Sunday, August 08, 2010

East Bay Underground Market in Oakland

The Underground Market made it over across the bay to Oakland on Saturday when it took over a parking lot near Uptown and Koreatown, bringing with it the foodie crowds and the lines.

The market is a monthly event in San Francisco that gathers a lot of home cooks and small businesses who may not have the commercial kitchen or funds to set up their own retail store. So this "underground" market allows them to sell their goods to people who have to sign up beforehand to be a member. (The idea of this being a club is a way for organizers to skirt the Health Department regulations since this isn't really a public event.)

The Underground Market in San Francisco has been highly successful and grows bigger and bigger each month that the organizer, Forage SF, has to find a new space every month. They've been planning an East Bay version for a few months, and it finally happened this weekend.

The event began at 5 p.m. and I got there a few minutes after 5 and there was already a line to get in. But it wasn't as long as the time I was at the San Francisco market, and it was really just a 15 minute wait. Most of it was to check if you're a member (if you didn't pre-register they let you register on the spot) and then collect the nominal $2 entry fee.

As I walked around to get my bearings (I always like to do a quick run-through of a market to see what the various booths are offering) I could smell the grills giving off that distinctive Asian barbeque scent that just gets my mouth salivating. I think it was the stand selling Vietnamese banh mi burgers, but I couldn't say for sure because there was also some burgers being grilled, pork brisket and jerk chicken, all creating a lovely smokey environment like any street fair. I ended up getting the pulled pork slider from the guys at City Smoke House, right now just doing catering. The pulled pork was lathered with BBQ sauce and topped with cole slaw. It was so messy to eat, but so incredible to eat. I didn't care that I had to eat with my fingers to pick up all the meat and cole slaw that fell out of my brioche-like bun. The great thing about the Underground Market is since most of the vendors don't have major overhead, the prices are pretty decent. I paid only $4 for the huge pulled pork slider

And this bowl of gumbo was just $5! A guy was just scooping it out from his big pot, serving it up with some jasmine rice. Not only did this bowl of gumbo taste great, but there were so many chunks of chicken and sausage.

The vendors were supposed to be mostly from the East Bay, and many of them were people who were testing out their products before launching their full-fledged restaurants, like this booth from the people who wants to open a restaurant specializing in gourmet mac and cheese, called Homeroom.

Since there were a lot of home-made goods, there were the typical items like lots of baked goods, cupcakes, pickled vegetables and jams, jams, jams.

I really enjoyed the cupcake I got from this stand. The owner, Trista, does mostly catering for weddings and such. I thought her cupcakes were so pretty. I tried her margarita cupcake, which was a white cupcake with candied sparkling sprinkles on top. It had a lime curd to give that allusion to a margarita, and everything was so moist and yummy. So good for just $2.50 each.

You know I'm always fascinated by French macarons. This vendor had really bright-colored macarons. I bought three flavors: coffee, cinnamon and buttered salt caramel. I liked the coffee one, but the others seemed a bit sweet for me.

There were pizzas, chocolates, kombucha (I had a nice Meyer lemon one), and empanadas. I really was getting full just spending an hour at the market. I pretty much bought things to eat and hardly bought anything to take home.

Here's the Foodie Fix ice cream makers from San Francisco who were selling unusual flavors like bacon ice cream, bourbon, cardamom saffron, etc. I ended up trying their basil, which definitely captured the sweet basil fragrance.

Looked like a lot of people were having fun exploring. And because it was in Oakland out in a parking lot, there were a lot more families with strollers than in the San Francisco markets (held at warehouses with tight space). The market went into the evening till 11 p.m. with live music. It looked like a real success (with typical long lines getting in and for beer) so I hope they make this a regular monthly thing like in San Francisco.


foodhoe said...

how fun, I'm glad they expanded out to the East Bay. I couldn't make it, but hopefully next time... That banh mi burger sounds good, but the pix of the pork sandwich and gumbo are tormenting me...

Cookie said...

How cool! I bet being outdoors was so much better than being in a crowded warehouse!

terry said...

a whole restaurant dedicated to mac and cheese? that is some dedication to mac and cheese. But man, that Gumbo looks good!

Jon Wollenhaupt said...

Great event. I think it is so cool that ForageSF's Underground Markets help fledgling foodie entrepreneurs get exposure, test their products and hear consumer feedback.

Some of my favorite mini meals that night were: The Savory Lao cuisine (grill pork) from A Humble Plate, slice of Margherita pizza from the Pizza Hacker and the amazing mole from Cocina Cacera Lucia. Oh yes, and the Coconut Caramel Popcorn from SugarTit Kitchen was addictive.

Single Guy Ben said...

Jon, thanks for sharing your favorites too! I wanted to try the pizza but was too full. Did you ask SugarTit Kitchen how they came up with their name? I was too embarrassed. ;-)

Carolyn Jung said...

Wow, what great prices! And what a fun way to try some new great eats. Gotta make it over there for one of these soon. ;)

Anonymous said...

You missed the banh mi burger? that was one of the best things I've ever had the one time I tried it!! It's a MUST Eat!