Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Seen at the Market: Slow Food Edition

Just when you thought you read the last word on Slow Food Nation, here’s another post! Don’t worry, it’s my last one.

On a hot summer Sunday, I went over to the special farmers’ market set up at the Civic Center Plaza right in front of San Francisco’s City Hall. Slow Food Nation gathered a special lineup of farmers picked for their particular food specialty. The crowds were out early, checking out the various booths.

(Side note: Every Sunday there’s a regular farmers market at the United Nations plaza not too far from the Civic Center. I thought that the Slow Food Nation’s farmers market would be in that spot. Turns out the regular farmers market still took place, so it was a bit sad to see them ignored by the Slow Food crowd near City Hall. Why couldn’t they have combined the two markets or something? When I walked through the regular market, it felt like they were the kids who weren’t invited to the party. Maybe next year it could be a joint market?)

Below is just a look at some of the interesting finds I saw at the Slow Food Nation’s market.

Look at these gorgeous endives still on their roots. This wasn’t for sale but was on display at the booth by the California Vegetable Specialties of Rio Vista.

This smorgasbord of peppers was at the Catalan Family booth. Maria Catalan of Hollister was selected to showcase her squash, which she had a few of. But the bigger display was this assortment of peppers, including what she called black peppers (left), and the chocolate peppers (bottom right).

This is heirloom brown rice from Koda Farms of South Dos Palos in the San Joaquin Valley of California. It’s a Japanese-American farm and the rice is medium grain instead of the more common short grain found at stores today. It’s supposed to taste more complex and subtle in flavor. I bought a bag of their brown rice and regular sushi rice to see if there’s a difference in short and medium grain.

The berries at this booth were so amazingly fresh and colorful. It’s the Live Earth Farm from the foothills of Santa Cruz Mountains. They’re typically at the farmers markets in the South Bay, but that’s a wee bit out of my way so it was nice to check out their goods in the city.

Here are taste samples of vinegar from Katz & Co. of Napa. I’ve never heard of this company, but apparently they make vinegar and olive oil sold at places like the Pasta Shop. I really liked the Sauvignon Blanc vinegar because it has a definite taste of the grape and is a bit sweet. But boy, is it hard to taste vinegar as a shot. I nearly choked. Still, good stuff.

There were a lot of heirloom apples at the market, including this booth from Windrose Farm of Paso Robles. Here are some beautiful red-veined crab apples.

One of the more unusual things I saw at the market were these goat cheese decorated with fruits and herbs, like dried blueberries and apricots. They’re from Harley Farms Goat Diary of Pescadero. They’re all very pretty and different. The cheese itself is very light and airy, not very dense. It was very fresh.

Of course, there was a lot of good eating at the farmers’ market with a special Slow Food To Go, emphasizing street food. The booths didn’t open until 11 a.m. but lines were already forming before then.

The booth with a long line before it opened was the one serving these breakfast biscuits. Baked buttery goodness and pig product, who wouldn’t rush for that? A lot of people were murmuring that this was prosciutto, but they looked pretty thick for prosciutto. Either way, it was a best seller.

Here’s a real street food. They’re huaraches, which is Spanish for “sandals.” They’re made by Veronica Salizar of the Mission District and they’re filled with beans and then topped with a stir-fry of vegetables and onions.

A worker cutting salumi at the Salumi Artisan Cured Meats booth. That’s actually where I ended up, getting a Muffaleta Sandwich ($7) put together by Heritage Foods USA of Seattle.

Here’s a close up of my muffaleta. It actually wasn’t as layered with meats as I imagined the traditional muffaleta to be (a sandwich that originated in New Orleans). But it was filled with a lot of fresh products, including ginger and garlic salami, spicy mole salami, fresh mozzarella, olive relish, and peppers all in a roll by Della Fattoria of Petaluma.

Hand-pulled noodles from the Imperial Tea Court booth. They were sold topped with Chinese beef stew.

On a hot day, these cups of agua fresca looked so refreshing.

I spotted the queen of Slow Food Nation, Alice Waters, who was able to look chic in a scarf when it felt like 80 degrees. Waters was leading a private tour of the farmers market. Of course, she was followed at all times by a TV camera crew. Everyone was going up to her and hugging her to thank her for her work. She’s like a food deity around these parts. While I don’t think one person can be responsible for the great food movement in the Bay Area, I do give props to Waters for her tireless promotion of the local food scene. So here’s my hug to you Alice, albeit electronically since I didn’t dare approach you in public. ;-)


http//foodhoe.com said...

too bad about the separate farmer's market, that does seem a bit classist keeping them apart... I wish I had made it over to the market but they were closed.  The food looked delicious and was probably easier to get to.

Mrs. L said...

Man, that sandwich looks wonderful! I wish I could have made the Slow Food festivities this past weekend but I was out of town celebrating my Grandmas 93rd birthday!

Chef Ben said...

Foodhoe, there were still lines for the food, but it's typical of any street fair.

Mrs. L, wow, I want your grandma's genes! :)

Carolyn Jung said...

Oh my gawd. Those ham-stuffed biscuits by famed Southern Chef Scott Peacock were to die for. After I split a two-biscuit serving with my brother, I wish I hadn't shown such sisterly love and kept them both to myself. (Just kidding). But they were so good, you truly didn't want to share.