SF BAY AREA SPOTLIGHT: Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market (San Francisco, CA)

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September 2, 2007 by bernadiva

It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing to be able to wake up at 7:30am on a Saturday, grab my canvas shopping bag, and drive down to the Embarcadero (praying for parking) for the Ferry Building’s Farmers Market, a mere three miles from my apartment. The experience of the Ferry Building’s Farmers Market is far from ordinary, as we San Franciscans are lucky to be in fairly close proximity to a mecca of agricultural bounty – the outlying cities of Petaluma, Watsonville, Santa Cruz, Healdsburg, Sebastopol, as well as the Central Valley, are full of produce, dairy farms, artisanal cheeses, wine, you name it – it is made somewhere nearby. The quality and variety of produce is unparalleled, in my book. The best part of the Ferry Plaza market is that the merchants are hand selected – operated by the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA) – all of the vendors are local and most of them are organic.


This morning, a good friend and fellow food-lover and I, wiped the sleep from our eyes and walked from our (metered) parking space straight to our first stop, Blue Bottle Coffee Co., located outside of the Marketplace. The line was already long at 8:30am, but we waited patiently for the $3.00 cup of iced coffee with vanilla soymilk that is pretty close to the nectar of the Gods where coffee is concerned. For the regular drip coffee, each cup is brewed to order – hence the wait, and the priceyness…but it is so worth it.

We decided to stroll the stands and actually made a beeline for one of our favorite vendors, Marin Gourmet. They have samples galore at their tent, and they MAKE you try them (you can get full just by standing there for a few minutes). My favorite product they have is Affi’s Aubergine Pesto, a very flavorful mix of roasted eggplant and garlic, great to eat with pita chips or on bread. Luckily, if you can’t make it to the Ferry Building, you can get their things at Whole Foods & Andronico’s. Next door was the Della Fattoria tent, showcasing baskets and baskets of bread of all varieties, definitely worth checking out. After an amuse bouche of aubergine pesto, we were ready to get our grub on – we needed breakfast. Next stop: Hayes Street Grill.
It’s pretty impressive that these guys can run a pretty organized line in a makeshift kitchen. In place of dupes on a slide (thank you, Kitchen Confidential), they use bright orange post-it notes stuck to the end of the counter. I ordered the chorizo scramble, and my friend ordered the Hobbs bacon, tomato and eggs on a baguette. The Early Girl tomatoes topping my chorizo scramble were, I kid you not, the best freaking tomatoes I have ever had in my entire life. I would say it was close to a religious experience. HSG makes pretty hearty fare, and it gave us energy to keep powering through the farmers market, which was beginning to get packed (and it was only 9am).

Here are some more photos:

left to right: A bounty of peppers, baby artichokes, and Early Girl tomatoes

See what I mean? Produce that not only looks amazing, but is absolutely fantastic. How do I know? Because most of the vendors will let you sample what they have. I ended up picking up some really robustly flavored Early Girl Tomatoes at Dirty Girl Produce based out of Santa Cruz. Their little booth was quite busy, because of the cases of dry farmed Early Girls and the selections of beans, haricots verts, carrots, and mixed greens.

I also ended up buying some more tomatoes – this time, Green Zebras and Lemon Drops, from Devoto Gardens (Sebastopol). I wanted to buy a bag of mixed greens too, but seeing as this weekend is a busy one for me, I wasn’t sure when I’d get to use them, so I will probably have to come back next weekend if I have the time.

We stopped by Marin Sun Farms (Point Reyes) to check out the meat, per a recommendation from my friend AJ – they have a pretty impressive assortment of cuts. And they sold the avant garde as well….goat spare ribs, chicken heads….not my cup of tea but I’m sure someone out there eats that. A quick stop by G.L. Alfieri Farms (Escalon) yielded a sampling of nuts and almond brittle – they specialize in fruits & nuts. My friend bought some honeycomb from Marshall’s Farm American Honey (American Canyon), then of course, we had to stop at Cowgirl Creamery for some cheeses to go with the honey. One final sweep around the plaza, mostly for more photo opportunities, and we decided to head home – it was starting to get hot, and some of the tents were already running out of stuff to sell (and it was barely 11:00 am). Armed with a bagful of ripe tomatoes, some goat cheese from Bodega Goat Cheese, a hunk of cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, and inspired by all of nature’s bounty on display, I think I’m going to have to cook for a few people tomorrow…now what should I make?

Here are a few more photos worth sharing:

Left to right: Della Fattoria breads, a gaggle of grapes, Dirty Girl’s Early Girls, and a variety of eggplant

For additional photos by yours truly, please click here!

For more information, please visit http://www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com or http://www.cuesa.org.

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