Last Saturday we went to the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market on the San Francisco Embarcadero. It happens every Tuesday and Saturday and it looks like they may re-start the Market on Thursdays again soon. We’ve loved farmer’s markets for years! They’re great places to get fresh foods that are locally grown; and their great for people watching. It’s fun to take out-of-towners and tourists when they’re visiting, though we like to go on our own pretty often too. This time, we bumped into San Francisco Mayor and gubernatorial candidate, Gavin Newsom. That’s neat. The Ferry Building market also has stunning views of the Bay, downtown San Francisco and the Bay Bridge. Really, it’s a must-see.
Farmer’s markets also have distinct characters. The Ferry Plaza one offers a lot of “standard Northern Californian” produce if you’ll pardon my over-generalization. There’s a wonderful market at the UN Plaza just up Market Street that offers a large variety of foods that one more commonly associates with Chinese cuisine. I like to shop at that one if I’m making Szechuan eggplant, for example, as I can usually find everything that I need there.
Prices at these markets can be highly variable. I approach it in a three-fold way: if the item is very, very fresh, I might be willing to pay more. If you cannot get it anywhere else, then why not try it? Finally, if it’s less expensive, then it makes sense. The Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market tends to be a bit on the expensive side. However, their produce is often very, very fresh and they do offer hard-to-find items.
These markets change as the seasons do. We particularly enjoy late summer farmer’s markets with all of the super-ripe heirloom tomatoes and mountains of leafy greens. Winter markets are more focused on root vegetables. Regardless of the season, they’ve always got things like mushrooms, cheeses and preserved stuff like olive oils and jams.
This time, I saw a lot of winter root vegetables like beets and rutabagas. Several stalls had broccoli, perhaps grown in Santa Maria near Kenneth Volk Vineyards or maybe Rancho Sisquoc? It seemed that almost everyone had cherries, apricots and peaches. There were a colorful variety of baby carrots, summer squash and zucchini. Many of the vendors offer samples of their products. Most will tell you about how they produce them too, if they’re not too busy.
We ended up getting an entire flat of heirloom tomatoes. It’s a bit early in the season for these. Only one place actually had them. They told us that they were grown somewhere in Southern California. It was an incredible deal. The whole flat, about two dozen mixed heirlooms, cost only $15. We checked the price at Whole Foods later: $4.99 per lb. Since one large tomato weighs about a pound, this is a real savings. Plus they tasted simply incredibly. We also went for some shitake and crimini mushrooms, various baby greens for salads, an assortment of baby carrots and some fava beans for our friend, David. He’s going to make the fava topped bruschetta this week.
This particular farmer’s market has the added advantage of being right at the San Francisco Ferry Building, where there’s a host of charming shops and boutique restaurants and dessert places. We always enjoy checking out the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchants, Stonehouse Olive Oil Company and Sur La Table.