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New Farmer's Market-Little Italy SD

There was a great thread going on Farmer's Markets and it vanished: I guess pulled by the zealots for being promotional. (Someone had asked for advice on forming a new market, and I made a mistake asking her to let us know when it was up and running. . .when will I learn?) But there was such great feedback and questions, I'm taking a chance to resurrect some of the ideas that were flowing. I love the new Little Italy Farmer's Market (Saturday mornings) and believe that as it grows it could surpass Hillcrest as a source for great produce ( organic and otherwise beautiful) and maybe even meats and fowl. My chefman and I had patronized at least 8 other markets, until we found this one. It's not perfect, but it has its plusses. Easy to stroll and see all the vendors. Parking not great but not impossible (take quarters for meters). 3-4 organic produce vendors, including Sage Mountain. Bread & Cie, Opera pasteries. Smoked salmon, lots of food vendors. And great situation: the street overlooks the harbor and there are lots of cafes nearby. It FEELS like a real market rather than a social happening. I'm a negative San Diegan, in general, but if we push for a Farmer's Market with real farmers, ranchers, poultry- and dairypeople then maybe, just maybe, we'll get one.

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  1. I was wondering where the posts went! I just wanted to get you advice from the people that have seen all of the areas markets....we're required to be a non-profit. We want to do best by the growers. We're just provide the space and volunteers-we aren't paid. Thank you pickypicky- your advice and observations are spot-on.

    BCFM

    2 Replies
    1. re: BCFM

      My chefman thinks I'm nuts bothering with Chowhound; thinks it silly posturing and everybody jes' lookin' for what's new to brag about. I believe in its own way, Chowhound can Educate and Create Good Taste, and lord knows, San Diego needs more of that. I think your post was fine, BCFM. The fault was mine for asking you to keep me posted on your market, but I'm just guessing. Maybe this thread will rev up some more good stuff on farmer's markets. Hillcrest has always been considered SD's best, and I went dutifully, but when I've visited other farmer's markets (in Northern California, Texas, North Carolina) and have seen the real turnout of local farmers, well--

      1. re: pickypicky

        Maybe he's confusing CH with Yelp ;-)

        I didn't think there was anything wrong with the other post either - how else are we supposed to find out what's going on?

        As far as your thoughts on the markets - the best thing to do is go to the ones we have - it's the only way more people will see the wisdom of selling there!

    2. that lost thread provided me with quite a bit of new information, sorry they felt the need to take it down. thanks for resurrecting it pp. BCFM, I really admire your pure intentions and goals in establishing this new FM. You will be a little too far for me unless we plan to make a day of it (which we may sometime in the fall), but you initiated a great and passionate conversation about a topic that is so important to many of us. Thanks pp, for extending it - and turning me on to some new perspectives.

      1. I'm so glad you posted about the San Diego farmers' market. Here in the SF Bay Area, I love our farmers' markets and wait each year for my favorite produce to come into season and to get them form some wonderful and friendly farmers. Nothing like fresh unbruised white nectarines, a whole box of fresh blueberries, heirloom tomatoes (without processor contamination) and fresh field greens (without processor contamination). Anyhow, enough about the health pluses of shopping at small scale farm stalls - I'm really excited to check out the new farmers' market you spoke of in San Diego. When we go on vacations these days, we google for farmers markets on our route. My kids and I love them. Its an important part of our vacation and food experience. It also leads us to on-farm farm stands run by the market farmers. Some of those have been out of this world. (Hmmm......There was that pie place near Whistler, and that ice cream "farm" near Parksville (both in British Columbia); and at the markets, the crepes and melons in Paris,....The berries at the U District market in Seattle.....and roasted corn in Boulder, CO..mmmmmmm!).
        Thanks for posting! Do you know what time the San Diego Little Italy market closes on Saturdays? We'll be getting into town that day.

        21 Replies
        1. re: kabocha

          The Little Italy market is open until 1:30 on Saturdays.

          I'm so sad I missed the farmers' market thread from last week - being a market fiend, someone just told me I should check it out, but I was a day late I guess. Is it lost and gone forever? Anyone want to do a reader's digest condensed version, free of whatever sin got it pulled?

