Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Day at the Market: The Farmers Market Day Tour

It's been said that the best way to know any city in the world, one should first visit the local market and discover what the locals eat to get a feel of the local vibe. For over forty years, the iconic Farmers Market remains an undisputed landmark in the heart of Araneta Center, with the freshest local produce and ingredients sourced from all over the country.  

And for a day, you can reacquaint yourself with this institution once more with the first ever Farmers Market Day Tour, in line with the month-long gastronomic feast "Flavors of the Philippines" by the Department of Tourism. The tour brings you around the world-class market and experience up close the freshest produce the country has to offer, and is Araneta Center's contribution to the festival of food-related events and activities aimed to highlight the Philippines as a gourmet capital in Asia. And with Madrid Fusion Manila just around the corner, Farmers Market will once again be at the center of it all.

Located at the bustling Araneta Center in Cubao, Farmers Market is one of the largest wet and dry markets in the country. You can also find Dampa within the market, where you can buy fresh produce and seafood from the market and have it cooked and prepared just the way you want it for a market to table dining experience.

Gaita Fores (L), the culinary force behind Cibo and Lusso, welcomes guests to the first Farmers Market Day Tour. Farmers Market will also be hosting the market day tour on April 23 for the elite chefs  of Madrid Fusion Manila 2015, the most anticipated culinary event with renowned chefs from Spain and the Philippines. 

My Farmers Day Tour experience was made even better by our designated guides, with Ms. Universe-Philippines 2015 Pia Wurtzbach (L) and Bb. Pilipinas 2015 1st Runner-Up Hannah Sison (R) leading the way to Farmers Market's best offerings. Farmers Market also offers shoppers the convenience of push carts, a rare and modern feature not found in the usual wet markets. But don't worry, you can still bargain with the different vendors for the best prices...

Entering the expansive market, one can find the freshest fruits and vegetables, freshly picked straight from the farms and delivered straight to the market. The vibrant colors of the produce indicate freshness, and you can even find an organic section of fruits and vegetables grown chemical and pesticide-free for healthier meals.

Over at the extensive meat section, you can find fresh beef and pork in all cuts and shapes, including local sausages from the country's different regions. Simply choose your meat, and the expert butchers prepare it for you with swift yet precise knife skills. 

Looking for fresh eggs? Take your pick with the wide assortment of farm-fresh eggs at Farmers Market, including brown organic eggs, red salted duck eggs and even quail eggs. 

Different varieties of rice can also be seen at Farmers Market to fit any dietary requirement, from premium white Dinurado to healthy and organic brown and red rice. At Farmers Market, you won't run out of options and choices. 

At each stop, Pia and Hannah share insights on the many features of Farmers Market, as they engage in friendly conversation with the different stall owners proudly displaying their goods. The tour is light, casual and fun, with Pia and Hannah adding their own touch to the Farmers Market Day Tour.

Our guides lead us through yet another section of the market, with more of the freshest produce on display from all over the country. The many faces at Farmers Market add to the experience, with a friendly smile greeting you at every corner. 

The pace picks up as different stalls prepare the various orders from the metro's leading restaurants, with beef and pork expertly carved by butchers or with modern automated slicers. Its sights and sounds like these that make a visit to Farmers Market special and unique, a full sensory experience..

By mid-morning, Farmers Market is abuzz with frenetic energy, with last minute shoppers stocking up on provisions at the different stalls, but through it all, our guides managed the tour at a relaxed and leisurely pace.  

Pia and Hannah then take us to the famous live seafood section, boasting the widest array of seafood flown in daily from the various fish ports all over the country. Tiger prawns and shrimps, local crayfish (ulang), and fresh and saltwater crabs are just some of the items you can find at Farmers Market.

Shellfish of all kinds, like Manila clams, mussels, and even the famed regional delicacy, Diwal, or "angel wings" (L) from down south in Roxas are also available at the live Seafood Section. Water-filled tubs with live clams remind you of the freshness with an occasional spout of water shooting up from the tubs.   

And there's more. Fresh fish in all shapes and sizes, neatly stacked and displayed in every stall, plus giant aquariums stocked with live fish, keep you in awe at the fresh diversity of marine resources. It's no surprise then that you can find CCA right inside Farmers Market. 

One of the country's leading culinary learning institutions, CCA provides students with easy access to the freshest ingredients at Farmers Market for its gastronomic creations. That day, CCA prepared some freshly baked chocolate cupcakes, each topped with cream and chocolate syrup by Pia and Hannah.

But the wonders of Farmers Market continue even outside, with the different specialty shops surrounding the market...

 ...where you can find freshly baked hopia (L) or sweet rolls stuffed with mung beans and even the freshest sushi and seafood rolls prepared daily at Alex Sea Delicatessen (R).

Thinking of making your own hot pot meal? You can find a variety of fish, squid, shrimp, beef, and pork meat balls at some of the specialty shops lining Farmers Market. And if you need a stainless steel pot for your hot pot, Farmers Market's got that covered too.  

Looking for ginseng and other Korean, Japanese and Chinese products? Head over to Masan Grocery, a well-stocked Asian store with everything you need. And if you're hungry for Tapsi, you can always dine at one of Tapa King's largest outlets, also located at Farmers Market. 

A visit to Farmers Market won't be complete without a stop at Farmers Garden, with its wide selection of colorful flowers, ornamental plants, and even fresh herbs, as Pia and Hannah leads the group inside this garden-like sanctuary beside Farmers Market.

The impressive variety of bright colors are as dazzling as the different flowers and orchids one can find at Farmers Garden. Simply walk through the different stalls and you'll find the perfect plant for your hiome or garden. Or even your special someone...

The range of ornamental plants are simply mind-blowing, and sometimes all you need to make the day feel right is just walk along Farmers Garden and be surrounded by some of the most beautiful flowers and ornamental plants one can find in the metro. They even have some colorful Koi, in case you want to stock up your pond.

Pia and Hannah then complete the picture, posing with the beautiful flowers at Farmers Garden. Inside and out, Farmers Market has something for everyone, with the familiar and comforting sights and sounds of a traditional market with modern amenities. It's also a unique glimpse to our rich culinary heritage and culture.

But the tour isn't quite done yet. After walking through and seeing up close the wide variety of the freshest produce at Farmers Market, a stop at Farmers Market's Dampa caps the tour with a hearty and satisfying brunch. Located inside Farmers Market, market goers can simply shop for the freshest produce and leave it to the different stalls to prepare your purchases any way you want it. For our brunch, we were served fresh and plump Shrimps sauteed in a sweet and sour sauce...

...a homey and comforting Bangus Belly Sinigang with vegetables, with the richness of the belly tempered by the tart notes of the tamarind-based broth for balanced flavors...

...and some Sizzling Squid served sizzling hot on a cast iron plate topped with fresh vegetables. Grilled pork, steamed siomai, fresh whole steamed fish, and fresh fruit shakes were also served by the different vendors at Farmers Market's Dampa. It's the perfect ending to an amazing market day tour at Farmers Market.

You too can enjoy your very own Farmers Market Day Tour by simply downloading or grabbing a copy of the market day tour map. You can even join Farmers Market's Instagram promotion from April 17 to 30, 2015 to get a free market survival kit, which includes a fan, notebook, pen, canvas bag and a bottle of drinking water. For more information , simply visit or call 911-3101 for details.

Farmers Market is located at Araneta Center, Cubao, Quezon City.

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