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Good Sources of Great Stone Fruit, Especially SF/Peninsula?

Five years or so ago I got some wonderful Santa Rosa plums from Bianchini's Market on Alpine Rd. in Portola Valley. I have not managed to find anything of that quality since, though I'll admit I've tried mostly stores rather than fruit stands or farmer's markets. I am particularly interested in plums and peaches. I have gotten some decent stone fruit at Berkeley Bowl but the Santa Rosa plums I got there weren't all that great and it's a long way from my mid-Peninsula home. I have checked some other threads and Sigona's is already on my list to try. I would appreciate other suggestions, especially which vendors at which farmer's markets on the Peninsula are most likely to have great plums and peaches.

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Berkeley Bowl
2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

Bianchini's Market
3130 Alpine Rd, Portola Valley, CA

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  1. They don't have the super-premium stone fruit I think you seek, but it's surprisingly good and quite cheap and thus worth a plug: the produce market on Clement and 23rd next to the 4-Star Theater. Their stuff is not as good as the perfect peaches I that I get in the (Berkeley/Oakland) farmers' markets at their peak, but the peaches, plums, and nectarines there are consistently quite good (unlike, say, Berkeley Bowl; the employees will direct you to the good ones, but left to my own devices I get plenty of hard, tasteless duds), and cheap ($.99 for yellow peaches and nectarines and $1.29 for white peaches and nectarines and plums last Thursday).

    I once bought a container expressly to transport their fruit home in my backpack.

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    Berkeley Bowl
    2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

    3 Replies
    1. re: David Farris

      there is a produce store on geary between 15th and park presidio, on the south side of the street, that has the best produce in san francisco. it's owned by a japanese guy who sources everything personally for the store. the only problem is that he doesn't keep set hours and is closed a lot. it is open on most afternoons though.

      he's also very honest and will tell you what's good and what's not. prices are also really good.

      1. re: ikb

        This was a most excellent recommendation, ikb--thanks! I've now been twice, and the quality is quite impressive.

        It's called G&G Produce, and is located at 5015 Geary. Open only Wednesdays through Fridays. The first time I was there, he was setting up shop about 3, and said he'd be around until about 7:30. (Most of his business is supplying restaurants and such.) He is indeed extremely helpful. The stock is small, but high-quality. (The proprietor, Gordie, said that he used to stock more things, but people would ask him which of several varieties of something was best today, and buy only that one; so now he just buys what he likes best.)

        1. re: David Farris

          Link:

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          G & G Finest Produce
          5015 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

    2. Webb Ranch will have stone fruit from Novakovich Orchards, Jelenic and other local farms during the season. As of last Monday, cherries from Olson were available, but no plums, peaches, etc yet.

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      Webb Ranch
      2720 Alpine Rd, Menlo Park, CA

      Novakovich Orchards
      14251 Fruitvale Ave, Saratoga, CA

      1. I've found the most consistently awesome peaches and plums come from Andy's in Morgan Hill, with a lot of heirloom varieties available. Fortunately C. J. Olson in Sunnyvale sells them which is a lot closer to me than Morgan Hill. C. J. Olson also grows their own apricots in addition to their out-of-this-world cherries, and they source other excellent fruit beyond theirs and Andy's. It's my number one place for stone fruit.

        The Mountain View Farmer's Market has many good stone fruit growers, but also quite a few that are really generic. Apricot King from Hollister has fantastic Blenheims there. Unfortunately I don't recall the names of all the various growers, but I've found there to be roughly an inverse correlation between the pushiness of the sales and the quality of the fruit.

        Because of the weather everything is late this year, so don't be surprised if there are no great local plums or peaches quite yet.

        Michael

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        Andy's Orchard
        1615 Half Rd, Morgan Hill, CA 95037

        C J Olson Cherries
        348 W El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087

        Mountain View Farmers' Market
        600 West Evelyn Avenue, Mountain View, CA

        4 Replies
        1. re: mdg

          Are there good stone fruit growers at the Menlo Park or Palo Alto (Sat. and Sun.) farmer's markets? Or is Mountain View clearly the best?

