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The Bounty of City Markets
If you believe big city markets were made obsolete by grocery stores, then you might as well skip Christmas and Halloween this year too.
It's the difference between buying a plastic jack-o-lantern and carving one yourself. Or buying a fake Christmas tree and going into to the forest to cut your own.
There's nothing sexy about coming home from the grocery store, but it is oddly appealing to spot a shopper after they've had a successful run at an outdoor market, a baguette of fresh bread peaking from their one of their canvas bags that also holds flowers, produce and spices, as they nibble on a piece of handcrafted cheese with the glow of someone who has a good secret.
Markets in the big city are a boon for those looking to improve their lives just a little bit, perhaps by moving towards eating locally. On the other end of the spectrum, an outdoor market can be a return to Eden for the foodies among us, with regional fruit fresh from the vine, veggies just pulled from the earth, hormone-free grass-fed meat, delectable home-baked desserts, and, to decorate the table, flowers nearing full bloom. It’s also a social experience; you don't go to the market to escape crowds – you actually become a more intimate shopper, rubbing elbows to find the more choice offerings from Mother Earth.
Older markets like Pike Place in Seattle and other port cities were close to the dock so that bounty from the sea could be sold straight off the boats, but not all city markets specialize in fish. The Ferry Building Farmer's Market on the Embarcadero in San Francisco features artisan breads, cheeses and other delicacies in addition to some of the best produce available. On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, it’s a veritable who's who of famous farmers and local chefs mingling with many others in search of the ingredients to build a great menu.
Taking a bite of the Big Apple wouldn't be complete without a tour of some of its diverse markets, like the Chelsea Market, with its fascinating history and remnants of a lost industrial culture, or the Essex Street Market, where you can peruse an art gallery, visit the barber, and then plan your dinner around the culinary delights available there. Heading to the Hester Street Fair on the Lower East Side isn't what many came to New York to see, but with variety of goods to shop for and enough mouthwatering food options to have a 21-course meal, it will take you by surprise, as city markets often do.