Saturday, June 22, 2013

North Market - Arena District

The North Market, located in the Arena District, is a fantastic local food venue!  Kenneth and I usually stop at the market for something specific, but we almost always end up walking through all of the market stalls, checking out what's new.  Some of our favorite vendors include The Greener Grocer (we've subscribed to their weekly market bag twice now, always great produce and locally produced cheese and other food!), Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, Flavors of India (they were the vendors we bought our lunch from at Asian Fest in May), Bubbles Tea & Juice Company (I get an intense craving for bubble tea every summer and this is where I go to satisfy it!), CaJohns Fiery Foods and North Market Spices.

On our last visit we were looking for something spicy - so we checked out North Market Spices.  I am so impressed with their selection and the layout of the shop.  All of the spices, blends, etc. have little glass containers set out so you can smell the spice, without sticking your nose in the bulk jar.  They have some fantastic smelling salt blends and sugar blends!  I've been wanting to use real vanilla beans in a recipe for a while now, and North Market Spices had the best looking vanilla beans I've ever seen - I think we'll be back soon to get some!

The North Market has over thirty vendors selling a wide variety of items including fresh produce, flowers, ice cream, coffee, tea, baked goods, chocolates, sandwiches, international foods, meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, wine, beer, kitchen cookware and gifts.  The North Market is a great stop for lunch or to pick up a unique gift, there's even a vendor that sells cards!  Visitors come in to grab food and go, or linger and enjoy their meal at the many tables on the second floor (which offers a great view of the shops on the ground floor), or at a picnic table outside.  On Saturdays between April and October, starting at 8am there is a Farmers' Market featuring locally farmed produce, herbs and more!

The North Market has a long history in Columbus, starting in 1876.  At that time, the market was located at 29 Spruce Street and was one of four public Columbus markets.  The market had some hard times in the mid 1900s, but in the 1980/90s began to see more success and in 1995 the North Market opened at its current location at 59 Spruce Street, after it was relocated to the former Advanced Thresher warehouse.  The North Market website states that they now have a million visitors a year!

Whenever Kenneth and I visit North Market, I am always intrigued by Pure Imagination Chocolatier and the prettily decorated chocolates in their case.  I talked Kenneth into trying a chocolate on our last visit - they are expensive ($2.70 for two chocolates) but they're good!  Kenneth tried a mango-cream filled chocolate and I had an espresso chocolate (see the little gold coffee beans printed on the chocolate?).  Winans is still my favorite for chocolates (anywhere!) but I'm still fascinated by the printed images on the Pure Imagination chocolates.  How do they do that?!

One of my favorite things about North Market is seeing all of the products produced in Athens, Ohio.  On our last visit we saw Snowville Creamery milk, Integration Acres jam and chutney and Shagbark Seed & Mill dry beans, corn and corn cracker minis.  It's great to see local food from Athens being enjoyed here in Columbus, and it makes our alma mater, Ohio University, seem a little less far away!

I definitely recommend the North Market - check it out next Saturday for the Farmers' Market, or stop by on Sunday June 23rd for Local Brews and Local Foods.  The North Market also hosts cooking classes, more information can be found on the 'Activities and Events' page of their website.