Food Feature: European Markets

This week’s food feature is a special guest post all about European markets. Catherine Foley has traveled a lot since our days in high school (where I know her from originally.) She works and lives in Edinburgh, Scotland but is originally from the Boston area. She is hoping to launch a food blog in the next few weeks called “Always Pack Cookies”…keep an eye out! I was really excited to have her write a food-related travel post because I knew she would have a lot to share. Take it away, Cat!

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**Disclaimer: If you weren’t already hungry before sitting down to read this…you will be after. Go grab a snack, just to be safe :)

In all of the time I’ve spent living outside the US, I’ve done some pretty awesome things. Climb the tallest sand dune in Europe? check. Work at a chocolatier in France? check. Eat a traditional 12 course Nepalese dinner in Kathmandu? check. I admit, I’m a lucky girl.

However, my favorite thing to do anywhere I travel is to go to local markets! I’m a foodie at heart and some may call it boring but I find it fascinating and invigorating. It’s the best place to meet locals, to find amazing regional food and to really soak up the culture. Plus, roaming a market has the best price tag: free! (That is, unless you spend all of your money on the delicious food you find there…which I have done and I fully support) Either way, you can spend a morning roaming a market, trying new cheeses, tasting the fresh fruit and breathing everything in. Go ahead, jump in! I dare you. You won’t ever look back!

This past summer, I spent a month in Sete, on the Bassin de Thau in the South of France (just below Montpellier). It’s a fishing port so they have delicious fresh seafood and an amazing and HUGE farmer’s market every Wednesday morning! The market spans the whole downtown area and continues up to the permanent market (which is also huge). Here are a few photos, though they hardly do it justice!

The permanent market, where you can find fresh fish and everything else, every day of the week!

A little galette that I threw together with my fruit from the farmer’s market…it’s seriously a foolproof pie!

My mouth waters every time I look at my photos from La Boqueria in Barcelona. If you ever go here, get the fresh squeezed fruit juices or scoop up some home made paella. It’s all just too good.

A market that still haunts my thoughts is one that I stumbled upon with some friends in Arles, a former Roman city in Southern France. As we strolled the streets, admiring the old amphitheater and exploring the gardens and terraces that Van Gogh made famous in some of his paintings, we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of a beautiful, open-air market! It was here that I saw some of the most beautiful fruit and spices I have ever seen. The smell of the spices was truly intoxicating. I wish I had taken more photos!

And as always, some of the greatest markets have been the Christmas markets that I’ve been to! Although most Christmas markets tend to be filled with similar things…warm cider, mulled wine, elaborately decorated Christmas cookies and Christmas decorations, every market also has something particular to the region, which gives you that extra special bite of something delicious and different!

At the Christmas markets in Strasbourg, France, alongside crepes being made, you can also find les kougelhopfs Alsaciens, or Alsacian brioches which are garnished with almonds and raisins. The kougelhopf has many different spellings but one thing I know is that it is delicious and I bet it would make a great french toast!

The other wonderful local delicacy I have found at Christmas markets was the trdlo or trdelink (yes, that’s how it’s spelled!) from the markets in Prague. Named for the pole they’re cooked on, this delicious treat reminds me a bit of fried dough, minus the greasiness! It’s so yummy and warm, perfect for pairing with your mulled wine!

My best advice for local markets, especially in Europe, is don’t be afraid! Walk right up to the stalls and take their samples! It’s the best way to know if you like something and to connect with the people who sell local, yummy food! Find your local market and go there regularly, even if you just walk around! I promise you won’t be disappointed! :) Variety is the spice of life and each market is different! Explore and you will certainly be rewarded!

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How fantastic was that? I’ve never been to Europe, so after swallowing a heavy dosage of jealousy, I am in awe of her experiences. If and when I do visit France, Spain, or Prague, I will keep her recommendations in mind! Thanks, Catherine!

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