A beauteous sight.

After sour green mangoes, strawberries are definitely my next favorite fruit. So red and juicy and delicious, particularly when drizzled with sweetened condensed milk.

Imagine my delight then when strawberry heaven unfolded before my eyes. Stands and stands and stands and stands and…more stands hawking millions of kilos of fresh strawberries, strawberry plants, strawberry liquor, strawberry cakes, and myriad variations of other strawberry sweets.

Every year around August, a month-long strawberry expo occurs in Areguá, the same city that boasts the unique sandstone rock formations. We headed out to scope the hubbub and make good on our intentions to haul back kilos of the stuff. It seemed like half of Paraguay had the same idea. So worth it though!

After perusing my choices carefully, I scarfed down a crumbly waffle cone stacked with fresh strawberry ice cream that really hit the spot on the hot and extremely humid afternoon. And while I washed my four pounds of loot back at home, I consumed a quarter of it between cutting, sampling, sorting, and sampling some more. Yum.

Strawberries strawberries strawberries!

Strawberry liquor.

Strawberry mutations.

Strawberry ice cream.

Strawberry chupa chups.

Strawberry shortcake.

An itty bitty baby strawb.

A tasty future of smoothies, granitas, and creative desserts.

I have written previously about the Farmer’s Market in Little Italy. That was almost two years ago, and the Mercato continues to be one of my favorite spots in San Diego. Although I had forgotten about the sheer number of ugly dogs that come out to play those Saturday mornings, revisiting my regular horchata latte and Popeye’s Revenge crepe more than made up for it (even though I had to wait in line for a million years for both items! Dang this place for getting more popular…).

Mercato Musings

August 9, 2010

If not blueberry muffins fresh out of the oven and made from scratch accompanied by steaming hot Honduran coffee, the next best way to start a Saturday morning is by dancing over to Il Mercato in Little Italy. A part of town already ripe with color, culture, and liveliness, the weekly farmer’s market adds further vibrancy to the Italian quarters of San Diego’s downtown.

Rain or shine, vendors line up on Date Street hawking wares ranging from exotic edibles to organic produce to beer bottle cut glass. Some notable finds from recent trips have been the frothy horchata lattes from Joes On the Nose’s orange truck, the savory Popeye crepe from the little French stand (where high demand can stretch the wait to thirty minutes!), lustrous yellow-orange chrysantemums by the beautiful bouquet, and a sampling table of bread chunks and numerous spice-ridden spreads. Next on my list of Things To Try are the frozen treats from the tiny popsicle cart touting flavors like chili-mango and chocolate-passionfruit.

Depending on who you go with (because B never fails to score prime parking wherever he goes), finding parking can be a bit of a scramble. On one outing, S and I were having extreme difficulties and eventually resigned ourselves to paying for a spot in pricey lot. As we lined up to pour our wallets into the machine in exchange for a few hours of fun, a kind soul handed us his parking pass stating he was leaving for the day. The pass had cost him twelve dollars and was good for another eight hours. Not only are the vegetables fresh and the snacks tasty, good cheer aplenty also abounds at the Mercato.

And if an open-air market stroll isn’t enough to satiate your appetite, an espresso sipped slowly at a sidewalk table at Papalecco’s right down the street will usher in all sorts of pleasant thoughts about irreplaceable sunny weekend mornings spent in San Diego. Cheers.