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melkor

San Francisco produce market

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Last night Pim, Malik, ms melkor, and I went on a grand adventure to investigate the existence of the San Francisco produce market. We'd previously seen their website, but there is no mention of who a target customer would be. So we all meet at first crush in the city. While we are waiting for 1am to roll around, we drain a bottle of 01 Ridge Lytton Springs (lots of fruit, chewy tannin, awful food wine - pretty good for just sipping). So this market is open from midnight until 10:30am, but the story we've heard is that it's not all set up until 1 or 2am and it's sparse by morning.

1am rolls around, we head down to the creepy warehouse district of the city, drive past a gigantic beverage distribution center and show up at the very large and very strange SF produce market. There is a one way road in, and a one way road out. Both sides of the road are lined with warehouses that are set back from the road a bit to allow the trucks to back up and load their pallets full of stuff (I did mention that we are the only idiots without a truck at 1am at a wholesale produce market, didn't I?). We park at the edge of the great sea of pavement, out of the way of the trucks as best we can. We climb up the edge of the loading dock, as we hadn't notice there was a ramp 50 feet to either side and we proceed to walk through all the stalls, poking at everything we can find.

We find cases and cases of all things - spectacular citrus, awful pale hothouse tomatoes, salad greens, baby corn - still in its husks (which we mistake for lemongrass at first sight), mushrooms, peppers, asparagus, potatoes, onions, melons, all things that are in season anywhere on the planet. Our first attempt at purchasing is somewhat unsuccessful - Malik tries to buy a 4lb box of baby arugula ($6.50) and is told that without an account he is out of luck. Completely unfazed he walks next door where they are happy to sell him his arugula but their price is $8.50 for the four pound box. After inquring about the price difference he is told that this vendor charges more their his neighbor because 'he likes money'. What they have looks good, and I purchase a 4lb box of baby spinach for $9.50 - both are organic. Happy with our purchasing success we set off to explore the rest of the market, lugging boxes of greens with us. Ms melkor and I decide it would be a brilliant idea to purchase a box of pickling cucumbers, as we're running low on pickles and we have a pregnant neighbor to supply. We find a vendor who is happy to sell us a box, he tells us it will be $15, fair enough - when we've bought them in the past they cost around a buck a pound. Sounds like a deal, the box looks to be of a reasonable size. He takes our money, gives us change and a receipt and says in spanish to someone else on the dock 'something something something gringo' and the other guy hops up, grabs a handtruck and loads our newly acquired box of cucumbers into our car for us. We happen to notice that said box says that it contains fifty-two pounds of freaking cucumbers.

We are very successful in getting in the way of countless forklifts, lots of hand trucks, and still we see no other people actually shopping. The way this works we eventually figure out, is that a grocery store or a restaurant will place an order by phone/fax and send a driver down in the middle of the night to pick up their ass-load of produce, hopefully without flattening the clueless people on foot. We end up completely filling the trunk of the car - 52lbs of kirby cucumbers ($15), 10lbs of meyer lemons ($18), 12 heads of live butter lettuce (??), 38lbs of valencia oranges ($9.50), 4lbs of baby dill ($7.50), 5lbs of shallots ($8), 4lbs of baby arugula ($8.50), 4lbs of baby spinach ($9.50).

We're finished shopping, there are a hundred and twenty pounds of produce in the car, and it's low on gas so we stop at the corner to get more - Pim spots a large building across the street which is clearly a fish market, so we head off to investigate. We don't make it past the curb before realizing that the only place that smells worse than this fish market is red lobster. Back to the car and back to the city. We split up the boxes, though somehow ms melkor and I end up with far more stuff than we expected. Malik will be eating nothing but salads for the next month, Pim goes home with a handbag full of meyer lemons, and we make it back to our house around 3:30am.

edit: fixed broken link.


Edited by melkor (log)

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Brilliant report - and I was terribly jealous to have not been able to join you.

I guess there were no truffles to be had, huh?

No truffles, I'll look for them at the Ferry Market on Saturday. Besides, if they had them they would be sold by the case.

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Thanks for sharing you visit. Any plans to go back? It sounds like fun.


"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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Brilliant report - and I was terribly jealous to have not been able to join you.

I guess there were no truffles to be had, huh?

No truffles, I'll look for them at the Ferry Market on Saturday. Besides, if they had them they would be sold by the case.

So then we plan an orgy instead of a measly old Zin tasting...

:raz:

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Thanks for sharing you visit. Any plans to go back? It sounds like fun.

It did seem a lot like a bad movie, but it was absolutely worth doing more than once.

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Oh how fun! I remember cruising around the Oakland produce warehouses early on a Saturday and picking up a huge crate of oranges. Your experience sound 10x better, though I'd have to be motivated enough to stay up that late!

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Genius -- it never occurred to me to just walk into a wholsesale market and start shopping. Thanks for the report.

Yes, we did get a few puzzled look from some of the vendors. My favorite question was "Do you guys own a restaurant or something?", to which I'd answer "No, we're just really hungry."

The lettuce heads were the Live Gourmet butter lettuce, which come with roots and dirt still attached. $17.50 for a dozen, unfortunately they don't have a smaller size box (but they had some read leaf lettuce looking thing at $10 for 6). About half price compared to the $3 that they go for in a regular grocery store.

The arugula, at $9.50 for a four pound box, was not as great a deal, I think from now on I'll stick to buying it as I need it from Trader Joe's: they sell their pack of organic arugula for $3, I think it's a pound's worth, but it may only be 12 ounces.

I didn't have enough room at home for all the lettuce heads, so I made myself a butter lettuce, arugula and scalion salad last night, with a Meyer lemon and olive oil vinaigrette. A nice cap to a weird but really interesting night.

We found out that the market stays open until about 10am, though the vendor we talked to said there's not much stuff left at that time on Fridays, but other weekdays should be fine. I think we should plan an eGullet breakfast and wholesale market shopping trip.

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Sounds like a great late night adventure but I wish you had announced it in advance. I have heard from several members who would have enjoyed joining you, myself included. Seems to me that if we wish the California branch of EG to become more active we need to be inclusive when it comes to getting together. The more buying power the better the prices! :smile:


Lobster.

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Sounds like a great late night adventure but I wish you had announced it in advance. I have heard from several members who would have enjoyed joining you, myself included. Seems to me that if we wish the California branch of EG to become more active we need to be inclusive when it comes to getting together. The more buying power the better the prices! :smile:

I'll remember to post a full schedule in advance of all interesting things I do so you and the people who apparently speak through you are well informed of my activities.

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