Friday, July 24, 2009

My Very Favorite Farmer's Market

With the music guy playing soft rock and folk songs on his amplified guitar and kids dancing in the street and everyone eating and smiling, the Friday Farmer's Market on San Pedro Square feels more like a festival than a market. I love the way people look holding bouquets of flowers - just so pleased. The popularity of this farmer's market has grown steadily over the years and by noon every Friday the street is packed with people, many on their lunch hours, strolling along enjoying all the fresh summer produce. I always feel like I'm a tourist on vacation visiting a special, exotic place when I'm here. My all-time favorite food to eat here is the deep fried vegetable samosas from Indian Gourmet. I buy a few of these spicy, crisp, delicious fried pastries and head off to the beautiful, quiet Spaghetti Factory alley and settle in for a delicious $2 lunch that can't be beat.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pondering over Grocery Stores

With the impending opening of a Safeway within bicycling distance of my house, I am regarding the numerous Mexican/Latin American markets in my neighborhood with more fondness. When they were the only place to shop I was sometimes disappointed but now I can appreciate all they offer. First, I love walking into my local Mexican market and getting greeted by a blast of color. They always look festive with the ceilings hung with banners and pinatas and streamers. I love having a store within walking distance that sells several kinds of delicious handmade salsa, fresh tortillas for about $1.89 per 5 dozen and creamy, fruity ice cream bars at two for $1.25 (the price went up recently). They carry the apple soda I love, that I hadn't seen anywhere except in Mexico, as well as everything I need to make my family's favorite green enchiladas. My favorite market is the tiny Mi Tierra near the corner of 24th and Santa Clara but my daughter prefers Suvianda at 7th and Santa Clara for its vast selection of fresh produce. Check them out.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Two-for-One: Espresso and Shaved Ice

When I was a kid there was a little store, down the street from my elementary and middle schools, called "Handy Market."  In the 18 years I lived in San Lorenzo I only went INTO Handy Market once and I'm pretty sure it was on a dare.  Kids were not welcome in Handy Market.  If you entered, you better have orders from your parents to buy a specific item and money in your hand to pay for it.  Kids had their own "entrance," a window counter on the side of the store which opened (conveniently) just as school let out and on Saturdays.  My girlfriend and I loved this kids' candy counter.  One of the most glorious moments of our childhood was the the time we went there with a whole dollar and proceeded to select 100 pieces of penny candy, taking the time and care one might use when choosing a new car.  The owner must have loved it.  The window counter on the side of Santos Market at 6th and Taylor in San Jose brought back the preceding memory.  The window counter opens at 6 a.m for coffee, espresso drinks and donuts. They serve a steady stream of customers who stop for coffee on their way to work.  Then in the afternoon the window becomes a shaved ice counter selling spectacular shaved ice.  I always thought snow cone when I heard shaved ice but snow cones are a pale, sorry treat indeed compared to shaved ice.  This morning I had an espresso (quite good) and this afternoon I had a fluffy and delicious cherry/bubble gum shaved ice.  There are 3 variations: regular, with ice cream and with bean. The ice cream variation sounds kind of decadent but started to look irresistible when the man ahead of me ordered it.  Next time.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Join the Veggielution!

I know that the location of Prusch Farm where the Veggielution gardens are located is pushing the definition of "downtown" but the scope and influence of Veggielution reaches far beyond the farm itself.  I first met the earnest, knowledgeable, Veggielution people at their booth at the heirloom tomato sale.  Their organization began as a mentoring project to help people with backyard organic vegetable gardens in downtown backyards.  It has grown into a large scale educational farm demonstrating best practice organic, sustainable farming methods.  They grow vegetables with the community and for the community.  I have been meaning to go over and work during their two weekly volunteer workdays and yesterday I finally pedaled on over and I WAS IMPRESSED!  There were about twenty volunteers working in the newly acquired, newly planted acre of land.  I settled in and started weeding a row of beans.  I am not a hot weather person and tend to exaggerate how miserable I am in the heat but I'm telling you it was hot, tiring work.  To be fair, I noticed that the young woman working next to me, as well as all the other young workers, looked fresh and cool and not the least bit miserable.  Just when I thought I couldn't take another minute of this grueling work (I did it for about 15 minutes), one of the organizers came over and asked if anyone would like to work on a job in the shade.  I jumped on it.  There were plenty of jobs including pinching flowers from basil, stirring the worm bin, weeding, wrapping twine, sorting seeds and thinning bean plants.  It was really lots of fun to be there with all these people who were excited to be learning about farming and doing good purposeful work.  You can learn more about volunteering by visiting the Veggielution website. I encourage you to read the Veggielution Annual Report to learn more about this fantastic and timely project.  At the end of each work session, volunteers harvest crops and take home plenty of fresh produce.