          Along similar lines, are there any great strawberry purveyors around here?

          Has anyone seen yuzu for sale at farmer's markets?

          I u-picked boysenberries at Webb's last year, but they were horrible ~ many shriveled and all were absolutely tasteless. Not sure if they pick all the good ones for sale at the stand early in the morning or it was just a bad time of year...

          1. re: emily

            Swanton in Davenport grows consistently exceptional strawberries, which you can pick or buy. They're sold at many farmers' markets as well as at Whole Foods and I believe Rainbow Grocery. They have ollalieberries too, but I've only had the jam.

            High Ground Organics (formerly of the Two Small Farms CSA) sells at Mountain View, and has great strawberries.

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            Swanton Berry Farm
            25 Swanton Rd, Davenport, CA 95017

            1. re: emily

              I think the MTV market is the best I've found; although I had some great unique strawberry peaches at the Sat. Palo Alto market a year or two ago. Also the San Carlos farmer's market has a ton of stone fruit and great strawberries.... that market gets better every time I go. It is amazing this year.

              As for yuzu, they are citrus, so they are out of season. I bought some back in November at the Fort Mason Market.

            2. re: mdg

              I was going to suggest one of the tasting events at Andy's (there's one of his orchard tours this morning, but they go through early August). Farmers that grow interesting hybrids and varieties attend. Of course it will spoil you, and you'll spend the rest of the year wondering where to buy an inca plum or a ____ nectarine or a ____ peach. But very worthwhile.

              One of the issues is that stone fruit picked unripe for shipping or grocery stories can't compete with fruit picked ripe--which gets bruised and spoils quickly. So buying from a real farm stand or at a farmers' market where it was picked the previous day makes all the difference in the world. Plums don't visually suffer as much as peaches or apricots do, so I suspect more of them are picked before their peak.

            3. I second, or maybe third at this point a trip to the Mountain View Farmer's Market-then sample until you find something that knocks your socks off. If you haven't been to MV FM you should it is a great resource for us peninsula folk. Have you tried Bianchini's again recently? They are still very good. Like others who have posted I think the larger stone fruits are going to be late this year and if the cherries I have had so far are any indication of the rest of the crops it is going to be a hit or miss year. NB -Sigonas has 2 locations-a fact that was lost on me for years.

              Some of my favorite farms or orchards for the fruits you mentioned in your posts are

              Frog Hollow-peaches, plums pluots

              Hidden Star Orchards-Cherries

              Yarena Farms-Strawberries (also good raspberries)

              3 Replies
              1. re: artychokeasana

                Right. Go to the FM and sample, sample, sample! That's the only way to know for sure you're getting good fruit. Don't buy the "brand" -- buy the fruit! In addition, learn what questions to ask and clarify your preferences to better identify what you're looking for (sweeter sub-acid fruit or tangier full-acid fruit, etc.). Many stone fruit growers will have several varieties of the same fruit -- sometimes they're well-labeled and sometimes they aren't (strawberries are hardly ever labeled by variety).

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Strawberries may not be labeled by variety, but farmers can certainly tell you what the variety is.

                  1. re: wally

                    Most of the time, yes, if the farmer is running the stall and not an employee whose only job it running stalls at farmers' markets. My point is, since strawberries are rarely labeled by variety, most consumers are unaware that there are multiple varieties of strawberries -- sometimes on the same table -- and thus don't know to ask. I always ask -- Albion seems to have rapidly taken over: even Santa Maria growers who two years ago were mostly planting Camarosa and Ventana seem to be growing Albion.

              2. Check out the San Mateo Farmers Market on Saturday. As far as stone fruit goes, I pretty much purchase from Kashiwase Farms. In fact, I saw something I hadn't seen which was an aprium. Yup, an apricot/plum hybrid. It was terrific and definitely tasted like both. You can taste samples of everything they offer. What I purchase from them definitely changes from week to week. They told me they're running several weeks behind on their normal offerings.

