May 4, 2017 § Leave a comment
Weather-wise, things have been just a bit too Seattlesque for my taste this spring. Now that we’ve (hopefully) seen an end to the seemingly endless rainy, grey days, it’s time to get outside and enjoy our fine Bay Area weather.
May is one of my favorite months in the 650, not only because our usually fine weather settles in and days are longer and sunnier — but also because all of our neighborhood farmers’ markets are back in full swing. While we don’t lack for year-round markets in the 650, some neighborhood markets, such as Los Altos, Palo Alto Downtown, and Half Moon Bay close during fall and winter. For those of you who might have been missing your local market, the wait is over!
Here’s the list of markets re-opening in May.
|Market||Opening Date||Market Day|
|Half Moon Bay||May 6, 2017||Saturdays|
|Los Altos, Downtown||May 4, 2017||Thursdays|
|Palo Alto, Downtown||May 13, 2017||Saturdays|
|Pacifica, Rockaway Beach||May 3, 2017||Wednesdays|
|San Mateo, W. 25th Avenue||May 2, 2017||Tuesdays|
|South San Francisco||May 6, 2017||Saturdays|
April and May are a transitional time at the market as we’re seeing the last of “winter” produce, such as root vegetables and citrus, and the arrival of beans, peas, and stone fruit.
If grocery shopping isn’t on your agenda, farmers’ markets are a fun place to grab a meal and enjoy the sunshine while people watching. Just a few examples from my recent visit to the Palo Alto Sunday market on California Avenue: dim sum, grilled meat sandwiches, bahn mi, sushi, and homestyle Mexican dishes with handmade tortillas. There’s something interesting to taste whatever your food preferences.
Need to know which market is when? Following is handy-dandy list of all farmers’ markets in the 650, with 2017 opening dates. Click the market link for more info, such as location, parking, and vendors.
|Belmont||Sunday, 9am – 1pm||Year-Round|
|Daly City, Serramonte Ctr.||Thursday & Sunday,
9am – 1pm
|Half Moon Bay, Shoreline Station||Saturday, 9am – 1pm||May 6 – Dec 21|
|Los Altos, Downtown||Thursday, 4 – 8pm||May 4 – Sep 30|
|Menlo Park||Sunday, 9am – 1pm||Year-Round|
|Millbrae||Saturday, 8am – 1pm||Year-Round|
|Mountain View||Sunday, 9am – 1pm||Year-Round|
|Pacifica, Rockaway Beach||Saturday, 9am – 1pm||May 6 – Dec 21|
|Palo Alto, California Ave.||Sunday, 9am – 1pm||Year-Round|
|Palo Alto, Downtown||Saturday, 9am – 1pm||May 13 –|
|Palo Alto, VA||Wednesday, 10am – 2pm||Apr 12 – Oct 25|
|Redwood City, Kaiser||Wednesday, 10am – 2pm||Apr 5 – Nov 22|
|Redwood City, Downtown||Saturday, 8am – 12pm||April 15 – Nov|
|San Carlos, Laurel Street||Sunday, 10am – 2pm||Year-Round|
|San Mateo, College of SM||Saturday, 9am – 1pm||Year-Round|
|San Mateo, W. 25th Ave.||Tuesday, 4 – 7:30pm||May 2 – Oct 10|
Now get out and support your local food system; meet the people who grow your food and nourish our communities!
Tell me: what is/are your favorite farmers’ market(s) in the 650?
October 14, 2015 § 2 Comments
The issue of food waste has gone mainstream. Back in July, John Oliver covered the topic during an episode of “Last Week Tonight.” And last month, the USDA and EPA got in on the act, issuing a national Food Waste Challenge. The goal? To reduce food waste in the US by 50% by 2030. Already the challenge has received buy-in from major food retailers, as well as food industry and charitable organizations (although no formal program is in place yet).
