It seems with food markets we have travelled full circle and are reverting back to the local farmers markets. I absolutely love this trend and it is great that it seems to have caught on in every major city. I guess people are becoming alot more health conscious and are increasingly aware of what they are putting into their bodies. Hence the revival of the farmers market. Its purely about freshness; organic produce from “farm to table”.
I was recently in Antwerp, Belgium and prior to a road trip to Germany decided to have a quick wonder around town. There I stumbled upon the Antwerp weekend market. To say I was like a kid in a candy store would be an understatement. This place had more variaties of food that most commercial supermarkets and it was without a doubt, fresher, safer and a hell of a lot cheaper.
The first stall I came across was mushrooms. Now working in India is is becoming more and more difficult to get imported mushrooms. So to come across a local farmers stall with such variety including fresh truffles was a rare delight.
Next was oysters, another one of my guilty pleasurse. As the famous French poet Leon-Paul Fargue once worte “eating an oyster is like kissing the sea on the lips”. Oysters are a favourite gourmet delicacy all over the world. Its flavour depends not only on its species but also its location and condition of its habitat (water salinity, temperature, etc. They are healthy and full of goodness; 100% of the daily recommended intake can be obtained from 12 oysters. As a chef I have prepared oysters in every imaginable way yet with all things food, I follow one philosophy “keep it simple and let the flavours of the food speak for themselves”. That is exactly the case with the humble oyster, a simple squeeze of lemon on an oyster; watch it quiver slightly as a testiment of its freshness and its done. Pure and simple.
On offer at the market was seven different oyster varieties from across France and the Netherlands and of course the obligatory glass of Champagne. So a plate of fresh oysters and a couple of glasses of Champagne to compiment my first breakfast in Belgium…..yum!!!
The next stall to catch my attention was cheese. With a combination of a Dutch heritage and growing up in a dairy country like New Zealand; cheese is a way of life. The 10kgs that I hand carried back to India is a testiment to my love for this divine product. I eyes literally lit up when I saw the variety on offer from all across Europe; the smell was something that really grasped my attention. Its rather acquired, but for me nothing beats a really stinky cheese. The more gooey and runny the better. Of course the hard Dutch cheese also has a place in my heart.
The next stall across was charcuterie. They had a vast array of home made salumi with a range of flavours from mushroom, fig, gota cheese, blue cheese, smoked wild boar, venison, donkey, truffle, porchini, etc. Needless to say; it was highly likely that I was the best customer of the day. After several samples a selected almost one of each variety and was on my way.
Additionally there were stalls for olives, pralines, waffles and many many more. I could have easily have spend the better part of the day wondering around in this Gourmet bliss. Farmers markets are something that everyone should experience. Its basically a forum for experts in their specific fields to showcase and sell direct to the consumer without having to deal with a middle man. Viva la farmers market…