Saturday, January 22, 2011

Journal: Ferry Building & Farmers' Market

For two Saturdays in a row the weather in San Francisco has been glorious. With that, I headed out this morning...and what did I discover as soon as I entered the Ferry Building? Pepple's Donuts.  My mind was blaring with conflict: OH YES! (more scruptious treats at the Ferry Building! Doughnuts, doughnuts, doughnuts!!! and OH NO! (I can NOT afford to eat like this!) 

Well, it turns out that Pepple's is organic and vegan. Does that make them wholesome? You betcha.   They could be  some of the healthiest doughnuts on the planet. In any case, the two that I tried today are certainly among the best doughnuts I have ever had. I think I like them better than Dynamo.

I tried Pepple's two most popular flavors, Salted Caramel and Candy Cap.  Indeed The People know! These doughnuts were stop-in-the-tracks yummy. 

Salted Caramel. (A bit bruised from the beets I was also carrying.)

Candy Cap. (Ditto. A little battered. Smooth and pristine at time of purchase.)
I could not believe these doughnuts were vegan...I do they do it?! Unlike most doughnuts, these had none of that yucky doughnut aftertaste that lingers and lingers.  The doughnuts themselves (plain) are so good that they could be quite tasty with just a sprinkling of powdered sugar. Yes, the icing on these puppies really are the "icing on the cake"--a bonus. Salted Caramel is topped with a sprinkle of rock salt, and Candy Cap has a frosting that tastes like maple butter.  

Candy Cap doughnut, bissected

Other flavors offered today included Matcha Green Tea, Kaffir Lime Leaf, Mango Chili as well as conventional favorites such as vanilla glazed, cinnamon sugar and chocolate.  Oh boy.  $3 a doughnut.

I have never paid so much for a doughnut, but these are not Dunkin' Donuts, or Entenmann's, the toxic kind I grew up on.   

My next stop at the farmers' market was Primavera, my traditional first stop. Their lot has expanded and they have a new sign from the last time I was there...early last summer.

I passed up on my regular order of chilaquiles (with beans and perfectly scrambled eggs) for a single tamale, thinking I would be feasting more later. Their tamale was succulent, as usual.  Hot and moist without being greasy.   The salsa verde was really spicy! 

Next stop was the Downtown (Healdsburg) Bakery for some fig newtons (FNs). These are the best and biggest FNs I have ever had. The outside is firm cake and the inside is a soft, almost gooey fig center with a strong mincemeat flavor.  These cookies could be called mincemeat newtons.  $1.25 each.

Huge for a FN

My last stop was serendipitous.  I was all done shopping and was about to head out but could not resist a bit more food-prowling.  So I flitted inside the Ferry Building until  I ran across a cart filled with scones and squares of chunky coffee cakes and met the hospitable owner of California Coffee Cake Company, Nancylee Hawkins.  Among her repetoire are cakes like Cranberry Butter Crunch, Butter Orange,  Chocolate Death, and an even more dangerous-sounding Double Chocolate Orange. She also features  coffee cake classics such as New York style crumb and cinnamon crumb.

Chocolate chip scones

Almond cake mini-loaves

Pecan scones
When asked, Nancy said her bestseller was her blueberry scone. So I took one home with me.

Blueberry scone
The scone tasted comfortingly familiar. Not because I have had something similar at cafés but because it tasted homemade. The texture was something between cake and a more typical (eg dense) scone. Nancy said that her products can be found in places that serve Blue Bottle coffee, and I think the two would  make for a power couple--a wonderful flavor combination. The scone pairs well with tea too! I can't wait to try her New York style crumb cake...

The visit to the California Coffee Cake Company was an uplifting one to end my food trip today.  As lovely as the Ferry Building is, not all the sellers seem happy to be there. Understandably, interacting with swarms of people, who carelessly touch and handle the products that have demanded your blood, sweat and tears can take a toll...and make you lose faith in human nature.

I doubt I could work at the farmers' market for this reason!

This is why my hat goes off to those who are kind and pleasant anyway.  My patronage will too. 

