The Ferry Building Farmers Market is a community celebration
San Francisco’s Ferry Building Farmers Market is considered one of the best in the country for its diversity of produce and the uniqueness of artisinal foodstuffs. Each week, its three markets attract 25,000 visitors, the largest one on Saturdays.
In the spirit of sustainability I gathered canvas bags, a trio of reusable mesh produce bags ($7.50 Bed Bath & Beyond) and stepped onto Metro’s 17 Express bus just before 7 a.m. to catch Caltrain at San Jose’s Diridon Station. From an upstairs seat overlooking homes and fruit-laden citrus trees I pondered the juxtaposition of graffiti-tagged warehouses and backyard tennis courts.
The Sunnyvale Caltrain parking lot was covered with farmers market canopies, a scene that would be repeated at the Belmont and Mountain View stations on Sunday. I envisioned a future in which our own little train would connect us with North Coast farmers at a Davenport market.
Cater-corner from the San Francisco station I hopped on the Muni’s T-trolley for a short ride down to the rejuvenated Embarcadero, disembarking just past the Bay Bridge. It was a short walk along the bay toward the clock-faced spire of the 1898 ferry building.
At the pier’s entrance, cooks griddled pancakes and French toast for the hungry hordes. I worked my way back to find the farmers. Like a kid in a candy store not knowing where to start, I waited at Healdsburg’s Downtown Bakery for a sweet glaze-drizzled, currant-studded hot cross bun ($2). I savored its flavors of ginger and orange peel as I took my first pass around the booths.
Purveyors, mainly from the North Bay, included our own Dirty Girl Farms. The line was long at Primavera Mexican where corn tortillas are made on the spot. The wait was even longer at Rolli Roti where rotisserie chicken turned on long spits in the back of the truck. There was Pea Sprout Pesto from a vegan-raw deli, sustainably farmed Tomales Bay Oysters from Hog Island Oyster Company, bags of multi-hued potatoes, goat summer sausage, eerily shaped mushrooms, and aromatic smoked fish. Marin Sun Farms sold fresh meat, sausages, and a stock kit complete with chicken feet.
From Napa’s Fatted Calf Charcuterie, I chewed on long fingers of old world sausage sec ($2). From the Coachella Valley came Flying Disk Ranch’s eco-dynamic dates. I chose big, dark, sugary Medjools ($8/lb.) and milder tan Zahidi ($4/lb.). I picked a hefty one-and-a-half pound Olympia brown-skinned Asian pear ($3.25/lb.); white-fleshed, crisp and sugary, and a thick-skinned one-pound grapefruit ($1.25/lb.) crossed with a pomello for sweetness. The strong flavor of Petaluma’s Point Reyes new blue cheese is perfect for salads. Also strong was Cowgirl Cheese’s organic soft-ripened Red Hawk that puts Camembert to shame.
Although the round trip ($31) cost more than driving, the reposeful ride was worth it. But I was dismayed to learn that Caltrain is considering discontinuation of weekend and Giants’ game service altogether on July 1, which is a huge blow to my personal environmental footprint reduction. Share your opinion at Fiscalcrisis@caltrain.com.
Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, Embarcadero and Market Street, San Francisco. Tuesdays and Thursdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturdays 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visit ferrybuildingmarketplace.com/farmers_market.php.