Sunday, June 16, 2013

Saturday Shopping

Last Sunday, I wrote about the Green Market. I went back there yesterday, and, sadly, the strawberries were almost all gone. They were replaced, almost to a stall, with the fruit for which Serbia produces about one third of the world's output, the malinja.

Delicious. Lots of advice on the Internet about not washing them, washing them in a vinegar/water solution, etc. I chose to gently wash them in a completely ineffective manner, but, whatever, they were superb, and I hope they'll be around for a few more weeks.

After breakfast, I decided to do an exploratory walk around downtown. I had two destinations in mind: the first was a cafe/boutique called Supermarket, which I had read about in the hotel newspaper, and the other was a supermarket named Mercator, which I had stumbled on a couple of days earlier. I had asked someone in the office where I could find #4 coffee filters, and she directed me to a supermarket a few blocks away on Negocieva. I headed off that way, but when I got to the end of the street, including the pedestrian part lined with cafes that I'd been told to expect, there was no evidence of the promised supermarket. There was, though, this view from the other side of the street.
That looked like something, so I decided to walk over and check it out. At the bottom of the escalator, I was faced with a large set of electric doors and a fleet of shopping carts. I walked through them an into an Aladdin's Cave of gastronomic choices. It turned out to be one of the three Mercator stores in the city. Mercator is a Slovenian version of Whole Foods.

The store has extensive bakery, meat, cheese and wine departments, as well as a bunch of prepared and bulk foods.

 I bought some coconut milk, some blueberry juice (how could I not?) a nice piece of beef, some muesli, vinegar, cheese and a couple of bottles of Macedonian wine, both under $5. It was interesting to see T'ga Za Jug there, a holdover from our 90s tenure in Skopje. The label had changed though, suggesting that the company may have acquired a marketing department since then. In fact, I suspect that there were more labels from Macedonia on one shelf than were available in the entire country back then; an indicator that smaller producers may have been able to get started, or that the two giant producers have started to factor issues other than cost and quantity into their business model.

I was also looking for peanut butter, and I found it in the exotic foods section, but $10 is way too much, even for Teddie Brand. Note that it's about the same price as the maple syrup, produit du Canada, on the right.

I headed to the checkout, paid my 2800 dinars ($28) and was home ten minutes later, enjoying a nice cold glass of blueberry juice from my first and last bottle of the stuff. Why did I think it would taste differently?

But back to my walk. I had designed my route to end at the market. I walked through the pedestrian zone, past the National Assembly, and the many restaurants and cafes were full of attractive people having lunch or drinking coffee, taking advantage of the free wifi that everyone seems to provide.

I did venture into one upscale department store, which had a real Williams Sonoma vibe, but $40 for a garlic press and 30 for a very cool collapsible colander prompted me to press on. I arrived at the aforementioned boutique/cafe, and it was a very hip place selling expensive stuff--not unlike the way it was described. I could have bought a Jaime Oliver garlic press here for $28. but I think I'll try my luck in the green market. I had mentioned earlier that there wasn't much junk there, a comment that I'm hereby retracting. There's loads of it, and I think I'll be able to find what I need there for a lot cheaper. It only has to last six months, and my home kitchen in the Triangle is already fully outfitted.

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