Thursday, March 6, 2008

Adelaide makes the grade

My first full week in Adelaide was full of settling in and orientation activities with my colleagues and classmates. University of Adelaide has an historic, green, peaceful campus along Adelaide’s North Terrace.
The Uni is bordered by the River Torrens - a beaut!

My apartment is in a super location, near the Central Market, Chinatown, and one of the major “eat” streets in Adelaide. I went on a tour of the Central Market with my classmates, given by Mark Gleeson of Providore.

The market really seems to be the beating heart of the city. It was founded in 1869, is the largest fresh produce market in the Southern Hemisphere, and holds a key place in Adelaide’s history and culture. For example, one of the cafés and coffee shops, Lucia’s, introduced Italian food and coffee to South Australia. Aside from getting the inside scoop on some of the best producers and vendors represented in the Central Market, we learned how in general markets are breathing cultural institutions that must adapt as its customers change their preferences. The Central Market has been able to adapt throughout its long history and currently seems to be at a crucial point in its evolution. Because the Market has been marketed as a major tourist attraction in Adelaide, the number of visitors coming through its doors has increased to 1.4 million each month. When tourists visit, they have a different agenda from local customers and don’t tend to purchase much or develop relationships with vendors or producers. It is key for the government – and also for the market – to understand this change in landscape in order to preserve the market’s culture and allow it to thrive into the future.

That being said, let me show you some of the fun things I learned (and ate).

Mark invited us to sample some boutique olive oils outside his shop, Providore (which reputedly makes the best lamington in Australia).

I learned how to properly conduct an olive oil tasting and the general characteristics found in a great oil (what a surprising peppery tickle at the back of the throat!). I was also introduced to a substance called dukkah, a mixture of ground hazelnuts, sesame seeds, coriander seeds, cumin, salt and pepper that has apparently recently experienced ubiquity in the Australian restaurant scene. It can be used to crust meats before roasting them, or to sprinkle on a salad, or in our case, to complement bread and olive oil as an entrée to a meal. I hadn’t seen this in the U.S. and wonder if it might be the next big foodie fad in America!

We visited shops specializing in pastries... and charcuterie…

and sampled Russian beef and rice piroshki.

The Smelly Cheese Shop offered us some creamy local goat’s cheese, we crunched on apples picked fresh from the orchard in the morning (it’s autumn here, remember), and we sampled the freshest oysters and tuna sashimi.

Can you believe all of this is under one roof, just a block away from my apartment?! I’m still getting used to the idea! Here’s a view of the Market area, as seen from my roof deck:

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