Markets & Stores

Old Oakland Farmer's Market

Stanley Stephan | Jun 27, 200309:18 PM     10

On a scorching hot Friday a cool jazz band was playing “Summer Time” at the Oakland Farmer’s Market. Maybe a little corny like hearing “I left my heart in San Francisco” at Fisherman’s Wharf. However, it was so appropriate. People lazily walked from vendor to vendor, many holding umbrellas to ward off the sun.

Many of the regular vendors on the farmer’s market circuit with a few new faces to me.

Dewey Farms specialized in pistachios with some almonds and walnuts. However the star was the pistachios.

People were flocking to Stackhouse Brothers Orchards which boasted over 100 varieties of fruits (obviously over the growing season). All types of peaches and plums at $1 a pound.

Bakery in a Barn advertised Pennsylvania Dutch and European baked goods. Has anyone tried them? Another bread vendor was Crepe and Brioche from San Francisco.

Yet another organic, song bird, earth friendly coffee company called Papachay.

Adam’s was selling pickles, olive oils and canned garlic cloves. They had a big vat of dill pickles as well.

There were two egg vendors. One was selling the organic, free range type of egg. The other was similar to the egg vendor at Alemany with the Balut eggs and the purple salted duck eggs.

Lots of flower and houseplant vendors. Hudson Fish was the fish vendor. Yes, they were buried in ice, but given that the temperature was …what? … 100 degrees … even looking at them was giving me an imaginary case of food poisoning.

Then there were the usuals. Would it be a farmer’s market without Quick N EZE Indian Food? There was Happy Boy, Mora Farms, Twin Girls, and the nameless smaller vendors. It was a big week for all types of herbs and the warm weather perfumed the market with them, especially the basil.

In prepared foods there was DiBrova Sausage, Big Paw olive oils and vinegars, All Star Tamales, and my favorite, Nina’s Russian foods. Great Harvest was carrying Spelt Bread which I had never seen before although I’ve been following conversations about spelt on the Chowhound boards. The plan was to bring home a chicken from Rosti, Rosti, however, I caught one of the employees in a sanitary faux pas. I am hoping he washed his hands afterward, but the image is unfortunately burned in my mind. I know this happens in kitchens that I can’t see in. However, the visual was way too much.

The most interesting part of the Oakland farmers market was the permanent restaurants and businesses. If you want to cook Cajun, BBQ or African foods, this seems to be the place to do your shopping.

There were a number of vendors in Swan’s Marketplace. EJ‘s Deli carried Allen’s ham and bacon, an impressive selection of ham, pork and bacon products. Polish people also have an appreciation of pork parts and I stored in the back of my mind that I might drop back this winter for some smoked ham hocks, shanks or neck bones to flavor a cabbage soup. They even had salt pork and pork jowl bacon.

Abraham’s seafood is the place you want to go if you are making Cajun dishes calling for fish. There were huge Buffalo fish, black bass, perch, crawfish, shrimp and all kinds of catfish. In addition to smaller catfish and fillets there were huge two foot long black catfish with menacing looks. If one of these was on the end of my fishing line, I’d probably have heart failure.

Sam’s Wines and Liquors was in a tiny space and seem to have some interesting wines, but this isn’t my area of expertise. They also carried grape Nehi and Delaware Punch.

Taylor’s Sausage had a large selection of sausage, in addition to ground sausage meat by the pound. You could make your own sausage patties. At this time, between the seafood and the sausages, I was contemplating gumbo.

Jacks Meats, Poultry and African foods had an intriguing selection of foods that I had never seen before. I have to tell you, this is the first time I actually saw fresh hog maws (pig stomachs). Looking on the web for recipes, there seem to be some interesting ones for pig maws. Is a maw the same as a pork belly? This looked nothing like the little piece of belly I ate last year at Bizou.

There were fresh chitterlings, tripe, oxtails, pigs feet and pigs ears. The cows feet were pretty huge.

They also had these gigantic yams from Ghana that looked like they weighed 3 or four pounds each.

They also had a number of African canned foods, grains, smoked fish, boney fish and pomo cow skin. What the heck is that?

The spice selection was impressive and included ubga, ukwa, ukra, achi, ofor, oziza seeds, uda, uyak, oziza leaves utazi, oha, bitter leave, whole and ground ogbono, whole and ground egulo. What is all this stuff? The butcher said that there was a web site called African cooking, but couldn’t find it.

Dropped by G.B. Ratto and was prepared to be disappointed, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected. If you are shopping at the farmer’s market it’s a decent source for cheese, pasta and beans. What struck me most were the four types of fresh Feta cheese: French goat, Greek, French and Bulgarian. They also had a nice selection of olives. The olives stuffed with anchovies from Spain were new to me. They also had some decent looking dried pastas and Italian flours and grains. The thing is, however, that so many top markets carry these same items. I think I could buy almost everything at either Andronicos or Berkeley Bowl. They did have some different Italian cheeses and a log of fresh cream cheese.

Finally ate at Café 817 which was nice. How are some of the other restaurants at the market like Oaktown Café and Rex? SOMEONE needs to sell ice cream in this area. Also, I was really starting to crave Cajun. Someone should open a Cajun or African restaurant on the street.

Here’s a link to KQED’s write up on the Oakland Farmers market. Excellent slide show of pictures that captures the market.

Link: http://www.kqed.org/topics/home/cooki...

Image: http://www.kqed.org/topics/home/cooki...

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