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Where chefs shop in Mexico City

My wife has been bugging me for a while to accompany her to the Mercado San Juan in Mexico City’s central district. She’d been with friends several times and described it as a market for gourmets because of its extraordinary variety of foods.

The market has a long history and is beloved by visiting cooks. As Rick Bayless wrote not so long ago: “Folks in the know refer to it as the chefs’ market because of the wide range of meat, fish, cheese, fruits and vegetables—all of it of breathtaking quality.”

PhotoWe went Saturday, accompanying a visiting daughter, with two goals. One was to buy some fresh, fat shrimp for an evening dinner. Secondly was to have baguette sandwiches at Gastronomica San Juan, stall No. 162 (Remember that if you visit Mexico City!).

This market is worth going out of your way for. If you want exotic meats or insects for your table, they are here. Ant eggs, kangaroo, crocodile, grasshoppers, boar, freshly butchered lamb, pheasant … the list goes on. The fish and seafood stands were loaded with all variety of ocean and freshwater fish and seafood.

If you’re vegetarian, skip those sections and visit the vegetable stands. Wow! What displays. What I loved was not the fresh veggies so much as the edible flowers on display, and not just flor de calabaza but other flowers. The Triana coffee stand had a great variety of coffee (and often attracts movie and TV stars. See this entertaining YouTube video about it).

But go to either Gastronomica San Juan or the stand next to it, La Jersey, to get a fresh baguette filled with all kinds of cheese and cold cuts. These places are a delight. You can find all manner of artisanal raw milk cheeses, imported parmesan, pecorino, fontina, aged manchegos and others. With the sandwich, they hand you a little glass of table wine. Then you stand there, savoring the sandwich and enjoying the aromas and colors of the other stands.

Click here and here to read what others have written about the market.


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This blog is written by Tim Johnson, the Mexico bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

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