I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday. We love getting a little extra time with friends and family as we get ready to head into the holiday season. As many of you know I had lived in Washington DC prior to moving to Atlanta and the volume of international food restaurants and shops was very large. When I first moved here in 1992 Atlanta’s population was only 3 million people and now its over 6 million, so along with the doubling of our population, so has our culture and the international food places we have to choose from. I have a client that moved here from the Northeast this summer and ended up renting out in Alpharetta. She was commenting to me that we aren’t very “European” here, and I think that might be her perception from the burbs, but here in the City we have just about anything you could ask for.
It seems like even people who normally eat from the take out menu more than they cook are in the kitchen this time of year. The holidays are a great time to not only enjoy your family’s traditional dishes, but to add and experiment with new foods and traditions. Atlanta is such a global city that you can “travel” almost anywhere in the world now, just by visiting the international markets we have all over the city.
The “original” world market in Atlanta, Your Dekalb Farmers Market in Decatur, has grown and moved around over the years but it stays packed because of the huge variety of spices, produce, wine and beer, as well as the full-service seafood and butcher counters. Chances are, if you’ve heard of it, you can find it there. For me, it’s a bit of a trek from Vinings but it’s a fun place to go if you need something special (or just want to do a little food tourism without getting on a plane.) Kids love looking at the bins of live crabs.
Buford Highway, called Atlanta’s International Corridor is known for it’s variety of restaurants from Korean BBQ to taquerias and everything in between. There are even a couple of food blogs dedicated to exploring Buford Highway, like EatBufordHighway.com and a MeetUp group Buford Highway Foodies and Southern Foodways Alliance has done an oral history project on it. It’s another great place to get an authentic taco or bowl of pho without having to get a plane ticket, but it’s also got plenty for the home cook to explore in the supermarkets like H-Mart, a Korean market where you can pick up pre-marinated meat to grill along with an entire row dedicated to soy sauces, and the Buford Highway Farmers Market, known for having food from almost every continent.
Closer to home is the new Little Italia marketplace in Westside, so after you have lunch at Pizza Antico, you can shop for your Italian dinner at Bottega Luisa. Someone described it as being stocked like “an exaggerated version of an Italian grandmother’s pantry” with every Italian product you need to make the perfect at-home date night.
Similar to the Chelsea Market Hall in Manhattan and the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco, the Central Food Hall at Ponce City Market in the redeveloped Sears and Roebuck building is a mix of marketplace, dining, coffee shops, grab and go stalls and snacks in an historic Atlanta landmark. With wide variety of offerings from a South African biltong bar to the King of Pops and everything in between, you can do a little globe-trotting under one historic roof.
In Smyrna, Nam Dae Mun Farmers Market has a variety of exotic produce but don’t forget to check out the freezer section where you can get any kind of potsticker dumpling you can imagine! I also had to take pictures there when we were shopping recently as they had “Burnt Goat Heads” and some other items that I’m not sure what culture eats and I wasn’t game to try! We found the green, spiky Durian, both fresh and frozen, it is banned on Singapore’s rail network as we found out while visiting there this spring, as well as many airports and hotels in south-east Asia. Durians polarize people. Fans say if you can get past the stink, the flesh has an ambrosial taste. they’re known for their good value. We had a Chef from Oaxaca Mexico stay with us this spring and we were able to find most ingredients she needed to prepare a feast for 25 here at my house. All this and more can be found at Nam Dae Mun which is right off Spring Road in Smyrna and they are close to Vinings and Buckhead so you can avoid a long trek across the city anytime you need a whole fish or an unusual Asian chili sauce. Take the kids when you go, its a great education and maybe they’ll want to try something new!