                There is one strawberry vendor (sorry, can't recall name) that does label the varieties. They typically offer Seascape, Chandler and Albion. Last Sat, Albion was the best. Week before, it was Chandler.

                I only buy fruit at farmers markets unless it's an emergency purchase for a recipe.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Larry Stein

                  Is the San Mateo Farmer's Market the one up in the parking lot of the college-off W. Hillsdale?

                  1. re: Larry Stein

                    We buy there too. I agree, the apriums from Kashiwase were great. And the vendor that labels the strawberry varietals is across from the Beckman's bread stand. We call her "the tomato lady" because she has had the best tomatoes in the market three years running. She doesn't have any yet, but I'm really looking forward to them.

                    I typically do a "sampling loop" and try all of the fruits, each time comparing to the previous sample - better or worse? At the end of the loop, I have a winner and return to the stand. It really does seem to vary from week to week. The cherries at last week's winner weren't this week's.

                  2. Thanks for all the suggestions. So far I have only checked out Webb Ranch, which on Tuesday had Olsen cherries and some decent but not fabulous yellow peaches from Goossen Farms in Dinuba. They guessed maybe two weeks before they start getting plums and apricots. Recent rains trashed a lot of the apricot crop.

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                    Webb Ranch
                    2720 Alpine Rd, Menlo Park, CA

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: charliemyboy

                      I went to Webb Ranch for the first time the other day: VERY limited selection. I did buy extremely fresh corn and wonderful strawberries (they were as good as those I picked myself in Davenport last summer).

                      I really regretted going there instead of my trek to Monterey Mkt and Berkeley Bowl. I hope you people in Berkeley realize how fortunate you are!!

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                      Berkeley Bowl
                      2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

                      Webb Ranch
                      2720 Alpine Rd, Menlo Park, CA

                      1. re: walker

                        Hi Walker, I think you dropped us off a Tony's last Thursday, if that was you (?) we had a great night (late!) food and atmosphere was very good we sat at the bar (shorter wait time) and had the meatballs and two pies Neopolitan Magherita and and New Yorker (sausage, pepperoni and Ricotta) both were delicious, cocktails were good too. If it was you thanks for the recommendation! Where can i find your meatball recipe?

                        1. re: Frizzaldo

                          Yes, it's me. So happy you enjoyed your dinner; I can't wait to go there, too. How were the meatballs?

                          Here's a thread for meatballs where I posted: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/755237

                          Let's continue via email: last_ghia@yahoo.com

                    2. I hit the CSM Farmer’s Market last week (6/25) and ended up with some very good yellow nectarines from Francesca’s and some flavorosa pluots from Kashiwase which were good but not great, about the same quality as some flavorosas I got a couple of weeks earlier at Bianchini’s.

                      Today I opted for some Kashiwase “Rich Lady” yellow peaches which sampled well. I’ll let them ripen for a couple of days before eating. I asked the Kashiwase folks why I was having problems finding good quality plums and they said cold weather in March when the plants were flowering had affected the flavor of their early variety plums and they were hoping for better results from the late varieties.

                      1. This morning I had coffee with a friend in Palo Alto who told me about Frog Hollow Farm's CSA. He has a full share and said that it's about 5 lbs. of fruit a week and he consumes everything (unlike the produce CSA he used to have). I haven't eaten the peach yet that he gave me, but I expect it to be excellent. According to the website, there are many delivery points on the Peninsula and you can still sign up.
                        http://happychildcsa.csaware.com/stor...

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                        Frog Hollow Farm
                        11435 Brentwood, Bl Brentwood, CA

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          For folks who are truly invested, get a brix meter so you can tell how high the fruit sugars are. I haven't fallen into that deeper end of the pool, but i know and respect someone who has... They are available in many places, including Ebay...

                          1. re: Ericruo

                            However, as with wine grapes, it's not all just about sugar level. Complexity and balance count too! :>)

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              i finally tried Frog Hollow. I sampled some plums at the stall and just had to buy some of them. both the plums and the asian pears are excellent. fragrant, and sweet.