Monday, September 04, 2006

Food Destinations #2: The South Melbourne Market

My weekly trip to the market is turning into a bit of an international event. Based on the success of her first Food Destinations round-up (in which I wrote about the fare on offer in St. Kilda), Maki at I Was Just Really Hungry is repeating the blogging event, this time centered on the theme, "My Local Green Market."

The South Melbourne Market
(Melbourne, Australia)

My new home of Melbourne still thrives on the traditional open-air markets that have long-since been replaced by fluorescent-lit supermarkets in my original home of New York. The South Melbourne Market is not as iconic as the city's Queen Victoria Market, nor is it as modern as the upscale Prahran Market. It also sells fewer organics than the Veg Out Farmers Market just down the street from my house. But I choose the South Melbourne Market every week for its abundant, affordable produce, and its absolute lack of pretense. Many of the stalls are run by families that emigrated from Italy and Greece just one or two generations ago, and the buying and selling methods here are surely a holdover from the business practices in Europe. Since my passage to Australia was somewhat different, this market reminds me less of the Old Country than of the New World. The constant activity of fruit peddlers hawking their goods and customers bargaining for the best price reminds me of the central marketplace in another town I've lived in: Antigua, Guatemala. Whatever the influences and associations, the South Melbourne Market is a true old-fashioned market.

Fruit and Veg

I'm a loyal customer of the fruit and vegetable stand closest to Cecil Street. They sell everything from blood oranges to fresh sage, as well as a full battery of dried spices. The jewel in their crown, however, is the 99-cent table--strawberries, zucchini, grapes, and bags of potatoes in their last days of freshness are regularly relocated here.

Specialty Crops
Not all the vendors are generalists. Shops such as the Potato Man (whose baskets are labeled with the names of dozens of hard-to-find tubers) satisfy even the most focused foodies.

Meat and Fish

Though I buy most of my meat from the butcher next door to my house and make my rare seafood purchases at the famous Clamm's on Acland Street, I can't help but marvel at the endless supply of steaks, chops, and fillets.

Pickadeli, next to the food court, is the most dolled-up outlet at the market. But a host of other less ostentatious stalls offer a variety of smoked and cured meats, cheeses, olives, nuts, and dried beans.

The best markets in the world are designed like labyrinths and you often don't find what you're looking for until after you've gotten lost. This is what happened on my last shopping trip, when I stumbled out of the vegetable aisle into a shop specializing in jeans, a pair of which I desperately needed.

Icing on the Cake

The South Melbourne Market even has a purveyor of fine chocolates. The family-run Swords Select wine shop offers a selection of bon bons and chocolate bars (I'll forgive them for stocking the stuff in the fridge, a convenience that's frowned upon by chocolate connoisseurs). The showpieces are the Wild About You chocolates, confections that are created by combining Belgian couverture (I'd take out odds on Callebaut) with Australian native ingredients such as lemon myrtle, wattle seed, and illawarra plum.

South Melbourne Market
Corner of Cecil and Coventry Streets
South Melbourne, Australia
Corner of Cecil and Coventry Streets
Hours: Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday 8am-4pm; Friday 8am-6pm


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The best markets in the world are designed like labyrinths and you often don't find what you're looking for until after you've gotten lost."

Chocolate in Context, you're so quotable!

1:32 PM GMT-5  

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