oops, i did it again

IMG_2279I swear I had the best of intentions, and yet this morning I managed to find myself a flaneur in Les Halles – outside E. Dehillerin (la specialiste du materiel de cuisine, depuis 1820!) like a homing pigeon returned to the roost. Who am I to argue with serendipity? Rest assured my tradition of hauling copper pots across multiple countries remains intact.

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video: fast-track shopping


As if the daily grind of grocery shopping wasn’t enough, try having to navigate around the train schedule, too, like these shoppers at the Maeklong Railway Market outside of Bangkok.

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time for tea (towels, that is)

thornback & peel

If you’ve seen my kitchen, you know there are only two things I collect with anything approaching regularity: silver teaspoons (mostly stolen from hotels) and tea towels (the kitschier the better). Nothing beats a commemorative tea towel with the faces of Wills and Kate smiling up at you or a view of the Horse Guards on parade outside Whitehall. The English really know how to do a proper tea towel. (The French on the other hand – though their linens tend to be superior - are infinitely more subdued, favoring botanical images and oenophilia over the pageantry of empire.) Tea towels are an entirely maligned yet practical item of kitchenalia, too: more than just a dishrag, they can be used for wrapping sandwiches and bottles of wine for a picnic, for coddling a pot of tea, and if you’re of the mind that an apron should be worn while cooking, a clever, colorful tea towel makes a smart and handy addition to your ensemble. Suffice it to say that when I recently discovered the fabrics at London’s Thornback & Peel, I went as mad for them as a hatter late for a tea party. Victorian-inspired images, hand-screened on linen, they are an eccentric celebration of quirky British humor and design. Who could resist a noble stag gazing heavenwards, a stalk of objectively humble Brussels sprouts, or a wood engraved rabbit having a jolly traipse through the cabbages? Not me.

thornback & peel detail

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chef’s market

banzaan

Ok, I lied. After lazing around for two days I needed to get off my duff and do something, so I hijacked the chef from Paresa to take me on her morning rounds to the local market in neighboring Patong. And what a far cry from Siem Reap it was! The banzaan, or fresh market, is a contemporary two-story affair with specific sections for meat, seafood, vegetables, flowers, and a bizarre-looking selection of fruits. Everything is neatly presented – even the pigs hanging upside down are artistically arranged – and more importantly, nobody is scaling fish or beheading chickens in their bare feet. It was like Citarella, albeit with a more herbaceous, Asian flair.

black crab

half chicken

strange fruit

curry paste

super squid

sorting herbs & chilis

sweets

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chaos and claustrophobia, or the daily shop

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For sheer chaos and claustrophobia, it’s hard to beat the daily market in Siem Reap. (The smells, too, are something I’ll not soon forget.) Most of the meat and fish is killed and cleaned to order, so you know it’s all as fresh as it gets – if not exactly on par with Western standards of safe and sanitary. I left wondering what, if anything, might make these women – mostly barefoot in and among the blood and guts – squeamish.

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sizing up the night market

pub street

Night markets are a tradition particular to Asia. A crazy open air jumble of stalls and stands selling everything from meat and produce to tchotchkes to clothing, condiments, and prepared foods, it only comes alive after dark. Part shopping mall, part social scene, it makes for great people watching while also being quite handy for souvenir shopping if you’ve spent your entire day engaged in more culturally elevated pursuits. In Hong Kong the night markets are pristine; in Bangkok only slightly less so. Here in Siem Reap the capitalism is nakedly pure – if slightly less hygienic: no price is what it seems and absolutely everything is negotiable

night market

night market toenails

night market grill

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fantasy friday: feeling covetous

Paul Smith has collaborated with Leica to customise a limited edition X2 digital camera. 1,500 cameras will be made. Surely one of them has my name on it?

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live blog: traveling through

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live blog: morning dilemma

Built on the west recesses of Mirabello Bay, Aghios Nikolaos is one of the most picturesque harbors in Crete. The circular shaped Lake Voulismeni is its most prominent – and charming – feature. (Legend suggests the goddesses Athena and Artemis bathed in its waters.) Connected to the sea by a straight channel, it’s surrounded by a horseshoe of red rocks, feathery pine trees, and rumor has it really good shopping. All of which leaves me with a pressing dilemma: to eat or to shop?

