Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Favorite New Orleans Farmer's Markets

The Farmer's Market scene has grown here in New Orleans much like it has across the US. I don't have the time nor the gasoline to catch every market in the area but wanted to share with you the three markets I enjoy the best.

 Even though it is completely on the opposite side of town from where I live, Tuesday's Farmer's Market uptown is probably my favorite and is worth going to for a couple of reasons. The first is access; it is easy to find the market at 200 Broadway by driving the River Road. If you try and find it by going down Broadway, you might not find it. Once there, there is plenty of free parking and that means a lot. The last thing you need after you purchased nice fresh food is to find a ten or twenty dollar ticket on your car. The Tuesday market is set up nicely with two major rows of vendors. There is plenty of room to walk from booth to booth and scope out the entire market at a glance. At this market you can normally find fresh seafood, grain fed beef, vegetables, juice, popcorn, and flowers. The draw for me is that they normally have two different bakers offering their wares. There is nothing like a crusty baguette to remind me of time spent in Paris. Another draw is the vendor who sells chickens, quail, his own hot sauce and Bloody Mary mix. I recognize him as a favorite of mine who used to come to the market all the time before the storm and I am happy that he is back. The wonderful quail are rich and priced right: 4 for $10. His chickens taste like chicken and
have some texture to the meat which is sorely lacking in grocery store poultry. You never know who is going to show up to sell, so every booth is a delight. Take time to explore everyone's wares. The markets have become a draw for people you might not find in a normal grocery store line. One week uptown it was filled with grade school children exploring the market and buying goodies for their lunch. The Uptown market also has a booth for a local restaurant to sell their food. I haven't bought any yet, but the selection is always interesting.

 The other two markets I frequent are the Saturday market in the CBD on Magazine at Girod and the Saturday West Bank Market in downtown Gretna.  I normally start my Saturday morning in the CBD and then hop over to Gretna to see what is happening. The Saturday market in the CBD also has fresh seafood, grain fed beef, some baked goods and a number of booths that sell homemade foods like pestos. The parking is terrible and since Saturday parking is no longer free, you've got to feed the meter. The market is smaller than uptown and normally crowded, sometimes not with buyers but people just looking. I can't tell you how many times I have stood behind someone to find that they aren't going to buy but take up the merchants time and mine asking inane questions about their wares. It is not that I am not a patient man but come on folks, you go to the market to buy. It isn't a tourist spot and if you want to bring your kids, dog and then kibitz about your lives, then get out of the major flow of people.

 After walking around the Saturday CBD market, I take the short ride over to Gretna where it feels like I have been transported to another part of the state. The Gretna Market has an open sided market structure for the vendors and it is a winner. Parking is always available close by and you don't need to feed the meter. The atmosphere is so wonderful; there is room for everyone to move around even with their kids and dogs, while listening to a band play Cajun or New Orleans music. The prices are the best at any markets I go to, normally 1/3 less. They have seafood, North Shore wines and sausages, smoked meats, a knife sharpener twice a month, fresh veggies and some home made food like tamales, meat pies and such. The vibe is just so relaxed with no tourists gawking at eggplants and local West Bank folks having fun on a Saturday morning.

 There are other markets in the area. There's one on Thursday at the old Can Factory out Orleans Ave and a new one near Armstrong Park on Fridays. There is another one once a month or so in the Lower Ninth and there is
the fabled Vietnamese market out in the east of the city. I would love to go to it but it is an early market with much of everything gone by 8 or 9 am: too early for me. So go out and explore the markets, bring a cloth bag to help cut down on plastic bags and take your money out of your wallet when you get there so you can pay the vendor promptly to make it faster for the folks standing behind you. Get a fresh juice to sip as you stroll and bring home something to cook that you never ate before. Life is good and farmer's markets make it even better.

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