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Jul 28, 2007 08:11 PM

Shopping at Ferry Plaza on $3 a day … and other observations – bombolini?

I’m in my final 10 days of eating during the month of July on $3 a day. I started the Saturday after July 4th because I had plans that day and it would have thrown my meal plans off. So I’m just eating 31 consecutive days which throws me into the first few days of August.

So that gave me $30 to splurge at Ferry Plaza.

Let me just say that dinner tonight is
- Far West Fungi’s pink mushrooms with a piece of baguette
- Ella Bella duck tongue lettuce with their dry-farmed early girl tomato and All Star Organics’ amira cucumbers
- Everything under the Sun’s white strawberry peach with McGinnis raspberries … perhaps with a garnish of Heirloom Organics’ chocolate mint.
- Glass of white wine … the only average part of the meal

For $3 I will eat exquisitely.

First some comments about the stuff that was out of my price range but I either enjoyed a sample or it looked interesting …

Bombolini - Has anyone tried these Italian donuts at Boriana? They looked excellent with four fillings – custard, fruit, chocolate and something else I forget … I was at the end of my trek at this point and didn’t take notes. At $2.50 they were out of the scope of this week’s budget.

Bodega & Yerba Santa Goat Cheese – I sampled this … DIOS MIO !!! … that Natilla … the caramel sauce made with goat cheese is one of the best caramel things I’ve tried in my life. Why aren’t Chowhounds shouting the praises of this stuff? The vendor’s father makes it personally. Lovely cheeses all of them … especially the Queso Crema. All of them were good …. Queso Fresco, Queso Cabrero, Queso Casero, Requestor. It is nice to see artisan Latino cheeses.

Squash Blossoms were AMAZING this week. Yerena Farms, the strawberry vendor, had $3 baskets that some chef was snapping up. Another vendor had HUGE, perfect squash blossoms 2 for $1. If the right type of cheese had been in my budget, I might have indulged. Pretty, just pretty.

Eatwell Farm eggs – when did they start selling them? These are simply stunning-looking … all different colors and sizes. Prices run from $6 - $8 a dozen depending on size and you can buy half a dozen. Any opinions?

Tierra smoked, dried sweet red onions – Oh MY … what an amazing aroma … what an amazing price … $6 for a small bag … but I’m thinking these are probably one of those things that is worth the money … anyone tried them? How do you use them?

Happy Quail has lovely pimentos de padrone. The also have ‘white’ jalapenos. This time of year they let them develop a pink color and sweetness.

Hare Hollow: Great vinegars, the best of which was the ginger and blackberry balsamic which was intensely flavorful and had a lot going on. The lemon olive oil is the best I’ve had outside of Sciabica’s … true, intense lemon flavor.

Speaking of Sciatica, the Spring 2007 unfiltered fresh pressed olive oil looked lovely … the color of orange blossom honey. The grandson said nobody presses olive oil in the spring and this has a light unusual flavor. Also I asked about them selling at the Pleasanton Farmers Market. It seems they sell there in the winter until the Modesto farmers market opens. The grandmother is on the fourth cookbook and the grandson said it was great … he was jazzed about taking the pictures. He said that there are recipes for pie crusts with olive oil.

St. Benoit Meyer Lemon yogurt – Outstanding. Try it. You’ll love it. The honey was my next favorite. I didn’t think much about the plum.

June Taylor has an amazing apricot jam this year. It’s so good you just want to stomp your feet and dance. I thought the name would be on the website so I didn’t note it. Some sort of apricot variety I haven’t heard of before. Also there was one with rose geranium that was pretty incredible. The white peach was great as well. She has samples so you can decide.

Churro chicks – How are these churros from the two ladies who sell them near the parking lot close to Taylor’s. $2 and they seemed large.

Rancho Gordo had a bean that he seemed quite pleased with – Pebbles.