Much of what’s reported and discussed in the media targets food waste at the consumer level: the food we buy and never eat, the science-experiment leftovers in our refrigerators, and the edible bits we toss out, like carrot greens and cauliflower leaves. But the consumer end is just one aspect of the food system in which food waste occurs. Food waste happens at all points in the system, literally from farm to table. According to the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) report, “Wasted,” the total loss for fruits and vegetables at the production level is about 20%, (“production losses are greatest for fresh produce”) and from post-harvest to retail amounts to about 14%.
The type of waste that occurs on large, commercial farms often involves leaving behind fields of edible product to serve supermarket requirements for size and beauty. The amount of fresh food wasted in this way is staggering.
But what about local farms in the 650, many of which are family owned and already focused on sustainability? How can a small farm — reliant on farmers’ markets, restaurants, and CSA subscribers for sales — manage and reduce food waste, while growing a business? I had a chance to ask John Vars, who is a partner-farmer of Fifth Crow Farm in Pescadero (along with co-partners Mike Irving and Teresa Kurtak) during FCF’s CSA Open House farm tour in August.
You don’t see the kind of prettying-up waste that has happened on large, commercial farms. In terms of what Fifth Crow takes to market or provides to CSA subscribers, it’s the whole product harvested from the tree or bush or out of the ground. You’ll see the occasionally blemished or odd-sized fruit, extra-large heads of cauliflower, root vegetables with their greens still attached, and even roots-on basil.
Farmers’ markets are one of the less-predictable retail outlets for local farms. Market sales can be affected by weather, time of year, and customer tastes, just to name a few of the variables. Estimating market demand and producing “the right amount” is an on-going challenge for any growing food business. You don’t want to disappoint customers by running out too quickly, but you also don’t want to end up with too much unsold product that you might have to take home with you.
One step in reducing food waste from farm to market then, is getting good at estimating your customers’ demands. Fifth Crow Farm currently participates in six Bay Area markets weekly, in addition to providing farm products to restaurants and CSA subscribers. With six years (now closing in on seven) of growing seasons behind them, the Fifth Crow folks have enough data and experience to better predict and plan what they take to farmers’ markets.
While they’ve gotten better at estimating what to take to market, inevitably there are items that don’t sell. In line with their sustainable, community-based approach to business, Fifth Crow handles leftover market products by:
- Donating to community organizations that are able to pick up product directly from the market
- Returning unsold produce to the farm and offering it to the employees, at no charge
- Using it as food for the farm’s pasture-raised chickens (which produce some of the best eggs I’ve had recently)
John mentioned that the partners especially like being able to offer the unsold products to their employees. In addition to paying a fair wage, it’s another way they support the employees’ hard work throughout the season.
So that’s how one local farm is doing it right: taking a multi-pronged approach that benefits the land, the community, and the farm as a business. Have you asked your local food producers and retailers how they’re reducing food waste? What did you learn? Share your experience in the comments below.
October 1, 2015 § 4 Comments
The tiny town of Pescadero (pop. 643, as of 2010) in southern San Mateo county is probably best known for Duarte’s Tavern, a long-standing institution established in 1894 and lauded in Sunset Magazine for its now-famous artichoke soup. But there’s so much more to experience in Pescadero, as I learned this past summer.
Historically important in San Mateo county’s development, Pescadero was part of the original stage-coach road system, taking travelers south from San Francisco to the coast.
Equally important for the 650 is that Pescadero has been a fertile area for farming and ranching in San Mateo county since the 1860’s. Today we’re lucky to have sustainably raised food from Fifth Crow Farm, Root Down Farm, Pie Ranch, and Harley Farms Goat Dairy, to name a few. Some of these farms are supplying San Mateo county’s best restaurants, while also selling their products directly to consumers through farmers’ markets, farm stands, and CSA programs.
