Berkeley Farmers Market

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Berkeley Farmers Market

Postby Hoke » Mon Apr 17, 2006 5:32 pm

There are few more pleasant pastimes than browsing through the Berkeley Farmers Market on a Saturday morning, even when the air is brisk and the skies are sporadically spitting down cold rain.

There's interesting architecture in eclectic chaos, highly individualistic people, and most of all wonderful foodstuffs to peruse, sample and buy.

The only caveat is you have to get there early, because the purveyors bring only so much, and when it's gone, they (almost literally) fold their tents and close up the cash box.

The first tent we visited was The Fatted Calf, a haven for meat lovers, where we snatched up the most delicious Rabbit Boudin Blanc, or as one of our party called it, Bunny Boudin; Spanish Merguez, redolent of Moroccan spices; Lamb Crespinelle, formed in a patty shape and unbelievably delicious; and a French style Fennel Sausage. Later we added a sausage stuffed Quail to the mix and that consituted our main course.

I also got fatally attracted to an artisanal baker who was displaying something called Txapati, which connected me linguistically to Indian chapatties, but these looked more like Italian ciabatti. It turned out this is a traditional Galician Basque bread (the baker casually told me he'd gone to this area to live for a while so he could learn to make the bread). He had both a plain loaf and another stuffed with rich, plump, juicy Kalamata-ish black olives. The bread looked like a ciabatta, but a bit browner, and had a dense, chewy texture. Both loaves were delicious. Unfortunately, I've forgottent the name of the baker who was selling them. Guess I'll have to go back again, eh?

We tasted through LouLou's preserves, with the memorable Blackberry-Meyer Lemon, the succulent but slightly too sweet Bing Cherry, and the intriguing and tart Grapefruit-Rhubarb impressing us the most.

Attracted by the smells of good coffee brewing, I parked myself in front of the Blue Bottle Coffee Company tent and dilated my nostrils as wide as possible. I tried to resist buying, but inevitably found myself back there again later and surrendered my money for some 'Bella Donovan' blend, in part because the coffee smelled so good, in part because the description was so damned compelling. Who says marketing doesn't work?

Of the several produce stands, we managed to score some killer shrooms, both earthy Portobellos and some really tasty Royal Trumpets (Trumpets, I think, are even better than Portobellos for grilling or pan roasting. Some garlic, some oil, some herbs, pop em on the grill for a brief time, and you've got succulent dining; the Trumpets have a firmer texture than the Portobellos, but they are not as pungent---somewhat like a Portobello in the young Crimini stage---more white shroom taste and firmer texture. Good stuff indeed.

Redwood Hills Farms also had their selection of goat cheeses on display, so we picked up a Crottin and a Bucheret. Went fine with the Txapati Basque bread, by the way.

We also couldn't resist a salad mix, already bagged up, laced with spring flower petals in colorful profusion...as attractive to the eye, it turned out, as to the mouth.

But then one of the girls reminded us she was starving to death and all this good food lying around wasn't helping, so we had to flee the market for Crepes a Go Go for a restorative crepe stuffed with either savories or Nutella. Since I firmly believe that Nutella is one of the single greatest contributions to world civilization that Europe has supplied, I splurged with a Nutella, Banana and Coconut crepe.

Then it was off to the hills of Berkeley for cooking up our goodies and finding some bottles of wine to crack open.

As I said, there are far worse ways to spend your time than the Farmers Market in Berkeley on a Saturday.
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Re: Berkeley Farmers Market

Postby Jenise » Mon Apr 17, 2006 8:30 pm

Great post, Hoke, very evocative. You make me wistful for my first visit to our Farmer's Market which is, of course, nothing as diverse as Berkeley's, but it's good enough. It just opened two weeks ago--is yours year-round?
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Berkeley Farmers Market

Postby Hoke » Mon Apr 17, 2006 8:50 pm

We are blessed with an abundance of Farmers Markets in the Bay Area.

This is actually my very first visit to the Berkeley Market, because we have our own Farmers Market in Sonoma Plaza, plus another down at the Marin Civic Center (which is huuuuge). Then there's the Farmers Market at the Ferry Plaza Terminal Building.

And there's lots and lots of others.

Some of them tend to be seasonal, some go longer. But even then, we have local strawberry farmers all over the place (there's a great one just down the road from where I live in Sonoma) providing fresh fruit, a local organic farm just about a mile the other way, and two Fruit Basket stores in Sonoma that specialize in ultra-fresh produce.

So we enjoy some tremendous foodstuffs here.

But I fondly remember living in the Bellevue area, where they had some incredible markets all around with the freshest, most succulent fruits and vegetables imaginable. And if you drove up to the Skagit, closer to your neck of the woods, there were some awesome places to graze in.

Heck, the Pike Place Market alone is a foodie's idea of heaven. Plus, you get more Rainier Cherries than we do, more Penn Cove mussels, and even fresh geoduck! :D So you're doing okay.
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Re: Berkeley Farmers Market

Postby Jenise » Tue Apr 18, 2006 12:35 pm

That's right, I'd forgotten that you live in Sonoma, not Berkeley. But yes, you do have a phenomenal range of options in your area and a mild climate that makes year-round local produce about as close to possible as it gets. We are less fortunate, but we have some good things--yesterday I picked fresh oysters right off my beach in the low-low tide. And I had the beach to myself. You can't put a price on that.

And there are cool people in Seattle doing cool things. I'll be down there today, and dinner will be at Da Pino, a hole in the wall where Pino Rogano, who makes fresh and cured sausages without preservatives for restaurants, serves up his own stuff. After the sea of rubber-stamp factory food that was Los Angeles, places like Da Pino are heaven to me.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Berkeley Farmers Market

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Tue Apr 18, 2006 2:57 pm

Nice writeup, Hoke! If I can get myself up early enough one of these weekends, I'll have to head over there.

If you're ever out in this part of Norcal on a Sunday morning, there's a good one in downtown Sacto under a freeway overpass.

Mike

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Re: Berkeley Farmers Market

Postby Hoke » Tue Apr 18, 2006 3:26 pm

Gee, Mike, isn't everything in Sacto under a freeway overpass? :lol:
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Re: Berkeley Farmers Market

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Tue Apr 18, 2006 4:01 pm

Hoke wrote:Gee, Mike, isn't everything in Sacto under a freeway overpass? :lol:


Well, there are a few things that over the underpasses.....

:D


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Re: Berkeley Farmers Market

Postby Stuart Yaniger » Sun May 21, 2006 8:46 am

The Sacto one was indeed surprisingly good!
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