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A Tale of Two Farmers’ Markets; or, the Country Mouse and the City Mouse (San Francisco)


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A Tale of Two Farmers’ Markets; or, the Country Mouse and the City Mouse (San Francisco)

grayelf | Nov 20, 2008 08:42 AM

So as has become our wont we headed out bright and earlyish to the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market on Sat, Nov 8. Knowing that even at 9:30 am the lineups for Blue Bottle would be legion, the SO got in the one at the right side to get our coffees whilst I ambled inside to nab a ham and cheese turnover ($3.50) from Acme. On the way there I noticed an amusing sign (see photo) that bore the welcome news that BB is opening a permanent store inside the building I returned with bakery catch in hand to find the SO sitting in a small corral full of people anxiously awaiting their caffeinated beverages.

I was determined to sample Gibraltar’s from all three BB outlets on our itinerary and this was stop number 2 (we had hit Mint Plaza the day before). Each outlet uses a different espresso to make this drink. While we were waiting for the java we had a Canadian celebrity sighting when singer Sarah MacLachlan sauntered by with her two girls in tow. The ACME offering was all that and a bag of chips: crunchy salty cheese, hunks of real roasted ham and delicious flaky pastry enrobing, and it is a bruiser too. We took a turn around the stands to check out all of the produce. We sampled some deep-fried asparagus and pluots (not deep fried) and spotted local chef Chris Cosentino (as we did last time) picking up a whack of greens with a small son in tow. (We also bought a pain au chocolat from Della Fattoria which when sampled much later that evening proved to be the sole food disappointment of the day. It was just okay and at $3 did not stand up at all well value wise compared to the monolithic ACME turnover.)

Thank goodness we only split one turnover or we would have had no room for the porchetta sandwich from Roli Roti ( The rotisseur (and I surmise owner) Thomas Odermatt was so proud of his product and so keen to help us enjoy it optimally that it really added to the experience. He asked if we wanted our $8.50 sandwich “authentic” and then showed us that meant sopping up the meat juices in the ciabatta bun (the answer was yes please). He happily posed for photos and the one attached was taken as he was explaining to two English visitors how to pronounce porchetta even if you don’t speak Italian. The fresh and peppery arugula and balsamic caramelized onions created the perfect meaty treat along with the ridiculously yummy spiced and roasted pork with built in crackling.

We shared a sandwich and were completely stuffed, especially after the half turnover. We staggered into the building to check out the Fungus Festival and found this gorgeous beasty on display, apparently a rose oyster mushroom. As the crowds were becoming prodigious and we really couldn’t eat another bite, we headed down the Embarcadero to Pier 14 to snap some pix of the market from the water. From there it was off to our next port of call, namely Vermont Street switchback and the Mission.

The next day we wanted to see a different type of farmers’ market so though we had heard great things about Alemany we opted for the Heart of the City near the Civic Centre. Rather a marked contrast to the Ferry Plaza experience but equally intriguing. Here there is much less emphasis on the provenance of the produce though it all looks fresh and toothsome with the exception of the live chickens which looked feathery and beaky :-).

The prices are uniformly much lower as well and the BIL says his roommate does much regular shopping here. The fish in the attached picture is my beloved petrale sole and these specimens were going for $4.99 a pound; the white eggplants as you can see were a dollar a pound. I tried to find out the name of the spiky green dudes but couldn’t, and I forgot to write down what these coffee-bean looking fruits were, though I do recall you eat them like apples. This is a great market and worth a visit if you are nearby on a Sunday. Added bonus: we walked down Market Street afterward into the middle of the Veterans’ Day Parade, so while we didn’t see any poppies we still got a chance to remember and honour your soldiers and ours.

See also the following links for all our other food-centric ramblings this trip if you're interested:

Tadich Grill
Blue Bottle
Lime Tree
Canteen dinner
Bar Tartine
Canteen and Café de la presse breakfasts
Bodega Bistro
La Ciccia
BonBon Patisserie
Anchor Steam SFO

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