Thursday, November 04, 2004
grand central market
a whim, a walk, and a sudden craving for empanadas--sweet or savoury turnovers--led us to the grand central market in downtown la. the market dates back to 1917, and is housed in the homer laughlin building, underneath what was once the offices of architect frank lloyd wright. a collection of produce, meat, seafood, and retail vendors sit side-by-side with food stalls selling everything from chinese plate lunches to salvadorean pupusas. we went because we remembered there was an argentinian stall selling 99¢ empanadas filled with a variety of savoury items like langosta (lobster), pollo (chicken), chorizo y papas (chorizo and potato), and my current craving, calabasa y hongo (zucchini/courgette and mushroom). after we picked up a couple of each, we wandered through the aisles, tempted by everything from dozens of different dried chiles, mole pastes, towers of canela (cinnamon bark), bins of candy, fruit, and crazy cheap veggies.
we passed by throngs around the counters of taquerías, where the customer could order a variety of different stewed or roasted meats wrapped in soft tortillas, fried sopes(a sort of extra-thick tortilla or flatbread), which are split and then filled, or sandwiches made with crusty bollilos (bread rolls). they are eaten right there, standing by the counters, allowing the juicy or crispy bits that escape to fall on the sawdust covered floors, an all-consuming technique that allows the eater to contemplate what to order next, while not losing his place in front of the counter. we resisted the urge to join, and instead bought fried whole tilapia with plátanos (fried plantains) and rice to bring home.
i stopped by a candy counter and considered buying some "bob esponja" gum (apparently "spongebob" in spanish), but instead bought deep golden baked coconut macaroons--giant clumps of dessicated coconut flakes combined with condensed milk cooked until it reaches an almost dulce de leche consistency then baked. i also bought some giant balls of tamarind pulp mixed with sugar.
we stopped by a bakery counter, filled with fantastic postres (pastries), like pumpkin turnovers with aniseseed speckled crust, cookies with happy jam faces, multicoloured sprinkles or chocolate jimmies, and delightful cakes with crazy names: el borrachito, or "little drunk", a fat sugar-glazed sponge filled with wine and cream; or el ojo de buey, or "bull's eye", the forerunner to the hostess snowball--a coconut covered vanilla pastry slathered with jam.
since we got there a little late, everything was beginning to close up, but that was probably for the best. given more time, i think i would have found more delights to purchase and consume, or have been completely overwhelmed by the choices. oh well. there's a reason to return.
grand central market
317 s. broadway
los angeles 90013