Don’t know how they taste yet but they are the most beautiful beans I have ever seen. They really do come in all sorts of colors and sizes like pebbles – white, black red, brown … but according to Steve they are a single variety of bean

Next two posts … The Strategy … The actual costs

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    I had in mind what I was going to buy … summer squash, stone fruit, Marshall’s honey, chard, some scallops from one of the fish companies, a little tea from Imperial tea …

    Nope … not one of those things.

    You have to go with the good prices.

    The stone fruit was stellar … but pricy compared to the new crop of apples Chard was small and not that appealing.

    Also, I wasn’t buying the biggest of anything. That small Gravestine apple is just as tasty as the larger, pricier one. There were some GREAT prices on melons … $1 lb for melons that were so fragrant they almost make you lose your senses … but I bought the tiny size … single or two serving size … little bigger than a baseball … the price for the melon was 50 cents.

    I was fretting a little about salmon chowder I’m going to make. The one thing that wasn’t fitting into my budge was herbs … the cheapest bunches were $1.25 … too costly. Then I notice Heirloom Organics is selling herbs by the pound and not the bunch … $10 lb … uhhhh … wait … herbs don’t weigh that much eh? I got a lovely bag of organic fresh mixed herbs … oregano, sage, sorrel, pineapple mint & chocolate mint … 50 cents… yes it was a small sprig or two of each … but enough for my needs. .


    These vendors sell excellent produce at fair prices.

    Howard McGinnis. He’s the Ferry Plaza hero. He has always been one of my favorite vendors in the market with consistently the lowest prices … a LARGE container of perfect strawberries - $2.50 … perfect raspberries - $2 … a generous bag of haricot vert $2. He always had the loveliest flowers at the best prices as well.

    God bless Mastrelli’s Delicatessen. They just earned a life-long customer who will throw beaucoup money at them once this report is over. I thought I’d ask for a few little pieces of this and that. They were gracious and treated me like I was spending a ton of money

    G.L Alfieri – not only the best prices for grapes in the market … $2.50 lb … the best grapes period. The nuts and dried fruit were reasonably priced.

    Little Organic Farm … did the impossible … stepped into the place in my heart vacated when Small Potatoes left … amazing … amazing potatoes for $2 lb … Rose Finn potatoes that have a pink blush .. intensely purple All Blue … bright Red Lasota … pretty Huckleberry potatoes … Ozzettes, Carola, Russian Banana … and much, much more. Berkeley Bowl charges more than this for heirlooms.

    Happy Quail Farm – for having lovely colorful bags of peppers for $3 … and for giving me a piece of rhubarb for free. Nice people

    Flying Disk – for cheerfully allowing me to buy 2 dates.

    Lucero for the best tomato prices at the market - $2.25 lb … Raley’s was selling tomatoes for more than that without the quality or variety.

    Everything Under the Sun – These guys are new to me Prices are amazing and the quality and variety are outstanding.

    Far West Fungi … for letting me buy 5 mushrooms and mixing up a $3 basket of pink mushrooms and baby shitake.

    Shogun Fish for beating the El Cerrito Farmers Market in terms of price for fish heads, tails and skeletons. Salmon and Halibut heads were 99 cents lb … this is from the same fish they are selling for $17 - $19 lb.

    Rancho Gordo … sure … WAY more expensive than the supermarket bean … however, for what you are getting in terms of uniqueness and quality … a good guy … and a bag of beans will last you a long time.


    Iacopi … $5 bucks a pound for BRUSSEL SPROUTS !!! The highest prices in the market with the dried beans close to Rancho Gordo’s in price but not quality. That was the big pull with Iacopi in the past … they weren’t the most outstanding vendor, but the prices were good. They should hang their heads in shame. It’s this type of vendor that gives Ferry Plaza a bad name.

    Heirloom Organics … some good stuff but they go into this category for selling beet tops for $6 lb … sure organic … but beet tops for heavens sake.