          1. re: sandshark

            Someone had posted asking for what CHers like/don't like about farmer's markets because he/she is in charge of starting a new one in Bonsall. So we all posted our likes/dislikes. We all liked lots of farmer representation; want to see more organic vegetable selection; more organic meat and poultry; more great bread. I wrote that I like markets where you can stroll freely and see vendors on both sides, not jumbled like at OB and LJ. I wrote that we used to patronize Oside, which we liked well enough, when we lived up there, but had one-night-standed it here in SD, flitting from market to market never satisfied with one-- until the new one in Little Italy which seems promising. I recommended Dale the Honey Man to the Bonsal person. And said I prefer Bread and Cie breads or anybody who doesn't package their baked goods in plastic. (B&C and Opera are at Little Italy among others.) But I think what happened was that I asked to be alerted when the new Bonsall market opens and they yanked it for solicitation. All I can figure. I was excited because the Bonsall mkt promises artisan cheeses (!) and organic meats and maybe even some wine merchants(!) and that's all I can remember of what I wrote. Oh, and others wrote in to say they agreed with me, that foodstuffs trump giftie/jewelry/craftie things. That Farmer's MARKET is better than Bazaar. And yes, there needs to be room to accomodate all those baby strollers. Sandshark, put your 2 cents in now!

            1. re: pickypicky

              I want the SF Ferry Building farmers market. Nothing else compares or satisfies quite like that one.

              The DD
              http://www.astrofood.net
              http://thediningdiva.typepad.com

              1. re: DiningDiva

                Funny. That's how I feel about SD restaurants but not about the Farmer's markets. I mean, sure, of course, I want the Ferry Building too, but since I live in America's Finest City, I'm grateful to any hard-working provisioners who bring their beautiful food to our so-called "Farmer's" Markets. I'm a little harder on SD restauranteurs, maybe because they charge more.

                1. re: pickypicky

                  Unfortunately, some of the local produce here doesn't compare to the Ferry Building farmers market in variety or overall quality. Nor do any of the prepared food vendors even *begin* to approach the Ferry Building. Even the prices were lower.

                  Being harder on the restaurants than the farmers markets doesn't make a whole lot of sense since many of the restaurants get their goods from the purveyors that frequent the farmers market. Why is it "good enough" for the farmers market, but not "good enough" for a restaurant? Ya lost me on this one.

                  1. re: DiningDiva

                    Couldn't agree more on everything you wrote.
                    I think it is even more important for a region to have access to outstanding ingredients/produce/meat than have outstanding restaurants. Often a region only gets more and more outstanding restaurants if the quality of the produce improves significantly. I think the quality of the produce has improved in SD over the last seven years I live in this town and so has the quality of restaurants. But I also feel that recently the quality of the produce is kind of stagnating for some time.

                    1. re: honkman

                      The best produce in this region goes to LA, because the market is there. SD farmers deliver straight to Santa Monica where the reps buy for restaurants here. SD simply is not a gastronomy center yet, even if we do have Chino's, which, imo, is a boutique. Just look at our average grocery stores! Von's, Ralph's, Henry's?! I have never seen a grocery store more unappetizing than my Clairemont Von's. Any town in Texas, including my mother's small town, has a grocery with better produce and meats than any grocery in SD besides Whole Foods. I won't argue with you about the paucity of original, authentic restaurants here -- but when you have a California populace without easy access to the state's bounty for home cooking-- well, how can you expect the city's restaurants to be that good? Good taste begins at home.

                      1. re: pickypicky

                        "...but when you have a California populace without easy access to the state's bounty for home cooking-- well, how can you expect the city's restaurants to be that good?" - But that was pretty much point. You need easy access to high quality produce and meat to improve the overall situation (for restaurants and home cook) which is not the case in SD. (e.g. Jay from The Linkery wrote here or in his blog quite a while ago about his problems to get the meat he wants, I so often look for common fresh herbs like ramson, chervil, savory, certain cuts of meat and hardly find them in SD).

                        1. re: honkman

                          I know his problem. My chef man has the same one. However, partly to blame is the status referencing on menus now. "Niman Beef" etc. The worst steak I ever had was a Niman Ribeye in a Texas restaurant, which says more about the restaurant than the beef. If I'm served a terrific tasty bowl of stew, I don't care where the beef came from. Yes, it's sad we can't eat all the dry-aged beef we want, but when a restaurant can learn to make magic out of the local ingredients at hand, then we'll have real San Diego cooking. IMHO.

                          1. re: pickypicky

                            "The worst steak I ever had was a Niman Ribeye in a Texas restaurant, which says more about the restaurant than the beef."

