Women love shopping, and I’m no different. While most women are shopping for shoes and handbags; I would rather browse shops and markets for herbs, spices and fresh ingredients. My favorite section is produce, this is where I really get inspired and the ideas start flowing. Soups, stews, casseroles, salads, or just heirloom tomatoes and slices of buffalo mozzarella topped with fresh basil leaves and a splash of crema basalmico. The possibilities are endless!
One of my favorite shopping spots in Stuttgart is the Markthalle (Market Hall). This beautiful large hall was built in 1912 in the same spot where the original market was established by royal decree in the 13th century. In 1435 Count Louis built the first hall, where fruit, meat, bread, and salt merchants traded their wares. The first modern market was built around 1820 by King William I to provide protection from weather to the wives and daughters of the winegrowers as they sold their produce. A larger hall was built in 1860 and after several decades of use, it was decided that the hall was too small to suit the growing population, so in 1911 the city planned a new, even larger market hall to be built in the Art Nouveau style. It was recently renovated in 2003 and in addition to serving as an important hub for buyers and sellers, it is also a popular tourist attraction.
When you walk through the heavy iron clad doors, you step into another world with a distinct Mediterranean flair. With nearly forty stalls, you’ll find some of the most exotic spices, imported and regional produce, fresh fish, fresh meat, hand-made pastas, chocolates, and fine local and imported wines from Germany, Italy, France and Spain. A tour through the market is an experience for all your senses. The experts who work here really know their stuff, and although few of them speak English, they are masters of the international language of food.
They will offer samples of this and that, trying to guess what you might be interested, or just proudly demonstrating the quality of their products. We go back every few weeks to stock up on our favorites like smoked salts, Parisian cafe herb blend, mixed olives, hummus, Italian hard cheeses, dry salamis, and of course the decadent chocolates.
One of our favorite stalls sells wonderful rustic peasant breads sliced from enormous loaves that barely fit on the cutting table. One thing to keep in mind if you plan to visit, is that you must not touch the produce! The growers themselves are standing next to the tables and they don’t want anyone squeezing things for ripeness. Just know that they take great pride in what they do and if it isn’t ripe, it wouldn’t be there. They have hard-won reputations for quality and wouldn’t risk selling anything that isn’t up to their finest standards. So remember, no touching. If you are like me, even if you’ve only come to have a look you will leave with heavy bags full of wonderful foods.