Accidental Locavore Mazatlan MarketDo you feel a trip to a new destination isn’t complete without a cruise through a hardware store? Or would you rather check out the local pulse by finding all the dive bars or hidden beaches? The Accidental Locavore wants to go to the markets. Whether I speak the language, or have the opportunity to use anything I might find at the market, I just love to go and wander, see what’s available, watch the locals bargaining and commenting on the day’s offerings. I’ve always loved the markets in Mexico, with the piles of chiles, ropes of garlic, mountains of moles and all the tropical fruit.

Accidental Locavore Customer at the MarketThere are usually places to eat in the market where you can pull up a stool and have a great, cheap bite to eat. Unlike the greenmarkets in Manhattan, where you can only sell what you produced, Mexican markets have everything. Need a spell to make that man your slave? Long before 50 Shades, Mexican botánicas had potions for anything you might desire. From souvenirs to sows ears, you can find it there.

Accidental Locavore Chiles and GarlicOn a recent press trip to Mazatlan, the one place I wanted to check out (that didn’t appear on our itinerary) was the Mercado Centrale, in the old city. On Saturday afternoon, I convinced our amazing guide Ishmael to drop me at the market for an hour. Two others from our group came along and that’s where the fun started!

Remember, when I told you Mexican markets have everything? My shopping list included a hammock, which I quickly found, so was free to wander and decide if I wanted to bring home bags of chiles or not. However, what I didn’t tell you was that one of the people accompanying me was a vegetarian. We got past the pile of chickens (and all the various parts of chickens) without incident. Then, while I was taking pictures of some interesting squash, a scream ricocheted throughout the market.

Accidental Locavore Pig's HeadL. had just encountered the pig butchers, and there, in the middle of the ribs and chops, was the (smiling) head of a pig. Initially speechless, she started jumping up and down, pointing and shouting “Oh my God, oh my God!” “It’s a pig’s head-supposed to make great pâté” I told her.  L. did have the grace to realize she might have been overreacting a little, and started laughing, realizing she was surrounded on three sides by pig heads and trotters. And on the fourth?Accidental Locavore Two Butchers The two butchers in the photo. One holding up a large beef liver and its intestines and the other laughing so hard he was almost doubled over. Which of course made all of us laugh a lot harder. It was about at this point, that I decided that perhaps bringing a vegetarian, might not have been the kindest idea, but we all did have a great laugh about it! And now, every time I relax in my new hammock, I remember where it came from and smile.



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Why Do I Like Butchers?

by Anne Maxfield on November 19, 2012

Accidental Locavore Butcher

Which do you eat more of, fish or meat? Almost every year, one of the Accidental Locavore’s goals is to eat more fish. I like fish, like it a lot, but I don’t cook it nearly as often as I cook meat. Part of that is due to the fact that while I know a lot of butchers and have great relationships with them, the same cannot be said about fishmongers. While there are plenty of good places in Manhattan to buy fish, none of the places I (in)frequent are the sorts where I ever see the same help twice. Upstate, the situation is more difficult as there is only one local store with decent seafood. It may also be an issue with the product–perhaps because they’re working with slippery, iced fish, somehow fishmongers never seem as affable as butchers. Or possibly it’s because for the most part, breaking down a fish just isn’t as complicated as a pig. I learned how to clean fish when I was a kid, so far pigs have eluded me.

And since almost all supermarket meat, is pre-packaged, watching a skilled butcher trim steaks to perfection or even cut up a chicken with a few strokes of a knife is witnessing an almost lost art.

Accidental Locavore Pig DiagramThe other day, I was in a new (to me) butcher, Schatzie’s on the Upper West Side. I had a discount coupon from somewhere, forgotten about it, and needed to use it, pronto. Schatzie, himself, greeted me like a long lost friend and went on to describe everything he had in the store, rating it as he went along. After a lot of perusal, I ended up with a roasted chicken, a steak, some pork sausage and his homemade bread & butter pickles. The chicken even came with sides of potato salad and coleslaw, although I have no idea how good they were, because Frank essentially inhaled them. The chicken, however, was really good, with a good clean chicken flavor. And I would definitely go back, because I know that no matter what crazy thing I was working on, Schatzie would take good care of me (although if it was something off the beaten path, I would call ahead).

Same thing with my other favorite city butcher, Dickson’s. Besides having the best bacon –possibly even better than mine — they make great sausages and the meat is pristine and locally sourced. Maybe if I hang out there more, they’d teach me the secret to their bacon (hint, hint). They also have some lesser-known cuts and will happily tell you the best way to prepare them.

Butchers have taught me a lot. At Quattro’s, near our upstate home, I learned how to judge how rare a steak is by touch. I know that a 14-day aged tri-tip is a wonderful thing–a 21-day old one, a little funky (and if you don’t know about tri-tip, get ye to a butcher!). Big Paul would lament about his lack of success hunting wild turkeys while putting together an Italian combo sandwich one of my friends named the best sandwich ever!

So maybe the next goal shouldn’t be eating more fish, but making friends with a fishmonger. Any suggestions? Or maybe it’s time to be really trendy and learn how to break down that pig…





Why Do We Shop Where We Do?

by Anne Maxfield on January 24, 2011

Accidental Locavore Oakland Market

Why do we shop where we do, in certain stores no matter what? And why do we go out of our way to avoid shopping in other places, despite convenience? The other day, the Accidental Locavore was in Quattro’s the butcher up in the country (they also do the Union Square Greenmarket on Saturdays). I shop there because the butchers working there have taught me a lot about meat, choosing it and cooking it, and Paul, the most recent butcher, makes an amazing Italian sandwich, discovered by accident.

The other day, there were only women working there. I asked where Paul was and Joyce said “you haven’t been here in a while, have you? He left the week before Thanksgiving.” Which is a lousy time to loose a butcher. We started talking about how disappointed people were to find him gone, but how the new guy they had hired had come from a very upscale market nearby that had gone bankrupt, and had his own following.

Which got me to thinking, why do we shop where we do? I shop at Quattro’s because they raise their own chickens and other poultry, have good bacon, good meat, and in the days of Paul, made a great sandwich. And while they’re slicing meat, there’s always the chance to catch up on local news and gossip. How else do you know that a black bear from Connecticut got hit by a car near your house, or where Oprah was eating ice cream in Rhinebeck the weekend of Chelsea Clinton’s wedding?

In the city, the closest you get to those kind of conversations is at the greenmarkets. I was at our local greenmarket in Lincoln Center last week. In the middle of the winter, a few, very hardy vendors had set up shop. First up, local cheese, and the woman running Bobolink Dairy, was happy to feed me tastings of her various cheeses. We started to bond, when we decided it was never to early to eat stinky cheese. Her John-Louise cheese (named after John-Louis Palladin, how could you resist?) is a wonderful creamy, stinky cheese, great over a slice of rustic bread. She in turn, sent me to the guy across the way who had a lovely duck salami.

As much as Fresh Direct is great for all the stuff that’s too heavy to schlepp, and Whole Foods or Trader Joes, for everything else, I like have the interaction with the farmers, and vendors who really know their products, and take pride in sharing their knowledge and a little gossip. What about you, where do you shop and why?

Many thanks to Wendy Hanson for the great photos from the Oakland Farmers Market.


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