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FRENCH MARKET FOOD FARING BETTER

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  The food options at the French Market (1100 N. Peters St., 522-2621; www.frenchmarket.org) have been improving lately, and locals who haven't visited the market in a while may be surprised to see all that's cropped up here. Today a visitor can grab a po-boy, a cheese plate, a link of boudin, a sno-ball or a half-dozen oysters on the half shell, and the prospects of shopping for a home kitchen are rising too.

  A row of new food service stalls is now mostly occupied by small, independent restaurant operations. These are open-air spots in the heart of the market where customers perch at marble-topped bars, hungry passersby peek over their shoulders at the day's offerings, and cooks and vendors banter across the market floor.

  Hollygrove Market & Farm (8301 Olive St., 483-7037; www.hollygrovemarket.com) sets up a table in the Farmers Market on Saturdays, adding more locally farmed and heirloom varieties to the vegetable options from the other French Market produce vendors who sell there daily.

  And in a new ongoing series called French Market Fare, the Southern Food & Beverage Museum hosts chefs, farmers and other local food experts at the French Market for free public presentations each Sunday beginning at 2 p.m. On Oct. 23, chef Ian Schnoebelen of Iris (321 N. Peters St., 299-3944; www.irisneworleans.com) will lead a cooking demonstration.

  Souvenirs and knickknacks remain the bread and butter of French Market commerce, but if the best New Orleans memento is sometimes a meal, the options are adding up at the French Market.

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