26 May2006

boq1

What was particularly impressive about La Boqueria besides the tremendous variety and quality of produce and foodstuff that you would generally see in any good market around the world, was the abundance of all the unusual or special stuff that is common to the local cuisine or that gourmands generally view to be among the rarer or more sought after delicacies, wherever they may be from. Spain has a tremendous agricultural underpinning and its weather and geography make it a wonderful place for several types of crops. boq6One of the largest producers of olives, the selection of fresh or cured olives in the market was mind-boggling. I was never a great olive fan but how can you NOT sample several different types of olives when there are so many on display? Throughout our whole trip, the best revelation olive-wise was a very minimally treated olive that was essentially the fruit and a bit of brine, that’s it. It was green, firm and flavorful without being overly salty…absolutely delicious.

Also on offer at La Boqueria was an impressive variety of meats and game. Most noticeable were the dozens and dozens of “naked” or is it “dressed” rabbits in the display cases. My daughter’s eyes bulged when informed what they were, as she keeps a pet bunny at home, but surprisingly, a few days later she ordered rabbit for dinner in Florence. Grilled rabbit tastes absolutely delicious. More flavorful than chicken and less gamey than other wild animals, this is something that I would order again in boq2countries that frequently have it on offer such as Spain and Italy. Rabbit and artichoke paella is supposed to be one preparation that one MUST try. Besides the rabbit there was also a wide selection of fowl (contrary to reports that bird flu had stricken the fear of fowl into the continent’s residents) including quail, pheasant, ducks and chickens of all sorts as well as their livers and other good parts… Seeing about 15 kilos of fresh foie gras in a glass case is not something I have often come across…

Vendors who specialized in unusual items such as different kinds of boq3fish roe or bottargas were also at the market. I have never really learned to eat bottarga or its cousins and while I was curious and amazed by the selection, I didn’t have a clue how to take advantage of the bounty. A lot of the seafood seemed to be “imported” with most of the shrimp frozen and flown in from Ecuador or Asia. While the volume of seafood seemed a less than the produce and meats, the variety was nevertheless impressive.

Even the candy vendors elicited a big “wow!” A huge boq5selection of gummies, lollipops, licorice, chocolate and other goodies were enough to bankrupt a young child’s travel allowance. If it were gingerbread season I could easily buy 10 kilos of candy at these stalls for the most spectacular candy covered creation back home. Beside the candy vendors were whole stalls specializing in nuts au naturel and dipped in honey, chocolate, candy coatings, etc. The dried fruit vendors had an impressive selection of everything from peaches and pears to kiwis, strawberries and even tropical dried mangoes and pineapples. Gosh, if only we had something mildly approximating this bounty back in Manila.

There were several tapas bars where you could order a wide selection of dishes and just sit with a glass of wine and take in the hustle and bustle of the market. There was also a vendor selling prepared bean and pasta salads that were superb. We bought several kinds of salads and brought them home to have for dinner one night. Using really fresh beans makes a critical difference in these bean salads; reconstituting dried beans just won’t cut it in many cases…boq4We found a terrific bakery on the periphery of the market which had superb croissants (Spanish ones seem to have a sweet glaze on it that differs from their French cousins but taste good nonetheless), pain au chocolat and other pastries early in the morning. You could also sidle up to a bar and order some espresso or a café and have it with some bread or pastry while standing and reading your favorite newspaper.

Also within the market premises are several dry goods provedores where boq7I went to stock up on Asturian beans (wicked pricey!) for fabada or other beany concoctions. There was kilo after kilo of good saffron at incredibly reasonable prices when compared to those in the groceries or at local gourmet shops here in Manila. I also took home nearly 10 kilos of Bomba rice from the Calasparra region as it is the key to a spectacular paella. Olive oils in 30 different brands and types of packaging at very reasonable prices. This is the ultimate place to stock a balikbayan box headed for Manila!

