outfitting a kitchen, you can spend hours at the Bowery Kitchen Supply store here.
“Go Green” is the current mantra. If that’s your style, when in New York, take it to:
UNION SQUARE GREENMARKET
The operator of a place called “So Fun Farms” convinced me that one ostrich egg was enough for an omelet for two. But if we were having company, we might consider a few more. That’s the kind of conversation you’ll have in Union Square near Greenwich Village. Over 60,000 shoppers can show up here on a weekend; most are New Yorkers looking for locally raised, grown and caught food of an organic and sustainable nature. Much of the food on display in colorful tents interspersed with artwork and crafts comes from upstate New York, New Jersey and the Long Island fisheries. The edibles are as fresh as you’ll find in a city, the vendors are chatty and everything comes with a story. The Greenmarket is open only on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Talk about fresh. Our neighbors to the north in Canada practically invented it.
ST. LAWRENCE MARKET
92 Front Street East
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The St. Lawrence Market, in a historic Toronto building, is among the cleanest and easiest to navigate public markets you’ll find anywhere. It’s also the kind of place where if you chat with a butcher or fishmonger twice, he’ll remember your choice and you’ll be among “the regulars.” The colors of the produce are so vibrant they leap from the stands. The seafood is solid Canadian – oysters from Pacific waters of British Columbia, Prince Edward Island Mussels, Nova Scotia lobster and salmon. Then there’s the prized Alberta beef and lamb sourced from the western plains. If you lean toward the exotic, camel roasts, crocodile tail and kangaroo are on the ice.
Heading for Barcelona? Don’t miss my favorite:
Any visit to Barcelona invariably includes a stroll on La Rambla, a major pedestrian boulevard that begins at the harbor and forms a canyon of shops, boutiques, restaurants and one of Europe’s largest public markets, La Boqueria. The classic old Spanish structure traces its origin to the 13th century and holds nearly 300 merchant stalls. Barcelona’s Mediterranean shoreline is a magnet for fishing fleets that harvest the vast sea. The fishmongers of La Boqueria benefit from the variety of fresh fin and shellfish that comes ashore here. Tiny clams for paella, lobster for a special feast and Mediterranean grouper for grilling pack the stalls. There are fresh killed rabbits and chickens, peppers from Africa, the much sought after Iberian hams and slightly tangy Manchego cheese. While almost every neighborhood in Barcelona boasts a public market, La Boqueria is the centerpiece.
Note: Most major cities have public markets, and many of them have backgrounds that date to the days when farmers sold their produce and meats directly to urban dwelling customers without a middle man. Look them up and explore, even if you’re only window shopping.
One tip, though. European markets sell by the kilo, not the pound. The price you see is for an amount equivalent to about 2.2 pounds. If you want a pound, order half a kilo – it’s close enough.