Market Day

As a chef and photographer, there’s not too many things I enjoy more than eating good food and photographing it; and spending time in City Markets are just the place to do both.
Throughout my travels, I’ve always had an affinity to the market, it’s people, food, smells and vibrancy of life. To meet the farmer, fisherman or shop owner and hear and see what their labor has produced, adds to the satisfaction. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a brief list of some of my favorite markets that you should… Drive, Stop and Eat.

The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria
Barcelona, Spain

Located on the bustling avenue of La Rambla, Sant Josep is inundated with both locals and throngs of tourist, but that doesn’t take away from its rich history, over 800 years, in providing a wonderful array of fresh seasonal produce, fresh meats, cheeses and just caught seafood.Sant Josep de la Boqueria One can suffer from sensory overload, if not careful, as every turn of the head captivates you withSant Josep de la Boqueria rich colors and artfully displays fruits or the sounds of vendors hawking “street” food snacks and fresh squeezed fruit juices. Arrive early to beat some the tourist crowds and you’ll also catch many of the seafood stalls hand selecting a tremendous variety of seafood. During lunch find a tapas bar, sit back and people watch.

 

Marche Jean-Talon
Montreal, Quebec Canada

Located in the heart of Little Italy, Jean Talon Market mimics more of a traditional farmers’ market embellished with an array of small food stalls, cafes and coffee shops. You’ll also find small restaurants and bakeries dotted along the perimeter. From bagels to lox, you’ll find a wonderful selection of fresh seasonal fruits and vegetable that are artistically displayed. From June to October, many of the streets are reserved to just pedestrian traffic, which for me, allowed me to eat and walk with great ease. Say Qui to French pastries without crossing the Atlantic!

 

Mercado do Bolhao
Porto, Portugal

Amongst the many of Porto’s rich characteristics, is the Mercado do Bolhao. Located in the center of Porto, this rustic market houses several fresh fruits, produce and butchers. A highlight for me were the fresh seafood vendors, who’s stalls, mostly run by women, had an endearing personality and were quick to both help me with my Portuguese as well as educating me on the vast amount of fresh seafood and shellfish they had to offer. The market has a couple first floor restaurants that prepares local fare, sourcing most of the ingredients from the vary booths I visited. I found this market to be less populated by tourist, which was welcomed as I got more a feel of true Portuguese culture. Florist, spice shops, local gifts and souvenirs and of course, Port wine are available from the other shops that span the perimeter of the market.

 

The Neighbourgoods Market
Cape Town, South Africa

This Cape Town, Woodstock area, market on the grounds of the Old Biscuit Mill is more of an epicurean delight than market. Among the throngs of trendy clothing boutiques, jewelry makers and gifts are some of the best restaurant quality food vendors Cape Town has to offer. From craft beers to artesian breads, and Halal to vegan, you’ll have no problem finding something to satisfy your tastes or needs. Open year round, but only on Saturdays, this market has a great following of locals as well as visitors. Communal seating on large park style tables allows a wonderful mixing of conversations and taste sharing. Throughout the year Neighbourgoods host several food, wine and music related festivals and activities.

 

Darajani Bazaar & Market
Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania

If you like the air perfumed by a mélange of spices, the sounds of hawkers and buyers and the organized rawness of a traditional African market, then the Darajani Market is for you. Throngs of locals and tourist visit this market every day to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, spices and everyday necessities. Early risers can catch the action during fresh seafood auctions or butchers just tending to their offerings, the sights and smells will alert you that you’re close. The main building is surrounded by a host of stalls and booths selling tourist driven spice kits and local clothing. As dates are grown in abundance on Zanzibar, you’ll find a whole street dedicated to this fruit, as well as vendors using mobile carts sell fresh bread. Take your time and you meander through alleys and streets lined with local crafters and shop owners.

 

 

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From Ethiopia to Indy

Ethiopia to Indiana. Taxi Driver to Restaurateur. You’re right; doesn’t quite seem the most logical, but that’s just what you’ll find on the west side of Indianapolis.

Sampler Platter

Sampler Platter

Nestled within an unassuming strip mall on west 38th street, you’ll find Abyssinia, and owner/chef Abraha Belachew. The Indy’s west side has been noted in becoming a clearing house of many ethnic and cultural based establishments and Abyssinia has been one of the originals serving authentic Ethiopian based cuisine since 2003.

Abraha a native of Ethiopia, fled with his family, as a refugee, to neighboring Sudan to escape his countries inner political turmoil and unrest. Originally arriving to the United States, via San Diego, to live with a cousin in 1988, he made his way to Indianapolis in 1996. While a taxi driver he fell in love with the area, its people and soon the location in which he wanted to open a restaurant. “No experience at all” he stated but untraditionally for his culture, his mother, enjoyed his cooking. Growing up, it was very uncommon for men to cook in the family. Much of his experience came from observing others cooking. Now he relies on past experiences and his own interpretations of Ethiopian cuisine.

Abyssinia, which in loose translation, is an ancient name of Ethiopia, has been, over the years, a true labor of love and commitment. A mom and pop in every sense of the phrase, his wife, who was back in Ethiopia visiting family, when I visited, makes their traditional flat bread, Injera, every night. Their daughter, a six year U.S. military veteran, has also served as hostess and server.

The interior of the restaurant is dimly lit and cozy, with most tables positioned close to one another. Posters of Ethiopian landmarks dot the walls while there’s a faint aroma of spice and roasted coffee beans. On my visit, during mid-week, there were a few guest scattered about. Diversity has been very important to Abraha and Abyssinia’s success. A frequent dining spot of many international college students, professors and doctors, all have led to a tremendous word of mouth following, within his own community and beyond. When not in the kitchen, you will find Abraha, personally greeting guest, friends, offering traditional honey wine, they make in house, or helping guest select from his vast menu. Whether dining on glass topped tables or from traditional basket weaved tables called, Mesob, family and friends are the focus and one of the main reasons why he enjoys having Abyssinia. Communal dining is a must and remember, eating with your right hand only, is a cultural tradition but forks are provided for us westerners.

The Food: African cuisine has been at the root of many American trends and cooking. From low country, in the Carolinas, to Creole in Louisiana. At Abyssinia, you’ll find many recognizable ingredients prepared in some very traditional methods. Abraha provided me a sampling of some his stable items including, Gommen Besiga, braised collard greens and Tikel Gome, stewed cabbage and carrots. While serving a vast patronage of vegetarians, beef, lamb and goat are at the forefront to many of his dishes. Siga Wett, braised beef tips, in a paprika laced sauce, (you can ask for REAL spicy) were and have been a favorite of mine. Stewed goat, steamed rice and turmeric spiced potatoes were also on my sampler plate; and all had a wonderful mix of earthiness and spice. Always ask for the traditional tea service that finishes your meal. Be prepared for a very hot but wonderfully soothing mint and fruit scented tea. When first arriving to Indianapolis, Abraha relied on fellow local Ethiopians to provide many of his native herbs and spices for his restaurant. Now, through his own successes, he currently provides many of those same individuals and much of the Indianapolis area with goods he sources directly from Ethiopia.

Tea Time

Tea Time

A true chef of farm to table and buying local, Abraha, personally visits and selects every cow, lamb and goat that he serves in the restaurant. He oversees each livestock purchase, follows during its butchering and packing, to insure both quality of the product and that it has been handled humanely and within cultural parameters. Now that’s knowing where your product come from!

If you appreciate good food, a warm environment and some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet, then Drive, Stop and Eat to, Abyssinia.

 

 

 

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