Thursday, August 6, 2009

Food Basket

Adelaide, South Australia. 2007. Ajr
Don’t be fooled by Adelaide’s reputation as the hottest, driest state capital in Australia; this charming, cosmopolitan hub of 1.2 million people is a veritable food basketa wine and food connoisseur’s dream destination. It’s green, gorgeous, gastronomically blessed. Thanks to ideal growing conditions and a balmy Mediterranean climate, South Australia produces almost 65% of Australian wine exports by volume and there are over 300 cellar doors, most of them within a 90-minute drive of Adelaide. The city – Australia’s fifth largest - is surrounded by twelve main food regions including the famous wine producing Barossa and Clare Valleys, Coonawarra, McLaren Vale, the Adelaide Hills and the Fleurieu Peninsular; and with a population that includes over 150 settling nationalities it has an enticing culinary diversity broad enough to please any palate. The city itself has over 700 restaurants, reputedly more per head of population than any other in Australian city; and with streets filled with markets, lively cafes and restaurants it’s hard to resist the urge to eat. At the heart of it all – and one of my favourite Adelaide places, is the Central City Market – a busy gathering bulging with people, goodies and photographic opporuntities. Now 132 years old, Central Market is an institution. Founded in 1869 by a small group of gardeners, this South Australian icon now welcomes over eight million visitors a year and has a huge impact on the city’s dining scene. Covering three acres, it features around eighty businesses (99% of them family-owned), food from at least fifty different cultures and most of it grown within a 20-kilometre radius of the market. It’s open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday the market is gourmet heaven. From dawn to dusk it presents a colourful mix of fresh vegetables, spices, meat, fish, fruit and more exotic treats –everything from an Aussie take on the traditional Kiwi pavlova to Russian piroshki, gourmet cheeses, old fashioned boiled sweets, Italian pizzas, dried meats, chocolates, pastries, steaming laksa, dried fruits, exotic breads and oysters. The city’s chefs come and go collecting their daily produce and in between people of all ages – families, lawyers, police, judges, firemen – congregate to “shoot the breeze and drink coffee.” It’s shopping the way shopping should be – the old style where people come face-to-face with their suppliers. It’s an organic, ever-changing phenomenon that Adelaide is – rightly - immensely proud of.

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