If you go early in the morning, and head to the BACK and RIGHT boq8side of the market, you notice a whole area outdoors without a roof that has great selections as well. At first I thought the older stuff was dumped here at lower prices but the goods all looked terrific and most of the shoppers were locals so I suspect the non-tourists get their deals here while the tourists wander aimlessly within the market proper. One way to do the market justice is to get there at 8 for an expresso and pastry. Then wander around the Gothic area and find your way back to the market for an early lunch at 12 at Pinotxo before the heavy crowds arrive, then explore the other neighborhood sites and get a late afternoon snack…

 

COMMENTS:

  1. millet says:

    wow, mind-boggling! MM, will your jaded palate ever get excited again about santi’s and salcedo after this?

    May 26, 2006 | 7:57 am

     
  2. Jean says:

    I just so envy you MM! I just hope that you truly enjoyed yourself. Hubby and I will travel once our kids go off for college (Cross our fingers that they go far beyond that!). We truly miss that part of our lives.

    May 26, 2006 | 10:26 am

     
  3. linda says:

    Your trip sounds exciting and your photos are great! What a great experience and I’m envious.

    May 26, 2006 | 10:27 am

     
  4. Marketman says:

    linda, aren’t you in Sydney? The markets and produce there are equally spectacular, no? Alternatively, get on a 20 hour flight for some Europe… Jean, I totally understand the “once kids go off to college” syndrome… but you gotta squeeze it in if you can manage…travel is good thing. Millet, while this all looks great, it’s also great to be back HOME…

    May 26, 2006 | 11:17 am

     
  5. bettina says:

    Your trip sounds exciting, makes me more excited to plan our trip come September (in San Francisco, cross my fingers). Is it only me, but I seem to really get bothered by the thought of those poor bunnies…. I hope those rabbits are of different breed or are they the same as our pets?? omg!

    You are so right MM, travel is always a good thing. we try to go to a different place once a year -and I hope our resources will always allow us to do so!!

    May 26, 2006 | 3:59 pm

     
  6. Marketman says:

    betina, you are planning a trip to San Francisco or you live in SFO? There is a renovated building by the wharf (name escapes me) that now houses one of the most stunning markets around…let me know what its like if you get a chance to visit it…I am curious. It wasn’t there yet the last time I was in San Francisco…

    May 26, 2006 | 4:27 pm

     
  7. lee says:

    skinned rabbits!

    May 26, 2006 | 4:49 pm

     
  8. Apicio says:

    Balikbayab boxes? I’m sorry we call them Filipino matched luggage here.

    May 26, 2006 | 11:31 pm

     
  9. MEL WOOD says:

    Gee, MM, reading your posts about your Europe trip makes me feel like I, too, am travelling with you and experiencing the same tastes and sights! Very informative for somebody like me who’s still saving up and dreaming about holidays abroad. Thanks!

    May 27, 2006 | 3:22 am

     
  10. Marketman says:

    Apicio, that description is too funny, I was rolling on the floor. At least you rarely see matching pampers boxes that were all the rage about a decade or two ago… Mel, glad the posts are useful…keep them in mind for your maiden trip to Europe!

    May 27, 2006 | 5:48 am

     
  11. fried-neurons says:

    Marketman and Bettina, the name of that place is “Ferry Building Marketplace”. It’s definitely a great place to go – wine, cheese, produce, meats, dry goods, flowers, seafood, etc. I wrote about it in my blog sometime ago.

    May 27, 2006 | 11:30 pm

     
  12. negrosdude says:

    uhhmmmmm, i can smell and taste every bit of what you’ve been writing about, marketman! whatta travelogue! im buying airfare ticket to europe impunto!

    May 28, 2006 | 11:37 am

     
  13. bettina says:

    Hi MM, I am in Manila and planning a trip to SF :) Fried-Neurons is rioght, its called Ferry Building Market… See? Ive been doing my research already! I think dessertfirst has an entry on it.

    May 29, 2006 | 12:43 pm

     
  14. Marketman says:

    Maybe it’s time to plan a trip to San Francisco soon…

    May 29, 2006 | 4:49 pm

     
 

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