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live blog: the poet sandal maker melissinos

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st. george’s market

Stop me if I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but I can’t get over how things have changed. Today it’s St. George’s in central Belfast, where a Friday market has stood in one guise or another since 1604. I last wandered the late 19th-century red-brick structure maybe seven or eight years ago and was underwhelmed. The farm-to-table movement had yet to take firm root in Northern Ireland, so while the steel and glass interiors stood out as a well-preserved reminder of the great Age of Empire, the handful of sorry vegetable stalls and assorted tat sellers inside seemed remarkably out of time and place. What a difference a decade makes. Following a £4.5m refurbishment the market has become one of the most vibrant and colorful destinations this city has to offer. A raft of local producers trade in everything from Armagh beef, award-winning farmhouse cheeses, free range eggs from Limavady, venison, pheasant in season and organic vegetables from Culdrum and Millbrook Farms. The fish section alone contains 23 stalls and holds the reputation for being the leading retail fish market in Ireland. Plus, there’s live jazz and dozens of lunch options from freshly filled baps – the Belfast Bap is a floury sandwich roll and a source of local pride – and traditional French crepes to vegan Chana Masala and classic panini-style Cubans of roast pork, ham, and gherkins – dripping with swiss cheese. Dare I say this famously hermetic city seems to currently enjoy being just a bit worldly-wise?

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the stare on the square

Another revitalized area of Belfast’s city center city is Victoria Square, the site of a tasteful multi-story shopping mall. Parallel to the downtown shopping area it hasn’t so much supplanted Royal Avenue as the main drag as provided a high-end complement to the High Street. The structure is semi-enclosed, like a giant breezeway with levels of restaurants and movie theaters sandwiched between the retail raison d’etre. Crowned by a central geodesic dome the public spaces are flooded with the rarest of Irish commodities: natural light. That alone would be enough to warrant a round of applause yet the designers did something really clever with what could have easily been wasted negative space: utilizing the practical aesthetics of the dome toward a civic end. From the top-level of the shopping center the public can ascend a circular staircase to a sheltered viewing platform. And while Belfast doesn’t come close to having a skyline that warrants a Top of the Rock, the Stare on the Square – public monuments in Ireland requires a mellifluous moniker if you hadn’t heard; the sculpture at the entrance might officially be known as The Spirit of Belfast but to locals it will always be Onion Rings – is an ideal height for views out to the Harland & Wolf shipyards, where Titanic was built, and Napoleon’s Nose, the inspiration for Swift’s tales of Lilliput. Shopping, it seems, really can qualify as a cultural pursuit. Double-click the panoramic image at the bottom for greater detail.

 

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new amsterdam market

I’m a bit late to Peck Slip but New Amsterdam Market at the site of the former Fulton Fish Market is an exciting addition to the burgeoning convergence of small-scale purveyors, growers and foragers scattered about the tri-state region. It doesn’t compare to the sprawling, wholesale-oriented Greenmarket in Union Square, but then it has no designs on filling a niche that’s already been filled. Instead it’s a reinvention of the Public Market, once a prevalent city institution: a lively assembly of both the raw and the cooked. Producers and (barely processed) products. Brought together under a single roof, a public square – or in this case an ignominious parking lot – it’s tantamount to the great English food halls. Or think of Madrid’s Mercado San Miguel and the Marche d’Aligre in Paris – the kind of market you visit with a list, as well as with the anticipation of bumping into friends and neighbors. It’s a convivial place where you can get your weekly stash of kimchi beef jerky, varietal cider and Brooklyn-made tempeh, watch April Bloomfield demonstrate how to filet a fish, then catch up over popcorn-topped ceviche and drinking vinegar. Writers and foodies will plug New Amsterdam as the city’s next great foodie destination but don’t believe the hype. It’s better than that. As soon as the tourist crowds disperse I suspect it will come into its own as the local we’ve been waiting for.

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in the eye of the beholder

Four hours ago I was in the middle of nowhere contemplating art, infinity, and my place in the universe; now I’m killing time in a suburban mall before flying home, fascinated by something called Hot Dog on a Stick. I guess art really is subjective.

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born in a trunk

Maybe it’s the dandy in me but I could easily spend all my money – and then some – shopping my way across London. (Is there another city in the world that takes its waistcoats and collar stays half as seriously? I think not.) Luckily the concierge at The Langham didn’t put me on to Trunk Clothiers, a recently-opened menswear store in Marylebone, until I was halfway out the door for Heathrow. Swedish-born Mats Klingberg is behind the impeccably curated boutique at 8 Chiltern Street where only a few of the handmade modern classics are well-known labels, with highlights including Japanese label Tabio and Porter, Boglioli jackets and suits, Edwin jeans and very appealing flat caps from Wigéns. They say good things come to those who wait. Good thing I’ve got a plane to catch.

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