Archive for January, 2004

The Outdoor Food Markets of Europe

Saturday, January 24th, 2004

When setting up an itinerary for a trip to Europe, it is understandable that one starts with the famous museums and churches at the top of the list of places to visit. I urge you, however, to find time to visit the outdoor food markets. Locals visit these markets to buy the freshest of ingredients for their meals. These markets will give you insight into what’s in season while opening your eyes to a smorgasbord of local delicacies. But you will also find that it is not just about the food. They give you insight into the local culture as well.

Traveling through Provence on the way to the popular antique market L’Isle sur la Sorgue, we stopped at a local farmers market in Coustellet. One vendor had a rotisserie cooking chickens and pork. After several nights of magnificent meals at great restaurants, we thought it might be nice to pick up a roast pork and enjoy it on the terrace of our hotel. Another vendor at the same market had some olives, cheeses, and sausages; perfect for our first course. There was also a gentleman selling wines. Not the homemade type, but a delicious Chateauneuf du Pape. Eating this feast while enjoying the vistas of the hills of the Luberon was truly spectacular.

The market on Rue Cler in Paris is another enormous feast for the eyes. If it’s a nice day, why not pick up a baguette and a camembert and have a picnic in the Tuileries? This will certainly help make you feel like a Parisian.

One Sunday while walking through the Trastevere section of Rome, we found a small market overlooking the banks of the Tiber. I found a vendor selling olive oil. It had no label, it was green and cloudy, yet it was spectacular. Talk about bringing home a memory

When I visited the outdoor market in Helsinki, I found it fascinating to see a large salmon nailed to a cedar plank cook slowly over wooden coals. What was so interesting is that the fish was only cooked on one side. Sometimes these markets teach you more about the culture than any museum possible could.

So whether you are buying olives in Provence, caviar in Helsinki, or mustard in Paris, it is always a treat to visit the outdoor markets for a taste of the local cuisine.

The Wine Cellar

Friday, January 23rd, 2004

Australia has been getting an awful lot of press as Shiraz becomes more popular. Although they offer dozens of overly plummy $10 bottles of Shiraz, Australia also makes some blockbuster wines which are perfect for the cellar. 2001 & 2002 being excellent years, the timing is perfect to look at Australia.

Penfolds’ Grange has been the “superstar” of Australia for many years, and continues to rival the world’s best. Near perfection comes at a price, expect to pay in the $200 range. But there are some magnificent wines for less than half the price that I would add to my cellar. D’Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz and Yarra Yering Shiraz are two of my favorites. Vasse Felix is another winery that I would recommend which makes some killer reds. Australia also has some excellent producers of whites, typically Chardonnay. Two of the best are Leeuwin Estates and Cullen.