Saturday, November 22, 2008

San Francisco's Artisan Food Marketplace

There is no other farmers market in the San Francisco Bay Area that celebrates food in all its forms, from rare gastronomical finds in locally grown fruits and vegetables, artisan cheeses and bread, world class wines, fresh seafood, poultry and meat, than the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Embarcadero in the city. Located at the famous San Francisco landmark, the Ferry Building, it boasts of a 245 foot tall clock modeled after the 12th century Seville bell tower in Spain. Aside from the outdoor farmers market, the Ferry Building Marketplace also houses artisan stores, restaurants and cafes that serve cuisines representing the cultural diversity of San Francisco's award-winning chefs and gourmets.

Having withstood two strong earthquakes, the 1906 and the Loma Prieta in 1989, the Ferry Building was restored in 2004 and since has become the marketplace for serving both local residents and travelers. In November of 2005, the Ferry Plaza Marketplace had a royal visit from England by Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla. It is now becoming recognized worldwide as a marketplace destination in artisan food.


The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is California certified and is operated by the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA). It's open Tuesdays from 10:00 am  to 2:00 pm and Saturdays 8:00 am to 2:00 pm. Most regular shoppers like the market because it reconnects them with their food sources: how their food is grown, who grew them, and why they taste so good. Another reason is that most of the food is organic.

Just days before thanksgiving, my family and I took a trip to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market to see what local produce we could find to serve on thanksgiving day.

Our first stop was a stall that sold an unusual looking citrus fruit called, "Buddha's hand". It is not hard to see why, the fruit looks like a hand with several slender fingers. Originating from India, it is a fragrant citrus with a thick peel and very small amount of acidic flesh. It is good for its zest, and used in salads and steamed fish.

Towards the back of the Ferry Plaza, we sampled cheeses by Farmstead Cheese Company in Point Reyes, California. The blue cheese teased our taste buds so we bought it. We also found Brussel sprouts that were still connected to the stalk which will provide my granddaughter endless fun in removing. We eyed some fresh kale with its rubbery yet curly dark green leaves which we will use as liners for the turkey. We also came across some very interesting produce such as; rare squashes, human shaped potatoes, and a giant pumpkin.

Inside the Ferry building are neat stores of local food growers/owners selling gourmet products like; Far West Fungi, who sells different kinds of mushrooms; Farm Fresh To You, where my daughter bought bite-sized pretzels dipped in chocolate drizzled with some nuts; Ciao Bella, where we stopped by to get Gelato ice cream, and many more. There are about 30 or more stores in the plaza and if you plan to visit, I suggest you check their website.


After strolling through the many stalls at the farmers market, our olfactory nerves were hit by the delicious barbecue smell that was wafting in the air. Seconds later, we discovered it was coming from a big rotisserie van. In the van, on long metal skewers, golden brown chicken sizzled as it slowly roasted. Roasted beef lined the bottom of the rotisserie, its juices glistening in the sun. If smelling and seeing the food didn't convince you to try it, the sight of the long lines and drooling faces would. Unfortunately, the only downside to this sidewalk heaven was that you would have to find a place to sit and eat under the hot sun.

As we turned the corner of the building and found ourselves once again on Embarcadero, we saw the Market Bar, a restaurant with an outdoor patio where people were sitting under yellow umbrellas enjoying the breeze of the wharf in the unusually warm weather in the midst of winter. The patio was adjacent to the sidewalk and a low iron railing was the only separation between the diners and passers by.



We decided to eat here because we wanted to enjoy and experience the great atmosphere, not only with the wonderful weather, eclectic diners and passers by, but because of the beautiful view of the Bay Bridge, the sparkling blue water of the Bay, and the glistening towers of the city. Aside from the buzz and laughter of the people, the lapping of water, and the sound of seagulls, there was music being played by a sidewalk musician.

Sitting back in my chair, sipping coffee, I was reminded, with everything that I saw and did that day, why I came to live in this unique and beautiful city and how I came to love it.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Dinardaraan (Filipino Stewed Pork Blood)



Dinardaraan is the native name for the savory Filipino Stewed Pork Blood in Ilokano/Pangasinan, a region in northern Luzon, in the province of Pangasinan, Philippines. In tagalog, it is called Dinuguan.  This exotic dish is sometimes made of pig's stomach and beef blood cooked in vinegar and spices.

My childhood memory of this dish was triggered when my friend, Mi, came over to visit me on my birthday bringing with her the said dish and some native sweet desert/snack food made of some root crops and banana, cooked in coconut milk, which she made herself.

Ingredients

2 pig's stomachs - boiled until tender and cut into small bite size pieces
1 big chunk of pork or beef blood (solid) - cut into 1/2 inch cube
1 container beef blood (add 1/2 cup of the vinegar to this)
1 cup native vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
3 bay leafs - break each leaf into 2
1 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 cups sliced yellow onions
8 to 10 long slim green pepper or 6 jalapeno peppers
3 to 4 tablespoons canola oil

Procedure

In a saute pan, brown garlic in canola oil until golden brown but not burned. Add sliced onions and cook until transparent. Add cooked pig's stomach and cook for about 3 minutes on medium-high heat. Add cut solid blood and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes mixing well to cook all blood. Add the salt and the ground pepper, and bay leaf and cook for 2 minutes. Add 1/2 of the vinegar. Add the liquid blood and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the ginisa mix or the beef boullion cubes. Add the slim green peppers and cook for 2 to 5 minutes on medium-low. Serve hot with Puto or hot steamed rice.

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