Thursday, 9 April 2009

Market to Market

Markets are a joy to cooks; they are a shortcut to the soul of a city. No glossy brochure or guidebook can bring a visitor so close to the heartbeat of a new destination. There is an innate simplicity to traders selling their wares side by side or on the street without the paraphernalia of corporate image to hype up a sale. Caveat Emptor-- at a market what you see is really what you get.
I have to confess that when travelling the first cab off the rank is usually taking me to a wet market at midnight or the fish market under the Brooklyn Bridge at dawn. Is it still there?
We are off to Japan in late May and I can hardly wait to see the way that the Japanese markets work.

I visit Victoria market and Footscray each week to supplement all the local seasonal specialities. I need the accents and counterpoints to complement the local and seasonal as well as what our dry garden is providing. Not only is it a joy to go shopping but a market breakfast and lunch are a highlight of the week.
The new regime of Sat and Sunday lunches and a class on Monday makes this possible.
Diane and often take our weekends in Melbourne on Tues and Wed with a market crawl on the way back early on Thursday.
This morning the markets were full the glories of autumn. Pomegranates and persimmons radicchio Treviso kohlrabi. The first of the really good chestnuts. I also scored some good sweetbreads, big turkey livers, ripe fecund figs, soft bones of pork, goat shanks.
I can’t seem to write a menu without seeing the produce first.
Some windfall local grapefruit arrived earlier in the week as well as some samples of pure Wagyu that was finished on grass from a local grower, but I still can’t finalise the menu till Saturday morning when we know exactly what’s going to be here.
I honestly think this is what keeps me going, the challenge of balancing what the garden, the markets and the back door provide.
I can’t think of another city in Australia that provides so much choice.

Whats your favourite Market?

I’m not sure if it’s wise to let this out but we are on Skype [late adopter] at george.biron
Call me old fashioned but I won’t twitt.


Jeremy said...

The Fulton fish market is long gone, they are now located in the Bronx with the other markets, consolidation and change! I posted a story about it on my blog years ago when I visited my fish monger late one night..

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

Hi Jeremy
Shows you how long I have been away from your magnificent city.
That shot of the bridge was taken in 1998 after a dinner at Nobu with Geoffrey Steingarten I was amazed that there was no refrigeration, all the fish was on ice. Still a great old market full of wiseguys cheekily spruiking and carrying on in a very old world setting. Breakfast was in a local diner amongst the traders. We need a new fish market in Melbourne but not out in the sticks. The new Docklands precinct is crying out for it. Our wholesale vegetable market is also moving out but the original wholesale market was saved and is now one of the best retail markets in an old original 19th Century setting.
Melbourne had 4 of these but only one remains in the city centre.

Lazy baker said...

Hi George,
Though the market was somewhat dilapidated, it still was a relic that I thought should of been renovated then moved, we no longer have that feel or sound of a bustling food market,save for the farmers markets that dot most of the boroughs.I was even more amazed when while speaking with Eli Zabar,he recounted the days where coffee laden ships were docked on the shores of Manhattan, times have changed, even the former ethnic neighborhoods are either dying, gone or just moved, we live in a homogenized city with barely any character, as most blocks start to look alike!


Another Outspoken Female said...

The first market that came into my life was the Dalston Market in NE London. I was amazed that you could buy beetroot, freshly boiled, still steaming. I came from NZ. We didn't have markets. Well, not then. There was the Brick Lane market down the road - suspicious piles of second had wallets for sale but saved by the bagel shops, white boiled little lifesavers slapped out on the wooden boards before being baked.

But my longest love affair has been with Vic Market. It's been my local for the last 22 years. An oldie but a goodie. Sometimes she's a bit same-same and jaded, then next week she wows me with saphire, or kholrabi or fejoias.

Thermomixer said...

Good luck in Japan. You may be able to meet up with P&T M's daughter?

Markets overseas really invigorate you. Memories of Viet Nam, Rome, Barcelona, Seville, ...

Lyn Mullins book "Produce" has some great photos of markets to keep me enthused.

Stephanie said...

Come on can Twitter...I've just been Twittering about you in fact... you can do it!!! But what will you do with the goat shanks?

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

Hi Steph
Lost in Kyoto dreaming....

Kyoto market a bit like Prahran but oh so much bigger.... saw some Matsutake 50,000Y a kilo at an impossibly expensive organic shop that did not allow photos why???

The goat shanks got slowly braised with chestnuts and quinces... starting to think about menus on return. First time in Japan for any extended period we spent the morning at I M Pei's bat cave like Miho museum in the mountains...