Farmer’s markets have become more and more popular in the US in the last several years popping up in urban areas across the country. Previously unutilized and often utilitarian spaces are transformed into vibrant markets where throngs of locals (and tourists) bump shoulders in an attempt to sample and purchase locale produce, cheese and other yummy treats. Boston has some good markets like the year round Haymarket offering quality local produce at a more comfortable price than most supermarkets offer. But nothing could have prepared me for Borough Market in London.
The market is situated under the elevated train tracks just along the Thames river and is nothing less than a gastronomical celebration of the world’s cuisines. Are you in the mood for pasta, pizza, grilled cheese, a burger, soup, thai curry, hummus and falafel, bratwurst, crepes, fish, sushi, charcuterie, cheese, soup, paella, and many other snacks too long to list? Then you are in the right place!
Upon entering the market I was immediately overwhelmed by the frantic pace of bodies skirting back and forth, tasting, shopping and eating as the vendors served up their offerings. The chatter, questions, bartering, munching and sizzling mixed with the rumbling of the trains overhead into a cacophony of sound creating a hum that energized you to keep going deeper and deeper into the foray. Smells pulled you in all directions making it difficult to plot a course as it was very easy to become distracted. Everything looked so fresh and delicious I honestly had no idea what to do first. Do I try to cheese? If so, which one and from which vendor? Do I try a piece of any of the dozens of fresh baked breads or do I go for something warm like a gooey grilled cheese sandwich bursting with cheese the bread was almost an afterthought?
It was all too much to take in and a decision was near impossible so I did the most sensible thing. I went straight for dessert. The abundance of pastries, meringues, macarons, chocolates, cookies, candies, nuts, from various parts of the world could have kept me busy all afternoon. So I zoned in on one table filled with fudge, nougats and assorted bliss. I selected a white fluffy nougat with crisp strips of caramel infused throughout. I don’t quite know how to describe how ridiculously good it was but I want to take a bath in it. I then moved on to the “Drunken Cheese” vendor who sold an array of cheeses which have been aged in various wines. I tasted a few and selected a raw goat/cow milk cheese aged in Barolo. The subtle flavor of the wine accentuated the sharp cheese with the right amount of sweetness.
At this point I could have called it a day as I was starting to feel full from all the sampling but I knew I had to have a warm meal. I could have gone with any number of amazing options but in the end I thought it best to go local and order a typical UK dish, a Scotch egg. If you’ve never tried one… do it! I am sure there are a variety of recipes but mine consisted of a semi soft quails egg nestled in ground pork sausage coated with seasoned breadcrumbs and fried into a tennis ball size bit of heaven. Throw in some sweet potato fries and you have a yourself a meal perfect for chilly February days. I took my food and walked across the market into the courtyard of Southwark Cathedral (where John Harvard was baptized) and sat down right by an old wooden cross. There in that moment I felt sublimely happy.