Bloody Good Citrus

I tried my first blood oranges last Saturday at Leonard's at the Menlo Park farmers' market. June,  a former-farmer who was polishing tangerines there, suggested these oranges when I asked her what was good that day.  I had my doubts...I have not had much curiosity about blood oranges, assuming they would be very tart.  But Leonard promptly offered me a sample, and I was just as quickly sold.

What I tasted was juicy, gentle sweetness...and...cinnamon.  

Very possibly my new favorite citrus.  They are round and sized like baseballs with orange exteriors that look like maybe they were scraped with red paint.  

These do not look at all friendly to peel, so I just cut them into slices. I think there was just one seed in each fruit I tried.  

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Saturday Ferry Building & Farmers' Market

Not to be overshadowed by the Good Food Awards event, the legendary San Francisco Ferry Building farmers' market, looked gorgeous as usual.

It was also showing signs of spring, which was certainly in the air yesterday...though it had to have been just a tease since it is only mid-January.

Inside, at Far West Fungi,  mushrooms were having their usual fashion show.

Out in front of the building was neighboring Oakland's Scream Sorbet whose flavors change as do the selections at the farmers' markets.   Scream has recently been featuring such flavors as Almond Pink Peppercorn, Carrot Ginger, and Coconut Kale.

Sadly, I cannot remember the (French) name of this bakery. But I will get it on my next trip (soon).  Located  outside and in front of the Ferry Building.  Pretty pretty profiterole:

Look! It's Marmaduke! You know you're at the farmers' market when you see a dog as gorgeous as Angelina Jolie, or in this case, as big as a race horse.  Impressively poised, he attracted celebrity-level attention wherever he strut.

T'was a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Inaugural Good Food Awards

The Good Food Awards Marketplace
San Francisco

Could you have asked for a more beautiful or delicious day in the middle of January?

Winning apricot jam from Happy Girl Kitchen in Pacific Grove, CA which also holds workshops in preserving food. Topics include sauerkraut, marmalade, kombucha, pickles and yogurt.  


By late morning, the sun was beaming from above, and we were bathing in temperatures into the 60s. The food gods must have gotten together and decided to bless the Good Food Awards' event at the Ferry Building last night with a burst of spring and good cheer in this otherwise gloomy month.

The purpose of the Good Food Awards is to recognize superb food produced using local, organic, sustainable, and humane farming methods.

While I tried a number of scrumptious award-winning items (announced Friday night),  I found most exciting the opportunity to chit-chat with the farmers and producers to learn about their work.

Noble Coffee from Ashland, OR was started by a former Spanish teacher. The company is about 1.5 years old. 

Before coming here, I had not known the difference between dry and wet-processed coffee, or that 85% of the world's cocoa is harvested in Africa while only 1% of chocolate is made there. I had also never considered that pickled vegetables were high in probiotics.

Gingered Rhubarb Jam from Deluxe in Seattle, started by a former Amazon cookbook editor.

The purveyors really seem to make it their work's mission to produce goods using methods that actually benefit the local economies and social environments of their respective locales. Although some of the companies I saw are already established (eg Cowgirl Creamery, Blue Bottle Coffee), many were fledglings, defined here as those who have started up over the past few years or whose names are hardly (yet) known outside of their local communities. Like their products, these companies tend to have websites with a warm, homemade touch to them.  Photos in their "About Us" section are often of them smiling or out in the trenches. The CEO, customer service, ordering, and selling departments are often all the same person(s).  Accordingly, these producers have the fresh, sincere enthusiasm of fledglings which was evident in their smiles and the way they greeted me on this day.

Need a wake-up call? Cultured, from Berkeley,  has atomically spicy Spicy Oregano Purple Carrots.  

Brussels sprouts' relish from Ann's Raspberry Farm of Fredricktown, OH has a U-pick raspberry farm and sells in four local farmers' markets.

Firefly Kitchens of Seattle, which touts the probiotic and other health benefits of fermented foods, sells at local farmers' markets and a few of the city's specialty stores.

