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


Anonymous said...

You make Los Angeles dining look so pretty. I would be interested seeing you and your camera walking around Little Tokyo or Chinatown. I went to Grand Central Market about 2 weeks ago hoping to buy fresh tortillas. Instead I was surprised at the empty stalls and the rehab projects going on where the tortilla stall was. Do you know of a good Asian market in the Echo Park/ Silver Lake area. I have been using the Bangkock Market on Melrose and Harvard but would love to find something closer to home.

JMom said...

Santos, you are really making me green with envy!!!! :)

Santos said...

hi anon,

grand central seems to be in a permanent state of reconstruction, doesn't it? even when i was going there before the whole revitalization of that historic core area downtown, it was like that. i, too, was looking for fresh tortillas, and was surprised not to find any, but eh. i found other things to distract me. i can see how it would be annoying though.

is "a" grocery food warehouse still in business? i think it used to be a-1 grocery but the 1 disappeared. that's a good asian food market (with a bad parking lot), somewhere on sunset, west of elysian park avenue.
i don't really know what else is up there outside of chinatown (i sometimes go to ai hoa on hill), as i've been getting my asian groceries in koreatown.

hi jmom!
don't you have family here you'd like the girls to meet ? isn't it time for a visit to disneyland/chinatown/koreatown/downtown ;-)?