We frequently shop at 22nd and Irving Market for our weekly food supplies. It’s located in the Sunset District of San Francisco, nestled between numerous Chinese shops, restaurants and dim sum places. It’s always easy to find as the name tells you where it’s located. The market itself has a lot of very fresh, inexpensive Asian and more Western types of produce as well as numerous Eastern European and Mediterranean foods.
We were there just the other day. It was one of those rare very sunny afternoons in that part of town. The Sunset is normally one of the foggiest parts of the City. We parked on Lincoln at the edge of the Golden Gate Park. Since it was so nice, we took a stroll through the park to Ocean Beach where we admired the Pacific for a while. There are a lot of flowers in bloom in the park right now. And you can smell the eucalyptus trees everywhere. We saw numerous families with small children having picnics and barbecues. There were joggers, other folks walking like us and dozens of bicyclists who all seemed to want to pass us on the narrowest part of the trail all at the same time. That part was annoying.
I got hungry after the long walk so I popped into one of the dim sum holes-in-the-wall and got an 80 cent steamed egg custard bun. That took the edge off. We saw this groovy example of “outsider art” on our way to Walgreens for some bottled water. It was a shopping cart festooned with all sorts of paper and garbage parked in front of a shop with a for rent sign. I thought that it was cool: sort of a commentary on the recession and consumerism.
Inspired by art, it’s back to shopping! 22nd and Irving is our favorite place for feta cheese. They have a large selection from all over Europe. This time we got some French feta because it melts a bit more easily than the Greek or Bulgarian. We make this simple but delicious pasta dish with it that I’ll have to post sometime. They have good quality canned sardines that are cheap. Sardines have a bad rep in the U.S. but they shouldn’t. Good ones are a bit smelly it’s true, but the taste is remarkable. Plus they’re easy to throw together for last minute dinners on weeknights, they’re high in protein and healthy oils, and they don’t wreck the smell of your whole house like cooking fish at home can. You should try some sometime!
We got a whole host of green leafy vegetables, beets, onions and garlic; you know, the basics. We splurged on a dragon fruit and a bag of mangosteens. The later cost a whopping $12.99, which is much more than we’d normally pay for anything there, but they’re hard to find and worth it. I picked up a jar of preserved eggplant from Bulgaria, some Chinese long beans and some broccoli rabe, which I think I’ll prepare like we did for that Italian feast.
We have always enjoyed shopping at small specialty food markets. Often you can find unusual items that might not be at conventional American supermarkets. Prices can frequently be less too, as these places have less overhead. Because the prices are low, you can try things that you might not if they came from Whole Foods, let’s say. Even if you don’t end up liking whatever it is, you haven’t spent that much and it’s good practice to constantly be expanding your palate and culinary knowledge.