Monday, February 13, 2012

Flea Markets and Food Markets

Mauve pink clouds of blossoms are lining the streets as I drive down the hill; the plum trees are in bloom again.  Every February they light up the neighborhood with the realization that spring will in fact return, and that this month, typically the rainiest of the year, has its upside.

This year of course we've had very little rain and the usual talk of drought is beginning, less worrisome so far than other dry winters because 2011 was a wetter than usual year and the reservoirs are not yet at dangerous levels.  The skiers aren't happy though.

We went last weekend to the flea market at the closed Alameda Naval Air Station where the hangars and docks have become home to various businesses and organizations, including Hangar One Vodka and a monthly flea market.

It's been several years since we were here and it's grown enormously.  The parking lot takes 15 minutes to walk through before you even reach the sales stalls, and they go on as far as the eye can see, much farther than the foot can walk, at least mine.

The rules of the market require that everything sold must be at least 20 years old.  I think I had one of these staplers about 30 years ago myself.

I notice that a lot of the items for sale have at least a passing connection to France; clearly I'm not the only one drawn to French-ness.

We spent an hour or so wandering the aisles and at least that much time trying to leave Alameda; the traffic moved at a snail's pace and I swore I'd never do that again.

Unlike the last time we were there, when the food options for weary shoppers consisted of a couple of greasy fast food trucks, there were half a dozen choices that looked and even smelled interesting.  And then there was the French thing again.

Since I won't be going back to the flea market barring a helicopter ride in and out, I was pleased to find a food truck buffet one afternoon last week in Berkeley itself.

Food trucks have become quite popular in the Bay Area and a group called Off the Grid has started sponsoring collections of trucks in various locations on specific days.  Somewhat like Paris's street markets, regulars know where to go when to find their favorites.

And on Wednesday evenings Berkeley is now allowing food trucks to park on a blocked off section of Shattuck Avenue where chairs are set out on the grassy street median and people go wandering from truck to truck deciding on their meal.

From Korean barbecue to felafel to Japanese specialties, these are "gourmet" options, worthy of a site only a block away from world-famous foodie heaven Chez Panisse.  

Here's at least one area in which Berkeley surpasses Paris; the big news in the City of Light has been the burger truck Le Camion Qui Fume, which has Parisians lining up for hours for a real American burger.  We've got them beat for sure.

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