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Jul 24, 2009 07:45 PM

A tale of two counties: chowhounding in East Bay and Marin

A visiting friend and I spent much of today in food-related activities. We started at the Old Oakland Farmers' market, where we sampled a wide variety of fruits and other goodies. At ScreamSorbet we got the Charentais melon and the cucumber mint, which is different and surprisingly delicious. I was happy to learn that the guy who makes the half-sour pickles and other Eastern European goodies was there, as I'd only seen him before at Mountain View. Finally, we bought a selection of berries from Rodriguez farms -- golden raspberries, blackberries and raspberries at $2 a basket or 3-for-$5.

Then we walked over to Chinatown and bought buns a Ruby King -- it's sort of reverse sticker shock to transition from booths selling $2 samosas and $3.50 cupcakes to spending 55-85 cents on buns (chicken and BBQ pork) and tarts (egg custard and coconut).

Finally, we walked back to the car and stopped into the two African/Caribbean markets on 8th -- one of which featured about eight different kinds of yams.

Then we headed over to Marin to meet with Lisa Hamilton, a woman who has written books and articles on the subject of sustainable farming, farmers markets, etc. It was interesting talking with her -- she's familiar with chowhound but didn't know about the discussions that rage on the not about food board on various topics in her field.

On the way, since we were running early, we stopped at the Mill Valley farmers' market (Fridays, 9-2, on E Blithedale where what looks like and old Albertson's is being converted to a Whole Foods). It's such a contrast to Old Oakland, which has less organic vendors but a much wider variety of Asian produce. Even more interesting, Rodriguez was there, with the same selection of berries, but they were exactly twice as expensive ($4 basket 3-for$10)! Know your audience, I guess! There was a raw chocolate maker from Emeryville I hadn't seen before, and Cowgirl was there, but it's a pretty small market.

After our meeting we browsed around Mill Valley a little, checking out but not buying at the gelateria and the cupcake place. Then, since I rarely get over to Marin, I decided we needed to check out some of the premium ice cream in the area. I was headed for Three Twins, but when I called Melanie for directions she suggested we head to Fairfax Scoop instead. As usual, Melanie was right: it's amazing ice cream, possibly the best I've ever had. I had the brown sugar pecan and the Latin Jazz (bittersweet chocolate with chile) and they were both fabulous. My friend had the honey vanilla lavender and the Mudpie and they were all perfectly balanced: the flavors were smooth and well-rounded and the ice cream was rich but not so much that the butterfat overwhelmed the flavorings. To cap the experience, it was relatively cheap: $2.60 for a "single" with two small scoops of different flavors, in a house-made waffle bowl -- half what we paid for two slightly smaller scoops at ScreamSorbet. Highly recommended!

Finally, we came back by 80 and stopped at Berkeley Bowl West. My friend wanted to pick up some locally made chocolate (Charles Chocolates and Tcho) to take back home, and I wanted to buy some more bulk Valrhona -- in the cheese section. The Valrhona 40 percent cocoa solids Jivara has a lovely smoky finish, and at $16.99/lb it's a lot cheaper than buying a 75 gram bar for $5.95 at my local chocolate pusher.

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  1. Thanks for the report Ruth. Wow your first time to Fairfax Scoop? I think it's good too. Next time try to stop at Fat Angel just up the street if it's open. I remember their chocolate chip cookie being really good.

    Does Ruby King still have egg tarts for like 3 for $1?

    Fat Angel Bakery
    71 Broadway Blvd, Fairfax, CA 94930

    Fairfax Scoop
    63 Broadway Blvd, Fairfax, CA 94930

    Ruby King Bakery Cafe
    718 Franklin St, Oakland, CA 94607

    Mill Valley Farmers Market
    205 Tennessee Valley Road, Mill Valley, CA

    Old Oakland Farmers Market
    9th St and Broadway, Oakland, CA 94607

    Berkeley Bowl West
    920 Heinz Ave, Berkeley, CA

    2 Replies
    1. re: hhc

      Fat Angel was closed when we got there -- they close at 4 p.m. I think the egg custard tarts at Ruby King were 55 cents.

      As a postscript, we decided that after eating mostly carbs all day we needed some protein, so we went over to Mi Pueblo and got one of the chickens the grill out front -- it was delicious!

      Mi Pueblo Food Center
      1630 High St, Oakland, CA 94601

      1. re: hhc

        >Next time try to stop at Fat Angel just up the street if it's open<

        Definitely. I usually start with their Farmers Market scone (not sweet and like nothing I've ever had before) and finish with something sweet. Fat Angel is one of the best bakeries I've ever been to. I also fully agree about Fairfax Scoop; the best.

      2. Ruth: so glad you made it to Marin and even as far as Fairfax where the gem Fairfax Scoop is happily found, and I third the Fat Angel rec. Shannon, the baker/owner is a talented and hardworking woman who was the sole employee when she opened putting in 3am to 3pm days. She is now successful and we get to eat the results.

        As for farmer's markets, the Mill Valley branch is the newest and still finding its legs. If you have never been, the Sunday morning and Thursday morning Marin Farmer's Market flagship branches are world-class. Not always the same vendors at both--Sunday is 1/3 bigger but Thursday has Full Belly Far, for example. And if you ever feel nostalgic about 1966, come the the Wednesday afternoon Fairfax branch of Marin Farmers Market and get a hit of what it was like. There is a Pizza Politano there, Roli Roti (of course) and our own Fat Angel Bakery has a booth. See you there??