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I’ve missed my French marchés ever since I’ve moved back to the US 😦 Now that I live on the other side of town, the ones I knew and loved in Santa Monica are too far away for me to go to on a regular basis, but thankfully the South Pasadena Farmers Market is an excellent alternative. The market begins at the Metro stop for South Pasadena, so I saw it on a ride one day and made it a point to go once some friends said it was the best in the area.

There are many food trucks clustered around the road adjacent to the Metro stop, so if you are hungry, you will have plenty of options.

 

 

 

 These tamales contain no lard and are all freshly made by the family behind the counter.

 

 

 

 This sandwich was a specialty from the Gastobus.

 Peruvian plates.

 Crepes, both savory and sweet.

 Ice cream and sorbet in unusual flavors.

 You can also take food to go.

 

 

If you run out of cash (some vendors take credit cards), there is an ATM at the center of the market.

Local and organic produce abound.

 

 

 

 

 

 Flowers may not be edible, but they are pretty 🙂

 Many merchants sell things like vinegars, oil, and honey.

There’s live music as the sun sets.

 

I miss going to the marché in France and having fish and shellfish galore at several fishmongers, all competing for my business with the freshest catch and the best prices. Americans don’t seem as enamored by preparing their fish whole as the French; most people I know here want only the filet and nothing else. I have eaten with friends who literally sent a fish back because the head was still attached 😦

Having grown up eating whole fish (yes, I am that person who loves eating the eyeballs), I searched for some place nearby that had a fresh varied selection other than Whole Foods, which had only the American trio of salmon, halibut, and swordfish, with an occasional appearance of sea bass or trout. After a scary journey to a dark, dingy, very smelly “fish market” which shall remain nameless, I finally found Seafood City. Yes, there are Asian markets nearby, but none offer the freshness and variety of Seafood City. A great deal of their fish is farmed, and some have been frozen and defrosted, but for sheer selection they can’t be beat on the East side of Los Angeles. Santa Monica Seafood on the Westside has perhaps twice as big of a selection with more high end and wild caught choices, but price wise they are also twice as expensive.

The market is in Glendale in the mall that houses only a Target and a Macy’s, so there is plenty of parking and easy freeway access. Being a market, they also have vegetables, fruit, noodles, and all kinds of foods Filipino’s might crave, since that is their primary clientele. There is a small butcher case, but I’ve never seen anyone in line for anything other than the fish counter. It took me awhile to understand the system, but basically, you choose the fresh fish or seafood you wish with tongs, putting your choices into clear plastic bags.

You line up to tell them if you would like your fish cleaned and or fried FOR FREE. I opted for cleaning only, so I was given a claim check for pick up at another counter. The wait varies according to the lines; one day I waited 15 minutes for my fish, on a busier day I waited nearly 30 minutes. If you just want shrimp, mussels, calamari, or crabs, they will package up your baggie in a sturdier bag, wrap it and put a price tag on it immediately at the first counter. It’s a much simpler process than it seems, and the customers will help you figure it out if you get confused. If all else fails, get one of the prepared packages of fish to go 🙂

 Yes, you are reading that correctly, whole yellowtail for $3.99 per pound!

Wild Seabream is one of my favorite fish and

for the same price, I also bought wild yellowtail snapper.

They have clams, oysters, squid, and mussels. If you want your shellfish swimming, they have tanks of live lobsters and crabs at the end of the counter. The Maine lobster was only $12.99 a pound, so if you are lucky there will be some left.

 Many sizes of shrimp were available, all at very low prices.

 One day they had a huge tub of live crayfish

and a huge tub of live blue crabs!

Fresh calamari (which I cleaned) and stir fried with bok choy.

Wild White Perch from Canada which I roasted with scallions.

If those crayfish and crabs are still there when I go back, I may make a cajun shellfish boil 🙂

Even though it may seem charming to walk the streets of Paris with an umbrella, I prefer to spend cold rainy days indoors, so I’ve spent most of the Winters here hibernating in my heated home. The lure of shopping with friends in a warm covered market got me to venture out a bit to the Marché Saint Martin. We were seeking something to bring to a goûter, or the afternoon snack between lunch and dinner. Even though my three friends were all French natives, no one had ever been to this market, so we meandered and shopped the stalls as tourists:)

Fresh vegetables for crudites,

 cheese from cows, sheep, and goats,

 and bread made with pumpkin seeds, nuts, and sesame.

