meet me at the mercado

The Mercado de San Miguel food market is housed in a fantastic glass and cast iron structure that dates from 1916. It strikes me as the type of building that might have once been abandoned and earmarked for demolition due to its prime location in the heart of the city – until a few savvy foodies with a vision for what it could be came along, that is.  Renovated and opened as a boutique delicatessen in 2009, the Mercado is a locavore’s heaven, with individual market stalls selling everything from fruit and veg to meat, fish, bread and baked goods.  This being Spain there’s a good wine bar, too, so you can feel free to enjoy a glass of Rioja with your shopping. Or even better, make it a lunch date and tapas hop your way from stall to stall to stall.

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at the mercado

A rainy day brings it’s own simple joys, like a trip to the local market.  Aside from the dizzying display of bacalhao (dried salt cod) and hams prepared and preserved in every imaginable way, there was a bountiful selection of exotic fruit imported from the former Portuguese colony of Brazil. The carambola and kumquats were easy to recognize.  As for the mangosteen, well, the “mangustan” sign proved helpful.  But a scaly thing that looked liked an armadillo in hiding?  A spiky dinosaur egg the size of a beach ball?  There was nothing in my culinary phrasebook to help. Collectively, the display emitted a smell so fragrant it was borderline narcotic and I couldn’t resist the adventure of buying a softball-sized mystery fruit for later.  Once I got back to my hotel, however, my fruit’s distinctive odor – separated from the pack – became apparent.  I had chosen one of my favorites: passion fruit.

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