Thanks primarily to Stanley Stephan (With copies in hand)we made it to the market today (Saturday) by 7:30 a.m. Parked right along the Embarcadero almost in front of the Market, for just a few quaters. My wife, Ann, has been there over the years, but this was MY first time EVER at this market.
I want to preface this mini-review (I'm sure more Chowhounds can do a better and more informative reviewing job than me) by saying for other first-timers, bring LOTS of cash! While all products are for the most part, beautiful and high quality, they are by no means cheap!!
$3.00-$5.00 per pound for most fruits. Flowers were very high too. Vegetables were more plentiful and thus a bit cheaper, herbs and greens, very reasonable. With experience, I'm sure, comes knowing where to find the bargains and bonding with your favorite vendors can't hurt. We were trying not to overshop and only buy what we thought we needed, and blew about $70+.
In order, as we entered (kind of)by the coffee stand (next to Hayes Street grill, which was NOT by the way serving Soft Shell Crab sandwiches that I could see):
We opted for Olive Bread and a sour baguette at Acme Bread. The Como bread or other goodies at Downtown Bakery didn't quite catch our eye or taste buds. Acme was doing a much brisker business than Downtown Bakery.
Sciabica Olive Oil:
We picked up some Sciabica Olive Oil, per the request of our son. Mission Variety, Extra Virgin Olive Oil at $15 per 500 ml, seemed pricey, but hey, it's for Ciaohound, Jr.
We chatted briefly next door and found one of the last jars of Pumpkin Blossom Honey for $8.50. They won't have it again until fall and we wanted to give it to our neighbor. Kind of a splurge.
We skipped the Petaluma Farm eggs, reasoning that they would be there all the time.
Ann found some wonderful looking Basil for $1 per bunch, that hopefully will go into Pesto soon.(Like tomorrow night??)
Across the way Ann bought some baby zucchini that lured her in. I didn't even see them, she just dumped it into my bag. By then, we were "seasoned" shoppers.
Back across the aisle (more or less) was a Vendor (didn't see a sign) selling all sorts of mushrooms out of his truck. Big portobellos; morels & yellow (smallish) chanterelles for $20/lb. Lots of action at this stall.
I didn't see the Meyer Lemon Marmalade yet at Frog Hollow Farms, so we took a pass.
I think it was Fitzgerald's (0n the corner, from Winters) across from Frog Hollow Farms)where we got some nice Yellow Nectarines at a reasonable price.
Next door we stopped at a stand and bought 3 medium sized tomatoes for $3.70 (No bargain there)
Ann stopped at an organic produce stand on the other side of the aisle and picked up some loose leaf red lettuce and baby carrots for about $1 each, which seemed like a steal.
At the end of that stretch on the corner was Eatwell Farms. I had subscribed to their home pickup group in the past, so I had known about them. Ann bought three good sized Sunflowers for $5 which she said was a good bargain.
We made a left and went to Van Mourik Farms and stuck with Stanley's rec. of the lightly salted roasted almonds (I know you said unroasted, but we were in a hurry).
A couple of vendors suggested we buy Bariani Olive Oil over Sciabica, but we went with Sciabica's. The elder Signore Sciabica wasn't there, which disappointed me. They had kumquats that people were buying, but I don't know a kumquat from a loquat from a power squat, so we passed on the fruit.
I looked and looked for McGinnis ranch, but never found their sign. Ann said maybe they aren't there yet. Maybe we just plain are blind?
We picked up a good sized basket of blueberries from Sierra Cascade Farms for $4. They will be paired with the Yellow Nectarines in our famous Nectarine-Blueberry Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream. (Tonight, or maybe with the pesto tomorrow???)
Hillcrest Gardens was doing some of the briskest business in the whole market. Beautiful bunches of gladiolas, lillies and other bunches of flowers.
Jeff Young Organic had beautiful flower bouquets, but they seemed really expensive for the size. No question about their beauty, however, but Ann only had eyes for Sunflowers (and Me, I hope) today. Our own roses are so beautiful right now, we really want to give them center stage in our house.
We bought an Olive Tapenade from Affi's that included olives, walnuts and pomegranate juice which sounded intriguing.
Lastly, we stopped at Noe Valley Bakery for a Cherry-Ginger scone to have with a cup of coffee on the way back to the car. Good, but not the greatest I've had. Between Wild Flour Bakery, Arizmendi and Noe Valley (3 of my most recent Scone indulgences), I vote for Arizmendi hands down the winner. Ann said we could probably sell our own Cream Scones with Currants for $5 each if we had a stall.
In addition, we saw but didn't buy, lots of squashes, passed on strawberries, cherries for $4.50-$5 per lb., lettuces, greens, herbs, potatoes, tomatoes (we bought 3 for $3.70), beautiful and fair priced Hass Avocados, reasonably priced Artichokes, goat cheeses at several stands, lots of pretty flowers, meats, chicken and game birds, breads, jams (tasted a delicious Meyer Lemon Marmalade), chutney, and on and on and on.
This time, I was really trying to see the entire market and get my bearings and it was difficult to make detailed written notes. Maybe I'll bring a tape recorder next time. Plus we had to leave by 9:00 (Ann's haircut day) so we were a bit rushed. We walked around completely once first; then a couple of more times, noting what we were going to pick up on the way out. We snooped around in between. Had a ball!!
All in all, a fun place, beautiful warm day, lively crowd, friendly vendors, and lots (too much for us) to choose from. The stone fruits (my favorite fruits) are NOT quite ripe enough for our taste yet, but if you choose carefully some are sweeter and juicier than others. We're not huge cherry fans, and those were going over big (or should I say bing).
I think next time, I will concentrate on finding the biggest crowds and shop at those vendors. Most people seemed to know what they were looking for, the best finds and thus the crowds. It reminded me of our trip to Yellowstone. We were constantly straining to find the wild animals in the park; we quickly learned that when the cars were stopped on the side of the road, that's where the best animals always could be seen. Just an observation :)
Hopefully more Chowhounders went today and can help fill in the names & details I just couldn't keep up with.
Thanks Stanley and all the rest of you Chowhounds for your excellent tips and advice. As Arnold would say, "We'll be baaack."