The Gourmet Ghetto, the North Berkeley neighborhood where I grew up, wasn’t the first spot to get a Farmer’s Market in Berkeley, in fact, our Farmer’s Market (Thursdays from 3 to 7 p.m.) was one of the most recent to be added to the schedule.
I think we do hold the title for “Most Annoying Farmer’s Market” though. Where to begin? While I am guessing that all of the Berkeley Farmer’s Markets make you pay 25 cents for their biodegradable plastic bags, I only visit this one, and when you are buying something messy, like strawberries, that you don’t want oozing all over your canvas, re-usable shopping bag, it’s annoying.
Of course we all have these canvas, “I’m a good person” tote bags for our overall purchases, but what if you want a smaller bag to say, contain your tomatoes? Remember to bring your own plastic bags or pay through the nose, suckers!
Flacos, the vegan Mexican food stand, is not to be missed though. They make a tamale, stuffed with potatoes, olives, and who knows what else (doesn’t matter — it’s vegan) that is simply delicious, especially with their handmade avocado salsa. They have recently moved from a Farmer’s Market-only operation to having an actual restaurant — a very positive development because as far as I can tell, they have the corner on the market on vegan, handmade, authentic and fabulous Mexican food.
Another Berkeley Farmer’s Market gem is Hodo Soy Beanery, a fabulous local purveyor of homemade soy products. John Scharffenberger, formerly of the chocolate, discovered Hodo much as I did, except he decided to get involved (he’s their current CEO) and bring their wonderfulness to the world. How good is their stuff? I used to ask my Dad to bring me their soy jerky every single week (he was a farm boy and he couldn’t pass up a Farmer’s Market near his house). Every single week, he’d buy me the soy jerky — which to be fair looks nasty, although tastes sublime — but every week he’d pick a fight with me about it. Yet, I continued to demand the jerky! It was worth the strife.
One of the funniest moments on Hot in Cleveland, that newish show on TVLand that features Betty White, Valerie Bertinelli, Wendy Malick, and Jane Leaves, was when the glamorous LA transplants (played by those last three) return from the Farmer’s Market in Cleveland, complaining that all they found there was “fruit and vegetables and stuff farmers grow”!
I feel their pain. I probably wouldn’t go to the Farmer’s Market as often if there weren’t artisanal treats such as those mentioned above — and many more. On the other hand, I could do without the musical accompaniment. You’re going to have to take my word for it when I tell you that Didgeridoo Guy is the least annoying musical act there.Other highlights? Frog Hollow Farm’s jams, Pasta Pacifico’s breads and cookies (sure, their pasta is good too!), Bernie’s best cider from Pomo Tierra Farms in the Anderson Valley, Ici gourmet ice cream…and I could go on and on.