Ellelle, of Pasadena, harvests berries from San Luis Obispo and won for its  Central Coast Raspberry jam. 

Spirit Creek Farm which won for it's purple sauerkraut, is run by a charming couple from northern Wisconsin who live on a 70-acre farm. Their three young children participate the making of their products.  

Oh Man.  Of the chocolates we tried, my friend Jane and I liked this one best. It was the flavor combo of salty and sweet, no high quality chocolate.   From Charles Chocolates of San Francisco.   

Milk chocolate from Madécasse chocolate of Brooklyn.  Madécasse produces everything locally, including the wrappers. On the website, you'll find a cool and informative two-minute video with the chocolate stats listed earlier in this post.  The company HQ is in Brooklyn.  Founded by Peace Corps volunteers.  Blissfully smooth milk chocolate, 44%.
Tubs of water in the charcuterie section.  

Dry cured coppa from Gum Creek Farm, hailing from Roopville, GA. Doesn't look like they have a website yet, but they're on Facebook.

A buttery and nearly melt-in-your mouth triple cream Red Hawk from Cowgirl, Even Cowgirl Creamery had a table featuring its winner,  even though it has a large shop inside. 

Oregon's Ancient Heritage Dairy is located in the foothills of the Cascades.  Their sweet motto is: "Raised with respect, nourished to nourish you." 


I wondered yesterday where the vendors would be.  They were right in front of the Ferry Building, beneath the awning, grouped by category (chocolate, coffee, pickles, charcuterie and cheese--there was no beer):

Each vendor had a sign (on reusable media) stating the name of the winning product, company and state it comes from:

The Good Food Marketplace was an awesome place to taste-test dozens of products from all over the country in their pure forms, without accompaniment. So there were mini-cups of black coffee, squares of cheese, jam on tasting spoons, slivers of pork, and bites of sauerkraut. But no milk or crackers or hotdogs to go with them. Some of the jam vendors served their products with crackers or bread but most did not.  I therefore found myself needing time in between tastings (easily remedied by chatting), before I felt like I wanted to taste more.  For example, despite that I am a chocoholic, I  found myself needing a break after a few tastes since I didn't have any milky coffee or tea to go with it.

Therefore, I felt I wasn't able to taste some of the products at their full potential or as they were intended.  I am sure the pickles would have been terribly satisfying next to a sandwich, the kraut extraordinary on a hotdog, and that any of those coffees insanely good with steamed milk.   Alas, as my coffeehead brother reminds me, you simply cannot get a true flavor of the products with accompaniments. Yes, I get it. But I'd never sit down at the table with only a hunk of cheese or just a platter of kimchee (as much as I love both) and nothing else...and so some of the tastings required a bit of imagination for me.  

One of the jam places offered samples of their product with spreadable cheese, and that was the one I was most tempted to buy.

I did not get a photo of Nicasio Valley's cheese, but were I to do it all over again, I would have. Their cheese stood out, even after I had tasted a whole bunch of others in a row.

All vendors had samples and products for sale.  Prices ranged, but were considerably higher than you'd find at Trader Joe's or most supermarkets.   For instance, there were eight-ounce bags of coffee selling at $13, and jars of jam going for $30.  Given that, $8 for a 3.9 ounce chocolate salted cashew bar (Charles' Chocolates) seemed like a good deal (but this could be because I have a special bias for chocolate).  

Alas, it is not inexpensive to support producers like these.  But, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for.  Here, you are getting superior quality product in every way: taste, and sus-org-respo-localness.   Plus, you are supporting people who are passionate about and take responsibility for their work.

Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese from Uplands Cheese Company,  in Dodgeville, WI.  This cheesemaker reassured me that relations between California and Wisconsin cows are at peace.  No war going on.  :-) 
Congratulations to all purveyors. Let these awards bring you recognition and take you far. 


Friday, January 14, 2011


The Good Food Awards

It will be mobbed...but, it's a three-day weekend and it's going to be in the 60s! 