                            Why? It could simply have been a less than stellar piece of beef. Unless you were in the kitchen and saw the raw beef, how it was handled and prepared, you don't really know if the fault was with the beef or the restaurant.

                            I'm not trying to be argumentative (and I don't think Honkman is either). I think we both do understand what your basic point is, but it seems contradictory. Electronic media, and e-list such as this are so flat that some messages and intents don't really get conveyed the way they are really meant to be. I suspect that's what's happening here.

                            1. re: DiningDiva

                              Well, since I was there and was eating all the other food being served, and since I know good food from poorly prepared food, I must say that the steak was poorly prepared. You'll have to take my word for it. Here, we all love good food. We all want more good food in SD. We all have our opinions on how to get it. For now, I'll repeat visit any restaurant I like and any farmer's market that offers me the food I deserve.

                    2. re: DiningDiva

                      Sorry, I got carried away. What I mean is, I'll support ONE vendor at a farmer's market, just to keep him/her coming. I'll make that weekly trip, and feel I'm helping improve the quality of food here. But I won't support a restaurant that's inconsistent or overly-ambitious or more cleverly decorated than it needs to be.

                      1. re: pickypicky

                        But coming back to DD's argument - why are you willing to accept that just one vendor on a farmer market is good and most others are average but not doing the same for restaurants in SD. On CH you often critize many restaurants (and that is good and I often agree and do the same) but in comparison your are surprisingly wary with critizism with regarding vendors whereas I think they are equaly important (if not more) for the quality of food (in restaurants and at home) in any city and should be scrutinized by customers (and on CH) at least as much as restaurants.

                        1. re: honkman

                          because I'm a loyal, sentimental softie. If a farmer/vendor has bothered to grow beautiful organic produce: drive the distance: then come and set up at the market regularly-- I 'm a sucker. He/she has my full support. I do the same for any restaurant that doesn't overpromise at my expense. I'll even support an average restaurant, if they treat me well and have at least one decent dish on the menu that remains consistent and good enough for a pleasant meal. Yes, I am too critical which comes from having lived too many other places to accept SD propaganda.

                  2. re: DiningDiva

                    Absolutely right...the SF Ferry Building farmer's market is the benchmark. And even though Henry's is pretty good, San Diego needs a grocery story with the selection, quality, and great prices of Berkeley Bowl...but without the quirky Berkeley shoppers.

                    Man, that place was like a freak show.

                2. re: sandshark

                  www.chowhound.com/topics/541456

                  Apparently something to do with those rules none of us read but agreed to. They pulled specific comments, not all.

                  1. re: Cathy

                    Thanks for the recap, picky. I love the Ferry Farmers' Market myself, and a couple of Seattle markets. I live in Little Italy and I like the way that market is developing. More farmers and real food, less kettle corn and trinkets. Meat, more fish, wine and more cheese, plus more really great food (not gyros - not that there's anything wrong with that) to eat there while we people watch and it could be just about perfect. Yup, room for baby strollers and wheelchairs, and (ducking because I know some folks hate this) I like the dogs being there. It's just all part of a real life scene.

                    1. re: Cathy

                      Cathy, that thread was just one of the OP's. There were two, and the police pulled the other one.

                      1. re: pickypicky

                        Oh, right. I remember now. Sorry.

                        FWIW, I have been to the teensy FM in City Heights the last three Saturdays (have had business in the new buildings on University) and each week the market as well as the clientele has gotten larger. Lots of Ethiopian cooked foods and activities.

                        1. re: Cathy

                          We tried that one-- and liked the smells of the Ethiopian cooking, but alas, not enough produce to draw us regularly. But if it grows. . .

                          1. re: pickypicky

                            Seriously. Three Saturdays in a row and this most recent one was like a whole new place compared to 3 weeks ago. It was very surprising to me.

                            There was something going on at the Police Station - kids and parents lined up at a table outside...but many more vendors-took up one entire parking aisle and almost half of the second aisle.

                3. I have also heard that the new Bonsall CFM will be aiming for a true CFM/gourmet cooking perspective? We'll definitely be heading up to North County on Sundays to see!

                  1. I am looking forward to a Sunday morning in Bonsall. I usually go to the Vista market but sometimes I am not ready by 11 am.
                    i hear there will be a cheese vendor (same as Vista), olive oil, and meat. I am looking forward to the meat and olive oil.