I've been dying to go to Mercado San Juan since I flipped open one of my favorite guidebooks, DF De Culto, and saw a diagram of the market's best stands. A diagram! The writers didn't diagram any other markets. Or gush about anyone else's meat, cheeses, imported oils, vinegars, olives, fish.... Actually Mercado San Juan is one of the oldest in Mexico, tracing its roots to prehispanic times. Mexican movie stars have visited the place, although I'm not entirely sure why. (Maybe they liked to nosh on manchego between takes?) And local chefs shop there, too. My friend Alice and I decided to go last Friday morning. We first grabbed an atole (a sweet, thick rice n' masa drink) and pan dulce outside the Salto de Agua metro station, because hunger is a bad idea when you're in a giant warehouse full of food. Then, on the walk to the mercado, we passed a small city of raw chickens. Butcher shops lined both sides of the street, chicken parts smothering the countertops: Thighs, legs, roasters; deep crimson gizzards; headless chickens, covered in yellow goosepimply skin. Workers snipped chicken parts as fast as they could, so all you could hear was this weird metallic scissoring sound. That alone was worth the Metro ride, and we hadn't even made it to the mercado yet. Of course, once we arrived there, I forgot all about the chicken, because the first guy we saw tried to sell us fried grasshoppers and escamoles (ant eggs). Then we walked in further and saw sharks on ice, and ducks, and skinned baby goats. That's probably about when I fell in love. Well, that, and when I saw the curly lettuce and leeks stacked practically to the ceiling in the produce section. Over the next hour or so, I stuffed my bag with asparagus, spring onions, fresh peas, red leaf lettuce, spinach, blackberries, mamey, mangos, proscuitto, freshly grated parmesano-reggiano, smoked provolone, homemade tofu ("Lo hace un chino aqui," the lady told me), dried mushrooms and cute mini pita breads. (Yes, I'm buying for only two people. I go kinda crazy sometimes.) The proscuitto and parm I bought at La Jersey; the smoked provolone and pita, at La Holandesa. I willfully ignored the French butter and fresh bread. Mmmm. Next time. What I made with my items: 1. Blackberry-lime coolers (perfect for sipping on the patio) 2. Arroz con leche (the Rick Bayless version) with mango 3. Pasta with peas, asparagus, proscuitto and parmesan 4. Mamey muffins 5. Sliced provolone with salted pita chips I'd like to go back once a week, but it does require some advance menu-planning. Guess I better hit the cookbooks.