 It wouldn’t be a French market without wine,

 and local beef.

 If you don’t want to cook, you can buy prepared food to warm up at home,

 or snacks to nibble on as you await dinner.

 The center area was full of bins of oysters,

 or you can opt for seafood, already cooked and ready to eat.

Some of the stalls were closed on Saturday, like the one selling pastries, but you can always have fresh fruit for dessert 🙂

For authentic Chinese food, the best bet is usually to go to a city’s Chinatown, so while I was in NYC, I went back to a neighborhood that I used to know as a child. Like all of New York, it has changed dramatically and at the same time, pockets of familiarity remain.

The streets are still lined with fruits and vegetables offered for incredibly low prices,

especially for exotic fruit like rambutan and dragon fruit.

Vegetables more familiar to western palates are also a bargain,

as are vast arrays of shellfish,

and roasted meats, ready to eat.

No, I didn’t eat here, but this place shows how the diversity of New York comes together through the common bond of food.

I was craving beef chow fun, a rice noodle dish which just doesn’t taste the same in Paris as it does in the states, so after some research I ended up at Hop Kee. It wasn’t until I was at the subterranean entrance that I realized this was the same place I used to go to when I was a child with my family.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one who used to eat here 🙂

When I walked in they immediately started speaking to me in Cantonese and when they saw the blank look on my face, they gave me an English menu. About 3/4 of the diners were Asian and this place only accepts cash, so if you want an authentic local place, this is a good choice. The beef chow fun for $6.50 was a huge plate of tender beef with bean sprouts, greens, and rice noodles. It didn’t need any condiments even though there was an array on the table.

I ordered the sauteed watercress redolent with garlic for $8.95 to go with my noodle dish, even knowing that there was no way I could finish either plate. The beauty of huge portions in the US is there is always a doggie bag option for leftovers, and I took half of both dishes to go after satisfying my craving for Chinese food.

On the border to Chinatown is Little Italy,

and the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn,

so there are plenty of places to walk off your meal 🙂

Chelsea Market is both a place to shop and a place to eat, with temptations galore,

from shops selling every conceivable kitchen gadget,

to wines,

and food, both raw and cooked.

Need spices

or nuts to add to your recipe? No worries, it’s all here.

Freshly made pastas,

shellfish,

sushi appetizers,

chowders,

smoked fish,

or cooked lobsters,

with a side of caviar,

or some fresh fish.

A Japanese television crew was filming a first taste of Maine lobsters as I filmed them 🙂

For sweet lovers, there was cake, gelato, and freshly made donuts.

The hardest choice is where to go next 🙂

The markets, food, and drinks, all reflect the diversity that abounds in Marseille’s melting pot of cultures. My local host said the African market at Noailles was THE place to go shopping for food, so of course I went. The market is huge, but since I have almost no sense of direction, and the metro had five exits on different streets, I wandered around the neighborhood a bit before finding it.

I saw this in a small square, but this was not the main market.

This was the main aisle and that building at the end was the metro exit I should have taken!

Nearly every fruit and vegetable was available and unusually for France, you picked your own!

Prices were incredibly low, about a third of Parisian prices:)

They had passionfruit from Benin, just as delicious as the Asian variety.

Plenty of fish,

shellfish, octopus, and oysters.

Some stands along the intersecting street sold cooked food, like this bakery with Moroccan bread

and snacks baked in the ovens behind the shop shelves.

This is the front display of Saladin Les Èpices du Monde, aka what I call Spice Heaven. That small dark entry to the left leads the way to the biggest and best spice store I’ve ever seen.

As you enter you see jams, nuts, and seeds,

that stretch on for rows and rows, with everything from almonds to sesame seeds.

As you go deeper into the store, you find the dried and candied fruits and marzipan blocks,

and then you see this! Bags and bags of every spice in every form you could imagine,

as far as you can see, and as you wander deeper into the spices, you find more!

The other side of the store has bins of teas and herbs ranging from rooibos to verveine. The most wonderful thing was their prices, which were so low I bought 50 grams of pink Himalayan salt for only 2 Euros or about $2.50 USD which I’ve seen in Paris and the US for $20 for the same amount! Everything is sold by weight so you can buy as much or little as you wish with the minimums posted in each bag of spice.

After a morning at the market, I wanted something simple for dinner, and La Table Ronde served Brittany food a few blocks from my rental and reservations made online enjoyed a nice 40% discount off the food. There were charming photos around the tables showing life in Brittany.