How they will squeeze the producers of 71 winning foods into that space that is the Ferry Building (and environs) area is quite puzzling. Even on a normal Saturday morning, the place is packed with vendors and people--omg--it's like an ant farm squared, especially in the summer. 

As I browse and elbow my way through, I will be on the prowl for salted caramels and milk chocolate.

Looking also for heartbreakingly good coffee and preserves that sing.

More later.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


I spotted this last week at Whole Foods, and I succumbed this week. Have yet to try it.  But how would it compare to the taste of Reeses' Peanut Butter Cups?

Peanut butter and chocolate spread.  Curious...
And then there was this friendly note and Italian candy enclosed in a package from Big Dipper Wax Works, where I recently purchased some sale candles. "...thanks for ordering with us!" the handwritten receipt said, "I included some candy to sweeten your day..." 

Candies by Ambrosoli

An appreciated, friendly touch absent from purchases made from say,

MP Farmers' Market Bulletin - Did you say "spring?"

At last! Some sun this morning. Climate wimp here was starting to wilt. Haven't been to the Menlo Park farmers' market in a few weeks.   There, mingling behind their beautiful counter of kale, chard, beets and lettuces was the ever-friendly contingent from Coke farms.

Spring onions

I asked Pam, one of the farms delightful regulars, if they had scallions today and she pointed out "spring onions," which looked to me like scallions but thicker in girth. They also looked like they had on purple stockings. Like their name, they looked like spring.  Someone say spring?

Lavendar and lime green--the colors of spring in spring onions.

I needed scallions for a one-pot pilaf I am making, which I will be eating for four nights in a row since I am too lazy to make anything else.  Leave it to the sun and the farmers' market to lift my spirits this morning.  :-)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Baklava Blizzard at Work!

The first week back to work from the holidays was sweetened with Middle Eastern treats.  It was as if the office had had some kind of storm while we were away of phyllo and pistachio sweets.  We had boxes and plates of this stuff around, provided by visitors to our department.  I'd not predicted such a sweet forecast upon returning to work!

Ossmalleya with pistachio

Crazy about Middle Eastern food (eg I am a baba ghanoush and hummus addict), I jumped on the photo and tasting opportunities...

Ballourie with crushed pistachio

These gorgeous treats came from two sources: Shatila, a bakery in Dearborn, Michigan, anAbdul Rahman Hallab & Sons, a bakery in Lebanon (bottom half of post, pictured with paper).


These photos are closeups making the sweets look bigger than they are. They are, on average about an inch-and-a-half around, I'd say. 

Burrma with a different kind of nut center.

The package from Shatila contained a small bag of minced pistachio, which--it is a shame--sat in the corner of the box unused.  You are supposed to sprinkle that on top of the treats.  Ignorant, and guilty as charged.  The bit of green would have looked lovely atop Mini Roses, below:

"Mini Roses"

Many of them contain nuts, and have a distinct butter flavor.  As a munch-bound co-worker pointed out, even in these bite-sized pieces, you can totally taste the butter.  Many of the sweets are also flavored delicately with rosewater.   


"Finger" was one of my favorites.  Layers of delicate Phyllo lightly sweetened with syrup.  It's like baklava, but not as dense or heavy. (Yes, I am on a sugar high, but I am consciously changing up the spellings of these desserts to reflect the regions they came from.)

Abdul Rahman Hallab & Sons' Barma (Lebanese version)
The pistachio barma from Abdul Rahman Hallab had chunks of pistachio in it, and had a toasted, crispy outside.  The pastry seemed held together by a honey goo.  But it was hardly sweet at all. 

Barma, another variety.
This nuts in this barma I think were almonds (slivered).  This one too was hardly sweet.
What's light as a feather, oily to the touch, and super flaky?


Baklawa from Abdul Rahman Hallab was my favorite of all. Like Shatila's "Finger," it reminded me of the baklava (or baklawa) you see in Middle Eastern restaurants in the US, but without the syrupy heaviness.

Having been bombed with chocolate cookies, biscuits and chocolate-covered fruit before Christmas, and now this...I can't fathom how we will get through the rest of January, and the dark and rainy months of February and March without these special treats...