When the Bay Area’s first round of super-hot weather descended in early June, I took that as a sign to head down the coast. A trip down Highway 1 is often a crapshoot. Microclimates being what they are here, a 30-minute drive across Highway 92 and over to the coast can take you from a siesta-inducing, 95 degrees on the mid-peninsula to a better-bundle-up, foggy 63 degrees on the coast. You just don’t know for sure until you get there (and it’s all part of the adventure, so bring extra clothes)! Fortunately, the day I headed south for a Food Day in Pescadero (the first of two), I lucked out with comfortable 70-something-degree temperatures that were enough to burn off the fog and expose the rugged beauty of the San Mateo county coast. My destination? Harley Farms Goat Dairy in Pescadero.
Harley Farms Goat Dairy is a restored 1910 property located just about a mile west (inland) from Downtown Pescadero, right before the intersection of North Street and Pescadero Creek Road. The scenic route takes you through Downtown Pescadero, a cute don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it town with a surprising array of places to indulge in food and beverages. Stop and explore, if you have time. If you decide to bypass downtown and keep going west on Pescadero Creek Road, just know that the only entrance to the farm is on North Road (you’ll be able to see the back of the property), so you’ll have to take a sharp left there and backtrack a bit.
Keep an eye out for the cream-colored buildings and goat sign hanging outside the shop.
Park along the road, near the shop, or look for the Parking sign just past the metal tanks (near the large eucalyptus tree).
The scenic nine-acre farm is primarily a working dairy that houses 200 alpine goats for milk and cheese production. The property also includes a barn, orchard, colorful garden, and shop where visitors can taste and purchase the farm’s products. The enchanting hayloft above the shop is the site of farm dinners and parties and offers a stunning view of the property and surrounding hills.
The farm is open year-round for private and public tours, retreats, and events. Guided tours, which must be booked in advance, take visitors around the property to view the farm in action, visit with the goats, and learn about the cheese-making process. The farm offers public tours on weekends, and you can easily book through the website. There are options for family tours (with kids) or adults-only tours (no kids). A word of advice: book early because tours and events book up quickly, especially May-October. Harley Farms will also work with you to create your own private tour or event. Corporate retreat? Birthday dinner in the hayloft? A farm tour with your extended family? Contact the farm directly for more information and availability.
Even if you roll up without a tour booking (as I did on a random weekday), you can still enjoy the public spaces, view the gardens, watch the goats in their pens, and taste the farm’s award-winning products in the Cheese Shop.
The farm produces feta, ricotta, fromage blanc, and of course, chèvre. The fromage blanc, which has the texture of a soft, light cream cheese, is available plain or with flavor accents such as garlic and herb or tomato and basil. Pro tip: the tomato-basil fromage blanc pairs perfectly with the freshly baked artichoke bread from Arcangeli’s Market in town.
Harley Farms chèvre is a classic goat cheese with a firm, but creamy consistency. It crumbles when chilled and spreads like cream cheese at room temperature. The Cheese Shop offers several sizes of chèvre, from cute “buttons,” perfect for tasting, to must-share rounds and logs. Flavor-wise, you can choose plain chèvre or dressed-up options topped with chopped apricots and pistachios; cranberries and walnuts; or pretty, edible flowers from Harley Farms gardens (aka, the award-winning Monet Cheese).
I tried them all, but my hands-down favorite, however, is the Honey Lavender Chèvre. The sweet-herbal combination is well-balanced and complements the earthy goat cheese flavor. While it’s delish on a cracker, I found that the complex flavor combo is a perfect addition to a pretty summer salad of fruits, greens, and edible flowers. It was so good, I had to make a second trip to Harley Farms later in the summer for more Honey Lavender Chèvre.
The shop also sells assorted sweet treats (handmade truffles and goat-cheese cheesecakes), bath and body products, and gifts.
A small and vibrant part of the San Mateo farming community, Harley Farms is a worth a visit. Book yourself a tour, bring along some picnic supplies (or stop into Arcangeli’s Market for that artichoke bread), and make a day of it.
Have you visited Harley Farms Goat Dairy? Or a goat dairy in your local food system? Share your experiences in the comments below.
