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Rio Bertolini displays its fresh pasta offerings on a beautiful board at each market. In business in Charleston for more than five years, this pasta is served at many a Charleston restaurant, and acclaimed Charleston Grill chef Michelle Weaver recommends it if you don't make your own. While all the varieties are popular, the filled tortellini is especially prized.
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It's Mount Pleasant, after all, known for its style, so shopping stylish for the week includes a red, wheeled cart. Unlike many markets, at this one, you can really purchase almost all provisions for the week, from eggs to vegetables to chicken to fresh flowers for the table.
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Located at a table facing the parking lot, Faith Keppler, the Cookie Chick, tempts you coming in and leaving. Her selection of generously-sized cookies (go for the sugar cookie with rainbow sprinkles) are simply and beautifully displayed, and she works her booth with a smile. You would too, if you were the Cookie Chick.
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One of the most special features of the Mount Pleasant market is the availability of shrimp from multiple vendors. The market is located a walk or short drive from the banks of Shem Creek, traditionally known for its shrimp boats and fishermen, and a few shrimpers set up a cooler and a tent to sell their shrimp, "head-on" or "head-off," direct to market customers. Head-on shrimp is a better deal if you are willing to make shrimp stock with the heads, another freezer staple in many a Lowcountry kitchen.
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In the last few years, the variety of mushrooms grown and available in the area has really blossomed. These shitake and oyster mushrooms are from Owl's Nest Plantation Farms and were $17/pound.
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In case you haven't noticed by now, the Charleston area has a lot of local food-based businesses! Many of them get their start at the area's markets and still maintain a weekly market presence as they grow. Cannonborough Beverage Company was started a few years ago by College of Charleston graduates, and now supplies some local bars and restaurants with its handcrafted soda, but you can still buy growlers each week at the market from the "jerks," such as this one, who is filling a growler with Honey Basil soda.
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Providing a soundtrack for the experience of shopping, tasting, and the Southern expression of "visiting" (or seeing familiar faces), a rotating roster of musicians plays weekly. This market hosted Lauren Hall, a local country act with an acoustic sound.
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Megan Swedloff feeds her daughter, Maya, a bite of a raspberry lime King of Pops pop, while mom Pat looks on. "We come to the market every week to shop and listen to the music," Megan says. "I know a lot of moms who do. It's just a really great atmosphere for children."
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How about "the best pickle in Charleston"? That's the name of this brand, and they are known for their dill chips, pickled okra, and pickled collard greens.
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One of the most sought-after market treasures is the heirloom tomato, which is at its very end of availability here, and so all of us that didn't get enough are looking for just a few more. The "tomato table" from Owl's News Plantation Farms includes "Striped German" and "Cherokee Purple" and a sign that states: "The tomatoes are ripe. Please don't squeeze."