I'm incredible loyal to the Berkeley Farmers' Market. Though drawn to the glitz and glamor of the Ferry Building, most Saturdays I'm happy to stay local. However, sometimes the eco-fascists running that run Berkeley's market force me to shop elsewhere. Thus, twice a month I head to Temescal or Lake Merrit to pick up the most delicious, sustainable, and humane beef in the state from Prather Ranch. And twice a year, right around the holidays, I head out to San Francisco to score foie gras from the Fatted Calf.
Fatted Calf has two types of foie this year - terrine with vin santo and salt and pepper cured torchon. Both are among Fatted Calf's finest products. If forced to choose between the two, I would probably favor the torchon. The terrine is lovely, and the dessert wine does a nice job mellowing out the foie flavor. But the torchon delivers that pure foie punch I was craving. I will be back for more torchon on the Saturday before NYE (when the Berkeley market is mysteriously closed - those wacky eco-fascists). The torchon is $80/lb and sold in 2-4 ounce pieces. The terrine is $65/lb and sold in 4-6 ounce pieces. Order in advance through their website - they will sell out.
This was my visit to Primavera. Wow. I completely understand what all of the fuss is about. When I saw the size of the line I knew this was the right place to eat. I ordered the crispy tacos with beef brisket. It may be the single best Mexican dish I have has in the Bay Area. Tender, flavorful meat, perfectly crisped taco shells, delicate pickled vegetables, pristine avocado and a dollop of fresh salsa and sour cream. I was in heaven. They hit the right balance between authentic flavors and superior ingredients. This will definitely be my "go-to" lunch spot on any future market visits.
Andante is a must-stop. Her cheese is just so clean, so pure, so delicate. I went for some fresh goat cheese and some slightly aged goat cheese - both were delicious. I wish I could get cheese like this in the East Bay.
Boulette's Larder is the type of place where I could spend my entire paycheck without hesitating. However, I practiced discipline and stuck with what I was there for - the elusive Anson Mills grits and polenta. I've enjoyed Anson Mills products in restaurants before, and I'm thrilled to have a stock of them in the freezer. Mrs. Mousse cooked up some grits with a Scottish cheddar I picked up at Cowgirl and they were just lovely. The flavor and texture of Anson Mills products puts others to shame.
Cowgirl Creamery was a fun stop, though I wouldn't trade it for the Cheeseboard any day. My basic observation comparing the two is that Cowgirl stocks more high-end cheeses, where as Cheeseboard is more focused on value. Don't get me wrong, Cheeseboard carries some $30/pound+ cheeses that are worth every penny, but they also have a great selection of cheeses under $10/pound. Anyway, I picked up a lovely pecorino (it's reflective of the Cowgirl culture that I was told this was a great value at $16/pound) and the Scottish cheddar, as well as some decent Parmesan Reggiano and the always-delicious Bellweather Farms Sheeps Milk Ricotta. Also, I had to wait in line at Cowgirl three times (once for my cheese, once for my ricotta, once to pay) which was kind of annoying.
I love Prather Ranch. I've written about them at length in the past. What else can I say? Incanto uses their beef. Fatted Calf uses their beef. It's the best beef available in the Bay Area and I feel priveleged to have access to them. I bought a hangar steak which is one of my favorite cuts. Mrs. Mousse used some fresh horseradish from Knoll Farms to whip up a horseradish cream, and we ate it with Anson Mills grits and Knoll Farms rapini. Fantastic.
Finished the visit with Downtown Bakery. Their stuff was really good, better than Frog Hollow. I particularly enjoyed the donut muffin which was just that - the shape of a muffin, the texture and flavor of a sugar donut.
It's a great market. Easy to get carried away with spending, but a pleasure to shop at nonetheless. Of course, ya gotta get there at the crack of dawn - by my 10:30 arrival there were no good eggs to be had and no croissants. Ah well, that's why I'm so glad the Berkeley market opens at 10 - I can sleep in and still arrive early.