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Where to shop for cheese? (Hint, the flea market)

Vital Information | Oct 19, 200309:35 PM

I am the only person in my family who does not love flea markets. Now, I could love flea markets. I have bits and pieces of various collections, old guide books, menu's, shot glasses. I love old photographs, a range of antique furniture and about anything else usually classified as "paper" in the collectabiles handbook. Perhaps because of e-Bay, none of this stuff hardly exists these days at flea markets. Instead, a lot of chewable pig ears, soccer team hats, cowboy boots and cheese.

The one saving grace for me, is that most flea markets in Chicago, or at least two, the Swap-O-Rama on Lake in Melrose Park and the whatever its called on Division near Cicero sell an amazing range of cheese, Mexican cheese.

I believe the stands at both the above cited flea markets share some common ownership or sourcing or franchise model. Not only do they share the same inventory, but also the same consumer friendly method of plying you with free samples until you are convinced to buy about everything.

This includes Oaxacan string cheese, idea for quesadillas, munching between shots of tequilla and in between the crunchy-seeded cemita buns; queso cotija, a salty, almost parmesian like cheese sold from similar large wheels; requeson, a mild cheese pretty much the equivilient of ricotta, and queso anejo which looks like plain old jack cheese but adds about ten layers of flavor.

These Mexican cheese stands always also seem to sell mebrillo, the ideal accompaniment to Mexican cheese. These are big blocks of fruit essence. Gummy, gooey, sweet and tasting more intense than a simple bite. Stuff that is just plain fun to roll around the mouth. Fruit roll-ups for grown-ups. The flavors today were two types of guava (beware seeds) and quince.

Gosh, there was much more today including three kinds of mole pastes, a big vat of sour cream--the offered tastes got us not only to buy the mole but the really great chips used as the sample tool; rice pudding with almonds and large shards of cinammon bark; yogurt, two types, tiny green tomatillo's which I swear are gooseberries, and pinole, a powdered corn drink. They also sell a range, not huge, of seeds, dried fruit and dried chili's.

It does generally cost a dollar to enter these markets and most of the rest of the junk is, well, junk, but the cheese stands alone.


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