What: Harley Farms Goat Dairy
Where: 205 North Street, Pescadero, CA 94060
Farm & Shop Hours:
January-February: Mon-Thu 11am-3pm; Fri-Sun 10am-4pm
March-December: 10am-5pm, every day
Closed Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Years Day
Parking: Street or lot
July 1, 2014 § 4 Comments
How did you mark the official arrival of summer? Did you barbecue at home with the family and neighbors? Take your kids to the park for a picnic? Pass a leisurely afternoon day drinking with friends on the patio of your favorite restaurant? Whatever you did, I’ll bet it included friends or family and food!
I get a little giddy when I think of all the wonderful, fresh food that’s available from our gardens and local farms this time of year — which you could probably figure out from my recent posts about local stone fruit and coastal strawberries. We’re so fortunate to have fine weather and a long growing season here, but also a culture that values growing, making, and sharing good food.
So how did I mark the official start of summer? With some delicious food and fine cocktails, of course! CUESA’s Summer Celebration at the Ferry Building on June 22 was the perfect summer kickoff party. The event, which benefits CUESA’s educational program, celebrated the bounty of summer produce with small plates and handcrafted cocktails created by some of the city’s best chefs and bartenders. (There were also fresh nonalcoholic libations: juice blends and shrubs.) Each plate or beverage was inspired by one of six categories of summer produce — or “culinary families,” as CUESA calls them:
- Grains and legumes
- Leaves and flowers
- Stone fruit
Most of these food families are probably familiar to you — especially berries and stone fruit. Alliums and cucurbits might be less-familiar names, but you’ll recognize their family members. Allium, the latin name for garlic, includes all varieties of garlic and onions, including shallots, leeks, and scallions. But what the heck are cucurbits? (Ok, am I the only person who hears Bill Cosby’s voice saying “Riiiiight. What’s a cucurbit?”). The cucurbit family includes vine-growing produce, which are botanically classified as fruits: squashes, melons, and cucumbers.
More than just a tasting event, CUESA’s Summer Celebration brought together farmers, chefs, beverage crafters, and food lovers of all kinds from around the Bay Area to taste, savor, and learn. While you might know CUESA as the people who put on the Ferry Building farmers’ markets, much of what CUESA does involves educating consumers about sustainable agriculture and local food systems. (Want to know more about their mission? Check out their site.) The Summer Celebration included a variety of fun and creative educational games to teach attendees more about each culinary family. (An added bonus for food geeks!)
Santa Cruz’s Dirty Girl Produce had a gorgeous display of alliums and challenged attendees to an allium “sniff test.” Could you tell the difference between onions, leeks, shallots, and scallions with just your sense of smell? Not as easy as you might think! I had a chance to test my berry knowledge by spinning the Wheel of Berries to answer a berry trivia question. My prize? Yum — a tasting of fresh berries! However, one of my favorite games of the evening was “What’s Your Stone Fruit Name?” (I won’t tell you how it works, but there’s not much skill involved). For the rest of the evening I was “Flavor King,” and my date? “Golden Blaze.” We wrapped up our game-playing at Grains & Legumes Jeopardy, rocking the Grains category, but stumbling on the Legumes. Looks like I need to brush up on my legume facts, but it was fun all the same.
The event was also an opportunity to connect one-on-one with food growers, such as Frog Hollow Farm, Sierra Cascade Organic Blueberry Farm, Star Route Farms, and Dirty Girl Produce. I learned some “Fruity Facts” and talked food waste solutions with the Frog Hollow folks, who grow some of sweetest, most flavorful peaches and apricots in the area. I got the lowdown on how Sierra Cascade’s farmer, John Carlon, created a sustainable farm by understanding and working with the synergy between the blueberries, bumblebees, and gophers. And I experienced edible blossoms and leaves (oh my — Meyer lemon blossoms! Floral, perfumey, sweet, and citrusy, with a bit of crunch.) at Star Route Farms’ beautiful display.
There were so many delicious creations to try, but here’s the short list of favorite tastes from the event.
The Sweet Onion and Tasso Ham flatbread from Il Cane Rosso doesn’t look fancy, but it’s so flavorful and craveable. To me it was like a next-level nacho plate. The flavors paired well, as did the contrast between the crispy flatbread and the tasso ham. Even thinking about it now is making me hungry.
