One of our very favorite things to do when we visit a new place is to visit their local market. Some places call them farmers markets. In Asia, they’re known as “wet markets.” But regardless, we just love markets. It’s a great place to get a pulse of of a city or town, to see a mix of locals and tourists, and get a sense of what people like to eat, drink, and buy.
Although New York City is known for its Union Square Greenmarket, over the years, I’ve honestly gotten a bit bored of it. When I used to work nearby, I’d browse the market at least a day or two a week during my lunch break, but I didn’t really buy very much. As Chris has pointed out (and as I have begrudgingly admitted is actually true), most of the vendors seem to be selling the exact same thing, just one stall after another, and perhaps with prices varying by a quarter or two. There are a handful of unique stalls that sell specific Asian vegetables, and I do enjoy both of the main bakery stalls (Bread Alone is my standby), but overall, it doesn’t have much diversity. On top of that, most of the meat and seafood products are just so exorbitantly expensive that at the rates they are charging, you might as well just order that same cut at a restaurant because at least then, you won’t have to worry about cooking or cleaning up.
Some of our favorite farmers markets we’ve visited in the U.S. have been in places I wouldn’t immediately think of, but were extremely memorable: Omaha, Nebraska, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, really stand out. I always loved Pike Place Market in Seattle, which is quite famous. But now, we can add Baltimore, Maryland, to that list. I wasn’t sure what to expect of the Sunday farmers market here, but I was obsessed!
Baltimore’s farmers market had such a variety of produce and goods being sold that it was a struggle to keep up with all of them. They had endless locally grown, fresh produce, many bakery stands serving a wide variety of baked goods, both sweet and savory; kombucha, kimchi, brisket and pulled pork barbecue, barbecue OYSTERS, crab pies; and even a frozen dumpling stand. I was blown away when I saw all the beautiful mushrooms at The Mushroom Stand (yes, aptly named), as well as the relatively reasonable prices. I ended up picking up a pint each of the maitake (hen of the woods) and the lion’s mane, the latter of which I’ve never seen at any market anywhere and had only read about in food magazines. I LOVE mushrooms so much, but the special varieties are hard to come by, and when you do see them, they are usually so pricey. I bought two fat bunches of garlic scapes for just $5 (what steal, especially to what the farmers market stands charge in New York City for these babies!). We also got freshly made, cold brewed coffee, a slice of cherry and peach olive oil cake, mini caneles (which I even indulged Pookster with), an egg custard tart, a spinach ricotta flaky pastry, a ginger cardamom lemonade that was extremely refreshing and sweetly spicy; mini frozen hot chili wontons and lamb and chive dumplings; and even a pint of fat, sweet-tart blueberries for Pookster. Chris’s parents joked and said we may have bought the whole market! If we lived closer, I definitely would have bought more fresh produce, but alas, we do not. It was such a fun experience, and we were lucky to be in Baltimore on a Sunday to get to enjoy it.