Since I was early, I was one of only two tables, and luckily it was a slow night because the waitress was gone and the chef was acting as both waitress and cook!

Brittany is known for its cider, butter, and crepes, so of course I ordered cider with my meal.

After looking at the menu and seeing the poor chef/waitress alone, I ordered a large dinner salad with langoutines and herring on a bed of sea beans and lettuce dressed in a lemon dressing that was a perfect light meal.

I went back on another night to try the crepes and there was a waitress, a manager, and the chef, so I asked for a recommendation from the waitress. She suggested the scallops with leeks in a butter cream sauce and it was delicious, if a bit too much for me to finish,

since I wanted a dessert crepe 🙂 One of the nice things about this place is they use organic flour and source ingredients locally, and the waitress and chef were both wonderfully warm. Dinner on both nights was less than 20 Euros or $24 USD including drinks when reserved online.

Marseille is close to Corsica and many people who live in the city come from the nearby island, so it’s no wonder that they serve beer from Corsica. I’m not usually a beer drinker, but after a hot day I sat in a cafe in the shade and could not think of what to order, so the waiter recommended this. I liked it, but the American girls next to me wanted Budweiser (which they did not have). Hint to tourists, order something local rather than what you regularly have at home…

After eating some big meals, I thought I would get some tapas at Cafe Populaire, around the corner from where I was staying. I learned that I should have asked my host about the place first, but hindsight is always 20/20. The atmosphere, service, and drinks were great, but the tapas were disappointing. The fried calamari at 8 Euros or about $9 USD, were completely uninspired, with no crunch or seasoning, even dipping them in the sauce didn’t help.

The mixed seafood at 8 Euros or about $9 USD, had some fried shrimp with shells, supions, and calamari. The batter was crunchy, but even though I squeezed both lemon wedges hoping to add some flavor, it didn’t help. I heard from my host after telling him where I ate that they were looking for a new chef, and apparently still had not found one yet.

I was so full from my lunch that I really didn’t mind, so I had a lovely wine from nearby Cassis for at 8 Euros or about $9 USD, and just enjoyed the beautiful setting:)

Marseille has been a center of commerce for centuries, and one of the oldest professions linked to this port is fishing. Every morning the local fishermen and women arrive at the Quai des Belges in the center of the Vieux Port, or old port, to sell whatever they have caught that morning. Boats range in size, but most are modest worn affairs which show the wear and tear of a hard working life tied to the sea.

There is no middle person at this market, the ones who fished in the morning are the ones who sell what they caught. The fish were literally taken from the nets and placed into the blue selling tubs as I walked past. Each merchant tub had a number on it so you could see that they were legally licensed to do business at the port.

Presentation is less important than quality of the fish here.

This guy has probably been fishing since he was a boy.

Some of the bigger fish are cut to order and sold by weight.

The day’s catch included tuna and swordfish.

There were quite a few women selling fish and enjoying espressos with each other:)

There were also eels, octopus and a lobster for sale.

A shark or two literally lost their heads,

and prices were so low compared to Paris that I was tempted to take some fish home (8 Euros or about $9 USD for 2 lbs of fish).

The Quai des Belges is also the central hub for buses, trams,

and in the metro, they have aquariums 🙂

Besides fish, Marseille is known for its soap, with stores offering varying qualities and perfumes all over town. I strolled around the Vieux Port and found a soap museum and soap store called the Savonnerie Marseillaise de Licorne. The store is attached to a soap museum, and there is also a factory in town that you can tour for free if you want to see how the soap you are buying is actually made locally with local ingredients. This company has been in business for over 100 years and still makes their soap by hand, right down to their trademark stamps! The shop personnel were so helpful and kind that I bought a big cube of lavender artisan soap embedded with bits of lavender (3.50 Euros or about $4 USD). This company also has a smaller store on the other side of the port with the same products if you don’t want to walk to the museum shop near the Theatre de la Criée. I compared my purchase to soaps in other soap stores and was very happy I bought where I did because you can immediately tell the difference between real and fake Marseillaise soap by the intensity of the perfume and the smooth non waxy feel of the soap itself. I had it in my suitcase and all my clothes now smell of fresh lavender 🙂

I went back to the marché in Versailles on Sunday when the center square was filled with food vendors instead of clothing vendors. A big difference, even at 11am, was there were many more people,

and many more vendors.

