Wednesday, December 22, 2010

One Stop Shop

The husband and I were at the West Side Market last Saturday afternoon- along with hundreds, maybe even a thousand others- for a musical experience. Crowded shoulder to shoulder in the aisles of the great hall, with the aroma of bratwurst, falafel, and gyros perfuming the air (an excellent alternative to the distinctive scent of many humans gathered together), we were participants in a Random Act of Culture orchestrated by the West Shore Chorale. Members gathered on the balcony to sing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus and many down below joined in. A flash mob event promoted via social media and the occasional old school person to person word of mouth method this was a rousing energetic outburst of music, seasonal joy and community spirit. photo by Barney Taxel

It took a few minutes for the multitudes to disperse after the final note died out, so that those who wanted to actually shop could once again make their way from stand to stand. Personally, confronted by the awesome and irresistible selection, I don’t understand how anyone could leave without buying food to take home or something to eat on the spot. We loaded up our canvas bags with ingredients for the family party we’re throwing tonight to celebrate our twins 26th birthday. The menu theme: homemade bar food favorites. The supplies included: wings from Whittaker's Poultry; Czuchraj's smokies; half sour pickles from Ritas; and big Idaho spuds for oven fried wedges from Kristi's (aka The Potato Stand)and carrots and cabbage for coleslaw at The Basketeria.

This was my second trip there in a week but the earlier visit was about gift shopping not groceries. Over the years I’ve learned that some of the best and most appreciated presents are those that can be consumed. If you’re still on the hunt for things to wrap and give, the West Side Market is full of great possibilities, and I’m not talking pounds of ground beef, raw fish, or a bag of apples. There are real treasures to be found here. To help get you started I offer these suggestions (which also qualify as a few of my favorite things):
-Urban Herbs
a salt grinder and some chunky salts to fill it; fresh and unusual spices and spice blends; or a selection of exotic grains and beans
-The Olive and the Grape
a bottle of single origin extra virgin olive oil and another of gourmet vinegar

-The Cheese Shop
some artisanal cheeses, specialty crackers and a little jar membrillo (quince paste) (heavenly with aged cheese)
-Mediterranean Imported Foods
three to six quarter pound bags of loose teas; imported preserves; or cheeses and fig almond “cake” to pair with them
-Ohio City Pasta
fresh, handmade flavored varieties of fettucine, ravioli, gnocchi and tortellini
-Narrins Spice and Sauce
hot sauces from around the world- the crazy labels and wacky names make them extra giftable
-Campbell’s Popcorn Shop
Dichotomy Corn is addictive and hand dipped chocolates are perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth, chocolate covered chiles are in a class of their own

-Mena’s Produce (outside)
boxes of luscious colorful dried fruits
-Johrhensen’s Apiary (outside)
local honey and fruit jams
-The Basketeria (outside)
sells gift cards- how cool is that- and buy $50 worth and you'll get another $5 free.

Special holiday hours this week so the West Side Market is open on Thursday.

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