Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday Fun at Mercato Centrale

Yesterday, we hopped over to Mercato Centrale at the Fort to see what all the buzz was about regarding this weekend food market right next to Bonifacio High Street. We'd first heard about it from RJ Ledesma and his wife Vanessa, who we sat next to at some gala event a few weeks back, and had been wanting to visit ever since. Unfortunately, our travel life got in the way, and in the weeks since then, we were always somewhere on this planet away from Manila whenever the weekends came.

But last weekend, we were finally in Manila and on Sunday morning we were free! Of course, we took this opportunity to drive over to Mercato Centrale. Mercato Centrale is based on the weekend food markets concept in Europe, where a lot of people have snubbed the large supermarkets and taken to shopping for their food requirements at weekend markets where the food is fresh and local. This is part of the environmental-friendly slow food philosophy of only accessing local products as much as possible for one's food needs.

Lots of smiling, happy people

My first impression of Mercato Centrale was one of fun. Lots of smiling, happy people were going in and out of the airconditioned tent, and most of them were carrying delicious-looking items! "I'm certainly in the right place," I told myself, as I followed my nose inside and went straight to check out the first table I saw. This was a table manned by a very nice lady, selling morcon and chicken galantina for Christmas fare. "They'll keep for months in the freezer," she told me, as I considered a purchase. "And they're perfect for the Christmas table."

Then I went over go another booth where someone was selling all kinds of organic artisanal personal toiletries in beautiful packaging, including colognes and lotions. I was amazed at the quality of the products, as they seemed quite similar to those made in high-end parfumeries and pharmacies and then sold in chic boutiques in Europe.

More unusual food at Mercato Centrale next year

It was at this point that I bumped into RJ the man himself, who was walking around to ensure that everything was fine and that both vendors and buyers were happy. "We're really happy with how Mercato Centrale is doing," he said, "and we want to get more interesting food vendors and unusual cuisines next year."

So I walked around for a half-hour or so more, buying all kinds of goodies for Sunday lunch and for the Christmas season. I ended up with ice cream, organic vegetables, cookies, quesadilla with an Asian twist, and a box of ham.

Here were some of the delicious offerings
from last Sunday at Mercato Centrale:

This table was selling freshly-cooked longganisa rice made with Vigan longganisa and Ilocos vinegar.

Authentic Philippine coffee on sale

This table was selling a sweet-sour sauce in a bottle that they recommended to use with fruits. They gave us samples of green mangoes drizzled with the sauce.
This is Mrs. P herself of the famous Misispi cookies. This year, their cookies came in wonderful brown packaging.

One table sold authentic Moroccan food
including sweet pigeon pastilla and stewed lamb.

Here's a typical tagine pot from Morocco

Beautiful baskets were on sale with a very catchy slogan

Organic vegetables were abundant

This is where I bought my lunch -- this booth sold all kinds of tortilla wraps and rice toppings with a twist

The owner recommended a delicious tortilla wrap
with salsa and avocado sauce


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