The farmers market held every friday morning in Oakland on 9th St between Broadway + Clay is worth a visit, if you like cheap fresh vegetables -- some that I have not seen anywhere else.
I like to buy things and then figure out what to do with them later. Last week I got a big winter melon and made a delicious and simple soup; I got a few daikons, and made some kimchi (which is still fermenting, so i have no idea if it worked or not); and as this week, I loaded up on the fresh black-eyed peas, which always go early since everyone seems to want to do SOMETHING with them (last week we made a version of Indian dosa pancakes with them...amazing!).
One thing to remember is that though it's a very high-density market with lots of intimidatingly weird produce and diligent, fast-moving shoppers, _every one_ of the sellers I've talked to is very happy to answer questions and was very helpful. For that matter, a lot of the shoppers are pretty talkative, as long as you don't start taking the good peas out from under their noses.
OK, the food! We got to the market a little early, and the tamales weren't hot yet, so I got us a bockwurst to eat with our morning coffee. The bockwurst was procured from a stand on Washington just north of 9th. I don't remember the name. They make sausages, they're based in Lodi, and they sell sausages packaged as well as to eat there. I got the bockwurst with sauerkraut, onions, and mustard. It came warmed on a steamed bun. I'd never had bockwurst before today -- I got it cuz it was the only non-chicken sausage other than Andouille, which was too spicy for 8am. Bockwurst is one of those white sausages, like brats, I guess. It was really good, very mild, just barely flavored with onions and milk. One of the only sausages I've had where I've appreciated the chewy texture of the casing.
After the sausage, we wandered around and loaded up our packs with produce...this week I got a bag of tiny red pipin chiles, to pickle in sherry; a bundle of lemongrass; some big white peaches that I enjoyed from last week; and some tiny scallions that look like green onions but have a reddish tint and smell like garlic. Along with a bunch of other stuff I don't remember.
One thing to not bother with, unfortunately, is the stand with indian breads and pre-made sauces, at the corner of 9th and washington. I got some lentil roti there last week, and it was overpriced, and very uninteresting -- rubbery, even. 4 bucks for six small flatbreads. Or, you can get eight pounds of winter melon. Your call.
Before we left we hit the tamale stand on Washington just below 10th. The tamales are $2 each (or $18 the dozen) and they are pretty big as tamales go, in my experience. They have pork, chicken, green chile/cheese and some others. Holly and I tried the pork and the greenchile/cheese. They are very simple, just a big roll of steamed masa around the filling...I'm familiar with pork en adobo in tamales, but here they just seem to steam the pork and present it un-spiced. Most of the spicing, which i'm guessing is a little lime and some salt, goes into the masa. It's a delicate, simple taste that I really enjoyed, especially for breakfast, but I'll be interested to see what more dedicated tamale fans will have to say. The tamale stand is run by All Star Tamales and Deli, based in Pittsburg, 925-252-1097. They're there every week.
thanks for reading, and happy eating