I'm so heartened to see little food- and farmers'-markets popping up all over Johannesburg, showcasing the very best fresh local produce and a variety of gorgeous home-manufactured, hand-made foodstuffs.
For decades, the famous Bryanston Organic Market was the only real farmer's market in the city, but in the past year or so, a number of little weekly markets have started in shopping centres in and around the city, driven by foodie entrepreneurs with a real passion for artisanal foods.
Closest to me is the Jozi Food Market, held every Saturday morning in a shaded car park in Parktown North. The adjacent shopping centre, once a slightly tatty but agreeable centre hosting a famous video shop and one of Johannesburg's earlier branches of Nando's, has been swankified beyond recognition: it's now crammed with ludicrously expensive decor shops and coffee shops, and has been renamed 'The Parktown Quarter' (as if there are not enough retail 'quarters' in Johannesburg's northern suburbs to form several wholes).
Still, this is an excellent market with an energetic buzz. You'll find plenty of parking, friendly stall-holders, good music, trestle tables for impromptu picnics, and entertainment for your kids (including gingerbread-man decorating and live goats for petting).
It's a pity this market isn't set in a park with shady trees and rolling lawns but, heck, this is Johannesburg, land of the eternal car park (and I'm referring to the city's motorways).
Do go early, when all is crisp and fresh, because the early bird gets the worm - by 11.30 or 12 pm, the market has a slightly jaded, sold-out feeling.
There is a good variety of produce: coffee, organic veggies, wholegrain breads, smoothies, preserves, pickles, herbs, hot samoosas and spring rolls, cupcakes, smoked meats, excellent pizzas, ice-cream and hand-made cheeses.
I was irresistably drawn to the stall of librarian-turned-beekeeper Caroline Whitehead, where you can sample a range of lovely badger-friendly honeys and honey products, and a delicious range of South African meads. Honey Sun Mead is produced by Makana Meadery in the Eastern Cape; its Herbal Blossom Mead (a semi-sweet mead with rooibos, honeybush tea, cinnamon and apple) won a gold medal for the second year running at this year's International Mead Festival held in Colorado, USA.
Do try the African Bird's Eye Chili Mead (which delivers a lip-tingling double blast of honey and heat). The bottles are beautifully packaged, their tops dipped in beeswax.
By far the most popular stall is that of Elbow's Up (owned by food fanatic and deli owner Dave Moss) which sells an dazzling variety of sauces, syrups, preserves, vinegars, oils, glazes and olives, sourced from some of South Africa's leading producers. What sets this stall apart is not only the enormous range of bottled goodies, but also their enthusiastic sales staff, who will ensnare you by offering you samples of all sorts of titillating taste combinations: a little dab of Balsamic Gold Reduction here; a little splash of pomegranate syrup there, or perhaps a spicy rub? Don't leave without buying a jar of lovely Romesco Olives: grown in McGregor and processed in Mooi River, these gorgeous olives come in a variety of flavours and are preserved in fruity olive oil that makes wonderful salad dressings; try the Orangey Kalamata Olives, the Campfire Smoked Olives and the Heavenly Chilli Olives.
Another table I never miss is the Moema stall (the outstanding Moema's coffee shop and patisserie is in the adjacent shopping centre) for its billowing, crispy, tennis-ball-sized meringues, which are quite simply the best meringues I have ever tasted. The picture shown on the left is of Moema's Raspberry Swirl Meringues: here is the recipe.
And here is a pic of my daughter Elinor giving a make-over to a gingerbread woman.
For more details about this market, visit their site: Jozi Food Market