Most of the handcrafted cocktails showcased locally produced spirits — and gin seemed to the spirit of choice. I’m not a gin fan, but this cocktail of raspberry, lemon, bitters, and No. 29 gin was a favorite. Plus, it had a super-cool (pardon the pun), large ice cube.
Everyone I talked with listed “the pork belly” as one of their top tastes of the evening. 1760’s tasting spoon paired rich pork belly with a sweet berry compote. A bit of bad planning on my part, as I tasted this one later in the evening, not leaving enough time to round back for seconds… or thirds…
And this is why I love tasting events: being surprised by something unexpected! I was thinking “yeah, yeah, stuffed squash,” when I saw this plate, but this stuffed squash from Bluestem Brasserie was delicious!
I was holding off tasting most of the desserts until later in the evening, which meant that I missed out on a few — and maybe that worked out for the best. Yigit Pura’s Panna Cotta was worth it, and he has restored my faith that there is well-made, creamy panna cotta in the world. Perfect summer dessert: light, balanced, fruity. Trust me, if I weren’t so full, I would have eaten two more.
Grains & Legumes
Andrew Court’s Ancient Grains & Seaweed Salad was another surprise of the evening, which is why there’s no photo of the plated dish. (Sorry, you’ll have to make do with this fancy copper baby bathtub full of the grains and legumes used in the salad.) I pretty much inhaled it once I tasted it. The grains were perfectly cooked, the seaweed added a bit of umami flavor and crunch, and the dressing brought it all together. Deliciously healthy, and yet indulgent at the same time.
Leaves & Flowers
Here we have the first gin cocktail of the evening, and it might have changed my opinion about gin! This one, made with the 650’s own Rusty Blades Gin, was probably my all-around favorite. Again, not a gin fan, but Rusty Blades reminded me more of an aged whiskey and was really tasty with a bit of sweetness. The cocktail was summery, citrusy, and floral, and garnished with a pretty flower. Loved it!
Smoked salmon? Yes, please! I thought Gaspar’s English pea and chive blini would be nothing more than a delivery device for the salmon, but I was so wrong! This bite pulled together the sweet flavor and soft, creamy texture of the blini with the smokiness of the fish and the herbal accent of the chives. So good!
If you’ve read past posts, you know that Campo de Ecanto Pisco is regular in my home-bar lineup. Pair that with Frog Hollow Farms apricots for Rye on the Road’s Pisco Apricot Tropical, and wow! Yes, I’ll be doing some major “research” to reverse engineer this one at home.
Last, but in no way least, was A16’s Stone Fruit & Roasted Beet Salad. The beets and fruit played perfectly together, while the yogurt and nuts added texture and flavor. The kind of salad you could eat all summer long!
Did you attend CUESA’s Summer Celebration? What was your favorite drink or small plate?
November 25, 2013 § 4 Comments
At the start of the weekend, I got this text from a friend: “I’m getting some serious grilled carrot cravings! Are you open on Saturday for Vesta?”
Carrot cravings? You might be thinking: “Who has carrot cravings?!” And if you knew what a serious meat-eater my friend is, you might be even more surprised, but Vesta’s grilled carrots have put a spell on him. I, on the other hand, tend to be more of a veggie fan, and yet I was already thinking about Vesta’s signature Sausage and Honey Pizza. (If you know me, sausage is not usually part of my repetoire, but the pizza is that good.)
That’s the kind of restaurant Vesta is: the food is so tasty that maybe you’ll just try a bite of this or that, and you end up eating the whole dish. Not that that’s happened. Much. Anyway… I digress. I think it took me all of three seconds to reply with a “Yes!!”
Vesta, open since summer 2012, stands out among Redwood City’s newer restaurants. Owners Peter and Courtney have created a neighborhood place that is family-friendly, but also good for date night, with a can’t-go-wrong menu of salads, small plates, and — of course — handmade pizzas. In addition to the regular menu, Vesta usually has at least one seasonal salad, small plate, and pizza that showcases the season’s best produce.
