Update Jan 30, 2010 Appended: tried out some of the meats in the Eastern European section and tried out the Mexican eatery.
I had heard foodies needed to visit "farmer's markets" while in Atlanta and upon a bit more perusing of the internets, I came across a few of the official websites that seemed to suggest that they were indoors. So I imagined, you know, maybe something like Reading Terminal Market or maybe a bunch of farmers' fruit & vegetable stands under a roof.
But man oh man oh man oh man, the farmer's market tag is such a misnomer. This particular one, the Buford Highway Farmer's Market could probably be most aptly described as a Costco sized building, intent on sourcing as many varied international grocery products around the world as possible.
Just the produce section was enough for me to leave my jaw dropped and left on the floor back by the entrance...
A baked goods area that makes fresh tortillas... (unfortunately closed during the evening, so we couldn't try them out)
... a selection of Mexican bakery products and a stab at Chinese buns.
Indian sodas next to Latin American nectars...
... next to Inca Cola, so popular in Peru.
... that was only 1/10 of the store. There were a couple of aisles just dedicated for Chinese groceries, Korean groceries and Mexican groceries. Aisles with Russian candy, Eastern European meats, and funnily enough Amish yogurt from Pennsylvania.
I swear we spent a bit over an hour just strolling the store, each aisle adding to our amazement.
Sadly, since this was just an apartment hunting trip at the time, we only got a chance to buy a few pieces of fruit to take back to our hotel. But I'm hoping to return just to get a chance to see if the quality of the groceries comes anywhere close to the insanity-inducing amount of variety.
Update - I've been back a few times since and I'm much less excited about the place. Its size and variety are still impressive, but I keep referring back to the joy of shopping at Philly's Reading Terminal Market, which granted wasn't perfect, but was a place I could pick up meats from various butchers, seafood from different stalls, pick from a variety cheeses, get decently fresh bread and half-acceptable produce all in one place.
Here, I would say the seafood seems pretty fresh and produce is okay, but the meats are prepackaged, the buns from the Mexican bakery tend to go dry in less than a day, and the cheese section is pretty sad. In my mind, I associate this with supermarket's emphasis on convenience (and here variety), rather than RTM's emphasis on freshness and local sourcing.
With that being said, it is still fascinating the variety they do have. And on Saturdays, they set up stands for free samples throughout the store, ranging from rice puffs to cheeses to meats to Korean ramen.
Here are a few pics from their Eastern European meats section:
...from which, I picked up something called suh small beef, which had a strong, smoked flavoring to it. It's definitely interesting adding this to a noodle soup, adding an interesting depth and flavor to the mix of whatever ingredients you may have before.
I have also tried the Mexican take-out place, near the exit, which well was a bit disappointing, tasting like the cheap food stands at Latin flea markets.
Empanada - luke-warm, tasting like it had been sitting under a heater for some time, which it had.
Torta - eh, okay. Shredded pork, with an anemic tomato slice, some flavored mayo on a fairly fresh bun.
I generally stop by when I am in the area, but will probably start hitting up my local farmer's markets (like where farmers bring in their produce) more regularly.
P.S. Thoughts on Cobb International Farmer's Market in Smyrna.
P.P.S. Also visited the Dekalb Farmer's Market, which I think if I lived closer, would be more happy with. It doesn't seem quite as big as the Buford Highway, but does seem to emphasize more on quality. (though the quality seemed to be priced at a premium).
Buford Highway Farmer's Market
5600 Buford Hwy NE Doraville, GA 30340-1240 (Map)