Honey from all over the EU & from Lavender honey from Provence for 20 Euros ($22 USD) a Kilo (2.2LBS).

Strawberries are in season and as delicious as they look.

 All the ingredients for a ratatouille.

 As much asparagus as you can eat in both white and green.

 Herbs galore for about 1 Euro a bunch ($1.15USD).

Teas

and spices from all over the world.

 If you don’t want to cook your Sunday meal, chickens are available roasted with potatoes.

 Only two blocks from the Chateau de Versailles, Les Halles de Versailles is a much more local experience than the busloads of tourists at the gates (which you can see the the end of the street).

Nearly everyone who comes to Paris goes to Versailles, but unless you live here (or nearby) Les Halles, or the markets of Versailles, just a few blocks from the Chateau, are a hidden treasure. First I went to see the organic (bio) markets by the church St. Louis, but the market was tiny, with literally less than ten stands in front of the church.

Les Halles the big market, is open from Tuesday through Saturday from 7am- 7:30pm and on Sunday from 7am-2pm, the covered square and open center square attract locals more than tourists. With easy parking underneath the square, many bus stops within a block or two, and an easy walk four blocks from the chateau, make this a worthwhile stop if you are going to Versailles.

The permanent stands are all in the covered buildings surrounding the open area and feature several cheese shops,

vegetable and fruits vendors,

all kinds of poultry, raw and cooked,

seafood and fish stands,

prepared foods if you don’t want to cook,

prepared skewers for your BBQ,

prepared roasts for your oven,

and mountains of shellfish.

If you want dessert, there is of course sweets and patisseries galore.

All around the outside of the covered stands are cute cafés with outdoor terraces if you want to be served your meal and just window shop the vendors 🙂

I went to Barcelona to see Gaudi‘s buildings in person, but I also went for the food 🙂 La Boqueria is the main market in the middle of Las Ramblas (Metro: Liceu) and it was one of the highlights of my trip. It’s the equivalent of Pike’s Place in Seattle, if you are in Barcelona, go!

There’s a map at the entrance in case you want to figure out where you want to go, but simply wandering around is the most fun.

Fruit greets you at the entrance

along with candy, saffron

nuts, and dried fruit.

Many stands offer fresh juice, but some add sugar

so if you want no sugar added, look for “Sucs Naturals” which cost the same as the ones with added sugar at about $2 USD

and get an exotic one like I did, dragon fruit and coconut:)

Since Spain is known for pork products, you will find all variations here

including the famous acorn fed Iberico for the equally famous price of 395 Euros or $450 USD.

I got a cone of Iberico for 5 Euros and it was so big that I saved half of it for a snack later.

Barcelona is on the coast so seafood abounds in all shapes,

sizes,

and prices.

If you don’t want to cook, there are plenty of places to serve you whatever you would like to eat.

You can stock up on dried mushrooms,

dried salted cod, a specialty of the region,

olives,

or local meat.

Many places offered ready made boxes of food to go,

or cones of meat and potatoes,

or skewers of shrimps and calamari

or a combination of all three plus rotisserie chicken to go.

I was thrilled to find a stand specializing in peppers of all sizes and heat:)

Yes there is even an organic stand, but I saw no one buying anything there…

There was a line at the bakery

which also sold sweet treats like muffins and pastries.

You can even go nuts 🙂

After my juice and cone of Iberico, I wanted lunch, so I went to El Quim in the back of the market. It was packed but I managed to find a seat between two American tourists and three locals, all of whom were friendly and shared with me their favorite dishes to order at this landmark eatery inside La Boqueria.

Since it was 11 AM I ordered the BocaQUIM even though my seat mates were eating everything from fish and eggs with beer, to chocolate desserts with coffee and cognac! It’s wonderful to eat with people who will eat and drink anything they like at 11 AM 🙂

The BocaQUIM may be the best hot sandwich I have ever eaten! It’s the perfect brunch combination of toasted bread, caramelized onion with Modena balsamic, asparagus, egg, and pork loin. I’m craving it again just looking at the picture!

For only 6.50 Euros or about $7.50, it was quite large and I only finished this because it was so good,

and also because I had a wonderful glass of natural cava with it for under 4 Euros or $5 USD. I had already devoured half the sandwich by the time they delivered my glass:)

Time to take the metro back to take a nap,

nice that the metro has animated screens to keep me awake!

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