Hablando Espanol en AlbanyMarch 1, 2010
(That’s “Speaking Spanish in Albany,” for you gringos.) A couple of weeks ago I posted about a marvelous Asian market here in Albany, and while I did not expect to do another “market review” so soon, I did have the good fortune to visit another unexpected ray of cultural sunshine in the form of a Latin American/Spanish market this weekend.
La Marqueta Frank & Giovanni’s is located in one of the less attractive Albany neighborhoods, on Morton Avenue across from Lincoln Park, surrounded by abandoned buildings. But attractive or not, the store was pretty crowded at noontime on a Sunday. Spanish-language music greets your ears as you enter, and to your left is a row of steam trays filled with unfamiliar foods. Frank & Giovanni’s is not a Mexican market; it’s mainly Latin American with a focus on Dominican and Caribbean products, hence the Spanish influence. I inquired about the hot food items, and was given a list of names that I did not recognize nor remember now. But there were a few stews – swordfish, chicken, oxtail; also featured were black beans and rice, a Jambalya-esque rice dish with pork, baked chicken, a vegetable stew with huge root vegetables and boiled bananas; there were also pork chops, chicken wings, fried chicken, empanadas and something called “potato balls.” It was a diverse selection, and there were many people in line waiting to order.
The rest of the market had a lot of common, everyday grocery store items. But among the uncommon was a selection of cheeses like queso fresco, queso blanco and something called “Oaxacan cheese,” which the label informed us was a “Mexican-style string cheese.” In the meat section were several items that just did not look appetizing, including pork snout-and-ear-loaf (referred to in the U.S. as “head cheese”), as well as chicken feet and other strange-looking animal parts. The sauce and marinade aisle was very exciting, as a multitude of various hot sauces of diverse colors dazzled my eyeballs and made my taste buds curious. Amongst these were a variety of “sexual tonics” including one called “Stud Rx.” There were probably a dozen different choices, each claiming to severely enhance one’s sexual prowess. Why they were grouped with canned chipotles and jerk marinades is beyond me (ok, make your own “jerk” joke here).
Then we came across this lovely item:
Immature humor, I know…but it was giggle-inducing.
Fried pork rinds are common, and they had a large selection at Frank & Giovanni’s, but they also had a variation I’d never seen – fried chicken skins. It looked like a bag of potato chips – I almost bought it, but my heart and blood pressure insisted I change my mind.
They have a good produce section with some hard to find items, along with very reasonably priced chilies, cilantro and plantains. They also have a selection of Mexican/Latin American pastries.
I walked out the door with a bowl of the Jambalaya-looking rice and pork, and a potato ball, which I later found to be a fried ball of potato filled with spiced beef. Both were very good – I am eager to go back and try some of the other hot dishes. In all, La Marqueta is a great place to find some interesting items, especially if you enjoy Latin American/Caribbean food as much as I do. Enjoy.