My friend’s craving for grilled carrots was waylaid by a seasonal special of grilled pears. Imagine, if you will: grilled pears (yep, flip ’em over to see the grill marks!), halved, basted with a balsamic reduction and served with a generous portion of burrata. Perhaps a bit rich, but at the same time, tangy, tart, sweet, and creamy. The dish is perfect for fall; it’s upscale comfort food.
Next up was the dish I’d been craving since it returned to Vesta’s menu several weeks ago: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with pancetta, onions, and garlic. The sprouts were slightly sweet and tender-crisp, and the pancetta was an added bonus.
The planned highlight of the meal — as if our two small plates weren’t enough! — was the signature Sausage and Honey pizza. And then our server enticed us with a well-played description of the seasonal pie: butternut squash, sausage, pickled red onions, crispy sage, mozzarella, and ricotta. He had me at crispy sage, or was it the sausage? Either way, we were sold!
As with the appetizers, the pizza hit the spot with complementary textures and flavors. The sweet softness of the butternut squash, the slightly spicy sausage, the tart and crunchy pickled red onions, and the accent of crispy sage. Delish!
I ate as much as I could for a small person (who had already shared two appetizers), but offered up the final piece to my friend suggesting, somewhat jokingingly, that he eat it for breakfast. Yeah, apparently it didn’t last that long. It was that good.
Have you tried Vesta yet? If not, you must go! If you have, share your favorite small plate, salad or pizza from their menu.
2022 Broadway, Redwood City, CA 94063
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 11am-10pm (open all day)
Check the website for holiday closing dates.
November 15, 2013 § 5 Comments
Every summer my next-door neighbor, a retired widower, grows tomatoes along the white picket fence that separates our yards. Since his wife passed away several years ago, his grown daughters help with the gardening now. They tend to the roses and other plants along the fence, too, but it’s the tomatoes that take center stage from late spring until mid-fall.
From the time the seedlings are planted, I get regular updates on the tomato plants’ progress: how many plants went in this year, when the first blossoms appear, and when the first batch of actual tomatoes might be ready for picking. This year’s crop included beefsteaks, romas, and adorable orange and red cherry tomatoes. (One of his daughters calls these sweet little babies “pop-em’s” because “you just pop ’em in your mouth.”)
We have a good exchange going, my neighbor and I. He gets apricots from my 70-year-old tree in the late spring, and I get tomatoes from the his prolific plants in late summer. He generously insists that any tomatoes on my side of the fence are mine for the taking, whenever I want. Those on his side are for The Sauce he makes and cans with his daughters in the fall. Friends and family are the lucky recipients of The Sauce, and I am grateful to be included in that group.
If I don’t take enough tomatoes during the height of summer, he’ll make sure I get my share. I’ll pull into my driveway, and just as I’m getting out of the car, he’ll emerge from his backdoor to quiz me from across the fence: “Are you taking tomatoes?” If it’s early in the season, and I say “not yet” or hedge a bit, he’ll pull a few perfectly ripe red beauties from the plants on his side of our white picket fence and insist I take them, handing them across the fence. Sometimes I’ll arrive home to find a few tomatoes waiting for me on the landing outside my kitchen door.
As the summer wore on, I finally learned to keep fresh mozzarella and basil on hand for impromptu insalata caprese. On nights when I wondered what to pair with my favorite little gem lettuce, I could just slip out the back door and grab a handful of pop ’ems to add to my salad.
Just as I was getting my groove with the local tomato supply, summer and the tomato harvest came to an end — all too quickly, it seemed. My neighbor had stashed his harvest in fridges and ice chests until it was time to make The Sauce with his daughters. I made do with the last few pop ’ems that hung on my side of the fence. Sure, I could still buy tomatoes at the local farmers’ markets for another few weeks, but they’re not quite the same as my sun-warmed, white-picket fence tomatoes. I’m already looking forward to next year’s crop.