    Not so sure anymore: Marshall’s Honey. The jars are smaller; the prices are really a lot higher. The plan was to buy one of the straws of honey and drizzle it on food … but at $1 for a single straw … pass.

    There were also a few other vendors in the middle.

    People get blinded by the bright lights of the high prices of some vendors … the pricy jams, olive oils, fish, meats, coffee, pastries etc, etc, etc.

    However, looking closely … shopping carefully … you can buy a dazzling variety of produce that can’t be found elsewhere.

    I guess I’m in love with Ferry Plaza again.

    They did a good job of moving in some new vendors to replace the old. There is reasonable seating, though the inside of the building could use a few seats. Along the doorways there could be benches. When the crowds hit, there aren’t even seats in the restaurants.

    Speaking of crowds, my advice remains to go early. I spent more time at Ferry Plaza than usual … from about 7:30 am to 12:30. I really don’t see how anyone can shop there after 11 … the throngs are horrendous. I could not believe the line at Taylor’s Refresher. Even if it is that good … too long, too long.

    Besides, the unique little items are usually harder to find latter in the day.

    6 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      The actual costs

      0.65 – Amira, Market More and Divi cumbers from All Star Organics … I think (1.99)
      1.00 – Huge head of Romaine lettuce from Chue Farm … next to Market Bar
      0.35 – Red Mora apple from Devoto ($2.50 lb)
      0.75 – Three small apples from Apple Farm … forgot the names $1 - $2 lb
      0.50 – Small head of deer’s tongue lettuce from Ella Bella ($4.50 lb)
      0.50 – 2 Early Girl Dry Farmed tomatoes ($3 lb)
      3.00 – Basket of mixed baby shitake and pink mushrooms from Far West Fungi
      0.45 – 5 mixed brown and white button mushrooms ($3.00 lb)
      0. 20 – 2 Delgat dates from Flying dishk
      1.00 – Mixed red, green & black grapes from G.L. Alfieri ($2.50)
      3.00 – Bag of mixed peppers from Happy Quail
      0.25 – 1 pink jalapeno
      0.00 – Small stalk of rhubarb (would have been 30 cents … $3.99 lb)
      1.00 – Pink & Tart, Pearl Essence & red Gravestine from Hidden Star $3 lb
      1.25 – Mixed dried plucots, apricots, bing cherries, white peaches Hidden Star $9 lb
      0.50 – Oregano, sage, sorrel, chocolate mint, pineapple mint Heirloom Organics $10 lb
      1.00 – Corola, All Blue, Huckleberry, Red Lasota, Rose, Ozzette, Russian Banana potatoes from Little Organic Farm $2 lb
      0.50 – Supice, San Marenzo & some yellow tomato from Lucero $2.25 lb
      2.50 – Strawberries from McGinnis
      2.00 – Raspberries from McGinnis
      5.00 – Pebbles heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo
      0.90 – Salmon head from Shogun fish 99 lb
      2.75 – 3 house-made sausages from Mastrelli’s
      0.75 – four slices salami from Mastrelli’s
      0.50 – four slices of provolone from Mastrelli’s
      1.25 – small piece of parmesian
      0.35 – Ear of corn from Everything Under the Sun 3 for $1
      0.75 – Sweet Chelsea, Juliet, Green zebra tomatoes $3
      0.50 – Jade green beans .. forgot price per pound
      0. 50 – Anana melon $1

      TOTAL: 33.65

      Ok, ok … I went over by 3.65 … but that bag of Rancho Gordo beans will last me until next month and maybe beyond ... besides ... pink mushrooms ... for $3 a basket ... you gotta buy pink mushrooms, you know. There needs to be some small splurge.

      Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
      One Ferry Building, 200 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA

      1. re: rworange

        Boy, I love the Ferry Building but seeing those prices made me happy I went to the Western Addition Farmer's Market this morning. It's small and not all the vendors are organic, but there's plenty of parking and what a nice vibe, with good music and no pretense. Big bag of squash blossoms for $1.

