Friday, August 28, 2009

The Market on Market Street

Greetings from San Francisco!

I have escaped the New York heat and humidity for my first-ever solo vacation in one of my all-time favorite cities. I wanted to plan a writing retreat for myself, but rather than go somewhere quiet and remote, I wanted to visit a different city that would spark my imagination. (Yes, I must confess that I am a city girl through and through, for if I’m surrounded by too many trees in the middle of nowhere, I start to panic.) It’s been a year since my last visit here, but if previous San Francisco trips are anything to go by, I look forward to all kinds of culinary inspiration this week.

I took an early flight in order to arrive in time for lunch yesterday, trying to maximize my eating potential here in this food-lovers paradise. As I emerged from the Bart station underground, I rode an escalator literally right into the middle of the Wednesday farmers’ market at the Civic Center. I hadn’t even been above ground for five minutes before I was tucking into a hearty green chile&cheese tamale. Welcome to California!

I wandered deliriously amongst the various stalls, not caring a whit that I was still dragging my suitcase behind me. What a visual feast! The colors are somehow more vivid, as though the California sunlight has infused deeper pigment and more intense flavor into the produce. 

Once I had finished my late breakfast tamale, I was happy to take advantage of the fruit vendors generously proffering samples of their drippy-sweet nectarines and plums. I sampled jewel-like berries and I plucked giant globes from a mountain of grapes. Heirloom tomatoes like overstuffed pin cushions were a riot of colors tumbling together. And my knees practically buckled out from underneath me as I savored ridiculous peaches and berries that must have been injected with sugar syrup and sunshine itself.

I was glad to see that the mushroom people were selling Lion’s Mane mushrooms as well as their “Ugly Shiitakes”, though I couldn’t see anything ugly about these little guys. 


When confronted with wide variety of smoked almonds, ranging from hickory smoke to barbecue flavor to garlicky ones, I finally opted for the Chili-Lemon Almonds and the Applewood Smoked Almonds. I wasn’t sorry.

After a delightful lunch at Citizen Cake and checking into my hotel, I went for an afternoon walk a few hours later. As I strolled by the Civic Center, I discovered that the market stalls had completely vanished. The plaza was bathed in gentle light, as tranquil in the late afternoon as it had been bustling in the morning. The light feels different in California, and I find myself wanting to bask in the sunshine in a way that I never quite do in New York. It is somehow more golden and warming, almost as if it makes one glow from the inside out. Needless to say, I am thrilled to be back in this beautiful city again, and I look forward to sharing my culinary adventures with you over the next week.

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