Food trails and markets have become the tastiest part of any travel experience. They are the places where we can really sink our teeth into a taste of place. Write up a new bucket list of farmer’s markets. Here are some of the most incredible ones to experience.
Ask a Peruvian how many different kinds of potatoes there are in Peru, and you’ll get as many different answers as there are potatoes. It’s the biodiversity that makes Peruvian cuisine so extraordinary. One visit to a local market in Lima, the “gastronomy capital of the Americas,” reveals a proliferation of potatoes and beans; a rainbow of corn varietals; fruits that look like props from a science fiction movie; and a cornucopia of powerful indigenous ingredients like coca, maca, quinoa and kiwicha. Both the Mercado Central and the Surquillo Market provide for endless discoveries of colourful produce that does not exist anywhere else in the world. Pack light, because you’re going to put on weight.
In “The Land of Smiles” happiness is directly linked to the most savoury cuisine on the planet, found at markets in every nook and cranny of the city, including The Maeklong Railway Market on the train tracks. One minute we are negotiating a mango, the next, one square inch to stand, as vendors jump to furl their awnings and slide their goods away from the train barreling forward. Here we find mounds of coriander, galangal, peppers, and kaffir lime. A further stroll reveals Pak Khlong Talat, a flower market like no other. In this vast floral oasis, the envy of the world, is a profusion of the sweetest aromas and colours imaginable. From land to river, the famed Taling Chan Floating Market enables long tail boats brimming with fresh rambutan, durian, warm coconut-fried bananas, and a buffet of goodies that are paddled by.
Fugu is known as “The King of Winter Cuisine,” and Yamaguchi is home to Japan’s largest fugu catches. At the Karato Fish Market in Shimonoseki, the fugu auctions attract onlookers as well as buyers, and it is a much more welcoming environment than the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. There is so much blowfish on sale, and in so many varieties. It is not a large market, but it packs a lot of sushi. I have never seen such generous portions of sushi, and so gently priced, in my life. Drapes of salmon, tuna belly, mackerel and snapper, along with colossal fried prawns and towers of uni make this my sushi heaven. I fill up two containers of the most gorgeous sushi, and head to the boardwalk outside to sit by the water and blissfully indulge in today’s catch.
The artwork and the architecture of the Medieval and Renaissance town of Périgueux, and the views from with in it are awe-inspiring. In every public square, markets are filled with farmers and artisans selling gourmet items that one would normally find at a specialty food shop. In the square of Place Saint-Louis we find duck confit, caviar, croissants, and velvety goat cheese made by monks in Rocamadour. This is my epicurean dream come true. I purchase foie gras and a warm baguette…for breakfast! A nearby market square is known for black truffles, and I am lured into a bistro for the local specialty, Le pâté de Périgueux: local pork and foie gras layered in black truffle and wrapped in thin pastry. Locals make this treat in their homes for guests. Never have I wanted to make friends more than now. This is the height of gastronomic indulgence.
The Portland Farmers Market at Portland State University boasts 140 farmers and vendor stands. All the great local chefs are here selecting from a dizzying array of mushrooms, heirloom tomatoes and vibrant greens from the Willamette Valley to compose this evening’s menu. This is where we find the most iconic Oregon produce from hazelnuts to Mountain Rose apples. Portland also has an incredible chocolate scene and coffee scene and all the purveyors are here. I stop in at Hot Mama Salsa for a dip of Smokey Coffee Chili Oil, and then over to Kambucha On Tap, and then to The Enchanted Sun for the greatest burrito experience of my life! Everything is so fresh: scrambled eggs, green chili, seasoned potatoes, local cheddar, bacon AND sausage all lovingly embraced in a warm tortilla with a drizzle of garden-fresh salsa verde. In the centre of the market is a recycling section. There is an easy relaxed west coast vibe combined with Pacific North West sensibilities. I love it, and I could happily spend all day here.
The St. Jacob’s Farmer’s Market is the largest agricultural market in Canada. Bring your appetite. It’s a magnet for passionate chefs who value fresh produce, and farmers who harvest some of the best quality produce in the world. This is the very best of Ontario produce: massive, vibrant, fresh and gently priced. Families, couples and collectors flock to the flea market as much as to the farmer’s market. The range of activities here make a memorable full day trip. Horse drawn tours; a ride on the Waterloo Central Railway; tours of Mennonite Country and the Maple Syrup Museum; as well as the renowned Aberfoyle Model Railway bring out the child in all of us. Include a visit to antique shops, a brewery and the theatre festival, and you may as well plan to make a weekend out of it. This is one of the greatest experiences offered in Ontario that every visitor must have on their bucket list!
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Associate Publisher and Executive Editor of DINE and Destinations magazine.