        1. re: Laura2

          The big Mi Pueblo Food Center in Oakland had squash blossoms in bulk. I don't remember how much they were, but I remember thinking they were cheap.

          I've always thought Iacopi was too high, which is why I hardly ever buy anything from them. I almost bought some baby artichokes this week, but when I took a good look, I realized they weren't at all fresh, so I passed.

      2. re: rworange

        Here's more background and serving suggestions for Bodega Goat Cheese from the chowdown and celebration of Windy's birthday there 4 years ago.
        It's a regular at the Sebastopol farmers market on Sundays. Also, Mateo Granados uses the cheese in his farm market prepared food offerings.

        Bodega Goat Cheese
        Bodega, CA 94922, USA, Bodega, CA 94922

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Thanks for the links about Bodega Cheese ... August 11th ... my first weekend budget-free .. I am so back to Ferry Plaza for the Natilla (caramel sauce). I like the idea of dipping Gravestein apples in that. I'm also hoping that will be the second harvest of figs ... I'm thinking the Natilla with the Bodega crema with fresh figs would rock.

          Interesting that the Bodega cheeses are Peruvian influenced.

          1. re: rworange

            Their natilla is wonderful with Granny Smith apples; it's the one thing that can get me to brave Ferry Plaza on a Saturday. (Plus it's located next to Della Fattoria).

            The fresh feta is delicious too.

      3. I've snipped the Tierra smoked onions into little pieces with kitchen shears, and sprinkled them over pizza.A little bit goes a long way. --PR

        2 Replies
        1. re: Prabhakar Ragde

          Thanks for the the suggestion. For my life beyond the budget I picked up some colorful and pretty Castellano Trecce Dell'Orto pasta at Berkeley Bowl. It is pastel pink, yellow, salmon, green pasta with black squid ink pasta too. The colors come from tomato powder, spinach powder, red beet powder, basil powder, carrot powder and tumeric.

          When I go to FP August, I think the smoked onions would be nice tossed with this pasta and Sciabica’s 2007 Spring olive oil.

          1. re: Prabhakar Ragde

            The Tierra smoked onions are wonderful; I've been using them for years. They are great in soups to lend an earthy, smoky goodness if you don't have/don't want to use a parmesan rind or some sort of smoked pork. I also made a wonderful vegetarian torte milanese once using these onions in place of ham.

            And yes, a very little goes a loooong way.

          2. Tried the nutella and raspberry bombolini . I thought they were great, tender and light with just enough filling. I'd get them again in a heartbeat.

            1. Does anyone know if the bombolini are offered on other days? I thought I saw nutella the last time I passed the table.


              5 Replies
              1. re: soft tofu

                Yes, I see the bombolinis on weekday mornings on my way to Peets. They do have Nutella, custard and raspberry.

                1. re: lmarie

                  Thanks!!!! I can't wait to try one of each.

                  1. re: soft tofu

                    I tried a chocolate one this past Saturday. Good. And if you happen to shop on the later end, prices drop a lot. At 3pm, they were half off or buy 3 get one free. Clear they were just ready to see them go. They were out of the nutella and rasberry at that point.

                2. re: soft tofu

                  I managed to pick up a raspberry last week. It was actually quite a scene; Choctastic and I were second in line when they were loading up. An elderly man behind us was quite perturbed that they were taking so long loading the carts when the display cabinet were obviously already full and ready to sell. It took literally ten minutes. As soon as they opened to sell, a woman jumped in front and ordered a whole box and a fight almost ensued. I tasted Choctastic's nutella, but I preferred my raspberry.

                  Worth the $2.50!

                  1. re: Carrie 218

                    I had the nutella one today and it was excellent -- incredibly indulgent, bulging with nutella, and addictive. I'm not even much of a donut person, and I could have gone for a second one.