22 July 2008

Tales from San Francisco: Food

I feel pretty lucky to work near the Union Square Greenmarket, and to belong to a CSA, and to commute through Grand Central where there is a branch of Murray's Cheese, but San Francisco is a pretty good town for eating.

I mentioned to a local friend that I wanted to go check out the Ferry Terminal and its farmer's market; she said she'd take me. Then she called back and said "no, I want to take you to where the locals go". So Saturday morning, we hit two markets.

First up was Alemany - a funky swath of stalls in the shadow of the freeway, complete with fresh tamales, live chickens, and a sea of divine produce. Every fruit seller was offering tastes - each peach was better than the next. There were piles and piles of bitter melon, both smooth bumpy and prickly bumpy. We had tamales for breakfast; my friend bought plums ($1/lb) and tomatoes ($1.50/lb) and basil ($1/bunch) and garlic.

Then we went to the ferry terminal. There was more cheese, more prepared foods, and some of the same produce vendors. But the same glorious peaches? $3 a pound. The tomatoes? $3.50. The ferry terminal is the high rent district.

I did buy some Recchiuti salted caramels for my husband (read, for me.) And we got coffee, plain drip coffee, from a stand that defies logic.

I'd heard about Blue Bottle; they were written up in the Times about six months ago, because of their decadently expensive Japanese coffee siphon. The ferry terminal stand doesn't have the fancy machinery - instead, they're making individual cups of drip coffee. That is, one at a time. They've got an array of tea kettles on burners, six in a row. The coffee person uses the hot water out of the rightmost kettle, and then moves them all over one at a time - and refills the leftmost one. Adjacent to the kettle operation is a rack holding eight ceramic cones. One by one, paper filters are placed in the cones, each filter is dampened with hot water, a prodigious amount of ground coffee is added, and the coffee person begins to pour the boiling water. One cup at a time.

It took rather a while to get our two cups of drip coffee, which was only $2. Given the amount of labor that went into it, $2 was a bargain. The coffee was stronger 'n all get out, but good. Drinkable black good.

The only thing that would have made it all better? Time in a kitchen with all that great stuff.

20 comments:

mindy said...

That is one cool and crazy coffee-making contraption. ;)

needleinahaystack said...

first of all, I definitely want to make plans for you to come over one night for blogging advice!
second, omg--I love the food out there! My sister lives in Los Gatos and they have one of the most amazing farmer's markets. Being so close to the San Joachim (sp?) Valley they get all the good produce and most never reaches us in NY. Also they have the artichokes from the shore areas. Like our LI potatoes the fields are near the ocean and they are 100 times better.

flutter said...

mmmmm foooood

Julie McCoy said...

An excellent summary of the weekend. I'm so glad you *got* it. And I am thrilled that you were entertained by Blue Bottle. It is something you need to see to believe....
And now you understand why I can ship produce to you from SF and pay more for postage than I do for the food.....

Vered said...

Mmm... salted caramels. Sounds interesting.

Kyddryn said...

Oh, I would dearly love to have some of that coffee - it sounds loverly!

Georgia has some mighty fine peaches, but I just bought some California peaches at the grocery (I don't know where there's a local farmer's market, and I hate to drive for more than an hour to get to one!), and paid $2.00 a pound for them. Worth it.

What a delightful gustatory ramble you had!

Shade and Sweetwater,
K

slouching mom said...

next time, take me with you on your "gustatory ramble," okay?

zellmer said...

This is totally unrelated.
I just wanted to say I love your George Bush countdown.

the mama bird diaries said...

And I went to the San Francisco Starbucks? Oh crap. I really missed the boat.

noble pig said...

Yeah, the terminal is expensive...but it's so fun to go there.

The coffee...strange.

Angeline said...

What an eye-opener from this trip!

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I've never seen bitter melon; I'll have to look for some.

julochka said...

that sounds fantastic! going back to simple coffee after all of the latte madness. i love it!

MadMad said...

This sounds better than Blogher! I would have been dyin', though, not being able to buy any of it to cook with! We have a farmer's market at home, and it always kills me that it's on Thursdays, because we're away most weekends, and so I can't buy much of it. They're still there for the early fall, though, so I take more advantage of it then. Still, I love to go look at the stuff...

Cecily said...

Dang, I so could have used some of that coffee at BlogHer. Heh.

It was great to meet you, I must say. Totally awesome!

Sober Briquette said...

I like that show "After Hours with Daniel," and when they went to California for a season, I just about died during every episode when they'd go down to the fresh market. As much of an East Coast gal as I am, I was just about convinced that California is paradise.

Except for the parts that are pure hell.

Defiantmuse said...

yeah, I'm with slouching mom. I would've so been down with that.

I'm lucky that up here we have about 4-5 farmer's markets a week and the local food scene is really great. Lots of good organic veggies and Humboldt also has one hell of a coffee and microbrew scene as well.

mmmm.....good food....

it was great to meet you last weekend, btw. :)

womaninawindow said...

Oh, to travel and see interesting people and places. I mean, all the 10 or 12 locals around here are interesting but new people might be a little refreshing.

TBTAM said...

MAGPIE-

Thanks for the link to the Yiddish survey - I took it. Very interesting...

As is this post. I love SF, and will enjoy reading your blog more.

ophelia rising said...

I just read about the Union Square farmer's market in Eating Well magazine. It's making me want to live in New York. Yes, we have lots of local farms and CSAs and farmer's markets about, but nothing like that one.

Your trip sounds heavenly.