East Bay Underground Market Report
Thought I'd share a few of my thoughts from this past Saturday's Underground Market in Oakland. For those who haven't heard, the Underground Market is put on by ForageSF to showcase cooks who don't have a commercial kitchen. A lot of the food is clever, innovative, and unique. Some of it, however, is somewhat unappealing. Much like any farmers market, only cooler and more subversive.
These were the standouts from the crowd:
- Laar's Bars. This stand featured delicious, healthy, high-energy bars. They had chocolate and vanilla, but I fell in love with the chocolate. I ordered a number of them and haven't been able to stop eating them. They're made out of chocolate, flax, spelt, nuts, and peanut butter. Delicious, high in fibre, and great for breakfast. Website: http://www.laarsbars.com/
- Jerk. Made by Obrian Matterson, this Jamaican food stand features its eponymous dish. It was pretty good Jamaican food, and excellent Jamaican food for the Bay Area. They had dark and light meat chicken, slaw, and rice and peas. My only wish is that the jerk were spicier. And they didn't have any hot sauce to pump up the temperature.
- California Cane & Fruit Co. This stand sold sweet, spicy sugar cane juices. They said that they bought their sugar cane from local farms in the Central Valley — who knew that California grew sugarcane? They offered small cups for $1, or medium-sized sealed plastic jars for $3. The jars also had the option of small flavoring, like lime or ginger. I had the ginger, which was deliciously spicy. It went very well with the Jamaican food. Website: www.calcane.com
- Cooper Cakes. This stand had cupcakes made by Lisa Cooper, who apparently is a bit of a local celebrity in a local Williams Sonoma. When prevented by her kid's local school from making cupcakes because they were unhealthy, she experimented to come up with a recipe that was, in fact, healthy. What results were amazingly delicious cupcakes made out of spinach and blueberry. You seriously could not tell that they were not made out of anything but flour and sugar. Pretty damn remarkable. Website: www.alittlejudy.com
I can't wait for next month's!
I also went on Saturday night, and managed not to try any of your standouts, but I had some standouts of my own. In general, I was really impressed with a lot of the findings there, and two of us managed to fill ourselves up on about $20 worth of food.
My favorites were definitely City Smokehouse, the pulled pork and brisket guys, and Immaculate Confections, with the liquor drenched cakes. By the time I got to the pulled pork, they weren't doing sliders anymore because they had run out of buns, but they sold me a plate of the meat, a mix of the two. And wow, that was great meat, so while I'm sure it was really good in the sliders, it was delicious to taste it on its own. Both the pork and the brisket were full of flavor and smoke and super moist, with a kick from the sauce and the seasoning. The two cakes that I tried were vanilla and rum pound cake with a brown butter glaze and chocolate kahlua cake, she also had a bourbon (orange?) cake that looked great. Both cakes were delicious, moist, and made it easy to taste the flavors without any of them being overwhelmed. I could have eaten another piece of each.
I also liked the mini cupcakes that were healthy...which after reading your last note above were from Cooper Cakes -- my sister is still raving about those. The mac and cheese that I tried from the upcoming Homeroom (formerly Little Mac) was great, I got the one with hot dogs inside and chips on top. I wanted to try the raclette, but the line was always super long.
Oh, and I tried the salted caramel truffle from a stand whose name I can't remember now -- it was okay, but not caramelly enough. It's unfair, because I judge all salted caramel truffles by Recchuiti, but that's just how it is.
Unfortunately, I don't eat pork or beef so the smoked meat section was out of bounds for me, but I kept hearing people rave about it. I was also really excited to try the raclette, but was put off by the GIANT line.
Were Immaculate Confection's cakes actually alcoholic, or just alcohol-flavoured?