Thanks to a posting about alternate farmers markets I made this my market of the week. The poster was really correct, this is one of the most mellow farmer's markets that I've ever been to.
But the ambiance later, about the food ... the BIG find here was Neufeld Dried fruits, the most amazing dried fruit I've ever seen or tasted. Think of summer with all those millions of varieties of peaches, plums, plucots, apricots and figs ... Neufeld dried them all and captured the look and taste beautifully.
My favorite was the startling Betty Ann plums - brilliant red and orange reminicent of the color of a blood orange, and capturing a deep sweet taste. Amoung the other fruits were showtime plums, summer zee peaches, friar plums, kelsey plums, golden plucots, patterson and blenham apricots, yellow and white peaches, gold and white nectarines ... and those were just the more interesting selections. Raisins of various varieties and nuts also avalable, including shelled pecans. There are also whole dried plums and plucots - seed in.
They sell at other markets, mainly in the Napa Sonoma area. Definately at the top of my list to give out as gifts.
Big Paw is an olive oil / vinegar vendor from Napa. There were about a dozen samples to try and I told the vendor I was JUST trying this week. I wound up buying a bottle of their lovely Balsamic bread Dipper. The golden extra virgin olive oil filled with herbs, organic pepper, sea salt, Garlic Oil and lemon oil turns deeper into a deep black vinegar color toward the bottom. A lovely bottle to look at prior to shaking. Also an excellent salad dressing. One of the vinegars I remembered was a peach cinnamon.
I was happy to see Marshall Honey as that was one of the vendors I was going to miss at the Ferry Plaza Market. Sure you can buy the stuff on the web or in stores, but it's only at the farmer's market that you can snag those limited quanity honeys that make brief appearances for a few weeks before selling out. They currently have a WONDERFUL almond blossom honey. There is a suggestion of an actual almond taste in it. It would go lovely with some of the cherries coming in season. The vendor at Marshalls said that you have to be careful with almond honey as it can taste bitter. Some that they made a few weeks ago was extremely bitter. The current batch is really lovely.
Many of my favorite vendors were there. Zuckerman's aspapragus and potatoes, Swanton berries, Balakian Farms which has the most interesting and wonderful zucchini and squashes every year.
Hamada has a stand there ... one of my favorites at the Ferry Plaza market. It's interesting but some of the vendors have products that don't show up at the Ferry Plaza Market which has a policy restricing what can be sold. If it's totmato seasson, for example, a year round vendor will be told not to bring tomatoes to market so there are not too many tomatoes. At Hamada they had three types of dried raisins which I never saw before, but it might just be a new item.
The other thing was sticker shock as the prices were significantly lower. I asked twice at Hillview farms how much the herbs were ... fifty cents ... I bought two very fragrant bunches of dill and parsely.
There were new vendors to explore. As was mentioned last week there is a fresh salmon vendor (7.95 lb). When I asked his name he said, well, we could give you the name of our boat. We just bring in what we just caught. I bought the dill, I bought the lemons, I forgot on my last round around the market to buy the salmon ... sigh.
Western Sun flowers in Watsonville had an excellent selection of roses ($6 a bunch) in addition to a large variety of other cut flowers. There was a second flower vendor with no visible name that had some nice daisies.
Other green veggie and fruit vendors included Ledesma Family Farms, Triple T, Winter Creek Gardens and Solano mushrooms. Lots of nuts and dried fruit at this market. Malik farms had some excellent golden raisins.
Bakeries and food vendors seemed a little lame to me. The most notable being a stand that sold shave ice. There was Metropolis Bakery and Patisserie Francaise. Eh.
The market is temporarily located under the freeway near the Grand Lake Theater. They are scheduled to move this summer outside a few feet away to an area currently under construction. There is a parking lot attached currently. When the market moves outdoors, it will double their free parking area.
It really is pleasant, even under the freeway ... no hot sun or rain as the case might be. There's some very mellow live flute music playing. It is not over crowded and there was a nice group there. Someone actually said excuse me when the bumped into me instead of pretending I wasn't there.
Some points off is there is no coffee vendor. Also they have a handfull of non farm vendors that sell things like jewelry. But then again, I see that a number of junk, uh, street atrisians have opened up shop accross the street from the SF Ferry plaza market, if you don't count Sur La Table which is actually IN the ferry building.
I liked the Lakeshore market more than the Berkely Farmers market that I tried out last week. better parking, more mellow crown, less expensive prices. It may be my regualar market after I explore them all.