A Sweet Addition to MCM

A woman hangs out of a window, leaning over the edge to serve grits. On the other side of the window, the grits are cooked in small batches, with lots of cream, cheese, and hot sauce. That’s the vision that Read more

Shop Whole Foods Potrero and Castro to Support MCM

Thanks to Whole Foods Market, when you shop at the Potrero or Market-Castro stores, bring in your own bags for groceries and you'll have the option of receiving a 5¢ credit (per bag) or to donate the 5¢ to MCM. Read more

Mercado Kitchen: Quick Persian Pickles

If you haven't picked up cucumbers from Blue House Farms yet, now is the time. Quick pickling the cucumbers is simple and results in sweet, tangy pickles that are perfect on kabobs, in burgers, or thrown on salads. They're easy Read more

A Sweet Addition to MCM

Posted on by Kaiya Gordon in Blog, La Cocina, Sugarfoot Grits, Vendor of the Week | Leave a comment

A woman hangs out of a window, leaning over the edge to serve grits. On the other side of the window, the grits are cooked in small batches, with lots of cream, cheese, and hot sauce.

That’s the vision that Stephanie Fields had before she started Sugarfoot Grits. A southerner passionate about food, Fields came to Sugarfoot Grits with her favorite food and a great nickname. “Sugarfoot is a family nickname,” Fields says. “My uncle called me Sugarfoot when I worked in his restaurant. He gave me a lot of love.”

"Sugarfoot is a family nickname.

“Sugarfoot is a family nickname. My uncle called me Sugarfoot when I worked in his restaurant. He gave me a lot of love.”

But before Fields was dreaming of corn, she was a long-time Mission Mercado shopper. The southern-style greens that she serves alongside her bowls of grits come from Blue House Farms, and she supports many farmers by stocking her personal kitchen with their produce. Now, Fields is taking on a new position at MCM––one behind the vendor table.

Sugarfoot Grits initially expressed interest in selling at MCM in 2013, before Fields was accepted to La Cocina program and expanded her business. “I wasn’t ready then,” Fields says. “But Emily [MCM's market manager] kept up with me and now, I’m ready.”

La Cocina is a San Francisco initiative based in the Mission District that works to give low-income women the tools that they need for success in the food industry.

To Fields, the support that came from La Cocina meant everything for her business. “I had decided that I was going to do the business no matter what,” Fields says. “But in retrospect, I’m not sure that I could have done it without [La Cocina's] help.” And the training that La Cocina gave behind the tent didn’t stop after Fields brought Sugarfoot Grits to market. “It’s about the general day to day support,” says Fields. “During my first outdoor festival they came and stood with me for my health inspection. Health inspections are scary––it’s like Mary Poppins checking the dust under everything,” she says, laughing. “It sounds boring, but that support means a lot.”

“I had decided that I was going to do the business no matter what. But in retrospect, I’m not sure that I could have done it without [La Cocina's] help.”

La Cocina also supported Fields through a “night market,” which was the first market that Fields had ever done. “We had a line of 20 people at all times,” she says. “It was crazy.”

But all of her work with La Cocina, as well as the plethora of pop-ups that she has done over the years, has armed Fields with the tools she needs to run a successful business––and the flavors she needs to make her grits delicious. Fields cooks her grits in small batches on-site, which means that each bowl is fresh and hot. The on-site cooking also serves as a demonstration for customers. “It makes it more interesting,” says Fields.

Fields’ corn grits are organic, and cooked with cream and cheese sourced locally. Fields tops the grits with more cheese, and southern-style greens, braised in apple-cider vinegar and with lots of added mushrooms. “I try to make it more vegetarian friendly,” Fields says. The mushrooms add savory-flavor to the grits and make them more hearty. But Fields’ grits aren’t only for vegetarians––she has pulled-pork, too, and plans on bringing chicken and dumplings to the market in future weeks. Other menu plans include sweet potato pies and a tomato-based soup with beef, lima beans, and corn.

Perhaps the flavors in her grits are welcoming because they don’t come from a traditional kitchen. “I have no culinary training,” Fields says, “I started cooking for myself for real after college.” During that time, Fields says that she was “cooking lots and lots of vegetables and couscous.”

“I learned about food then,” Fields notes. Then, in 2012, grits became her signature dish. “Grits are my favorite food,” she says. “I started bringing cheese grits to parties, and I started having pop-ups.”

Fields’ food is more than a warm bowl––to her, grits are a connection to her home and family. “I cooked grits growing up,” she says. “I’m from North Carolina, and [the grits] connect me to my family and cultural lineage. The South has a rich but difficult history. This is a positive way to connect with people.” And, Fields notes, laughing “In San Francisco, being from the South makes me special.”

“I’m from North Carolina, and [the grits] connect me to my family and cultural lineage. The South has a rich but difficult history. This is a positive way to connect with people.”

Now, Fields has a chance to bring her favorite food to a new audience. “I spend most of my time in the Mission District,” she says, “and I’m just glad to be in the neighborhood.” And so far, that audience has welcomed Sugarfoot Grits with open arms. “I had one lady who was really sweet, who said ‘welcome to the neighborhood,’” Fields says. “That made my day.”

A Happy Farm Makes Happy Produce: Farm Profile Featuring Happy Boy Farms

Posted on by Kaiya Gordon in Blog, Happy Boy Farms, Vendor of the Week | Leave a comment

Farm profile header3

Happy Boy Farms returned to Mission Community Market two weeks ago, bringing their bags of lettuce, buckets of tomatoes, and fresh stance on organic produce with them. The farm is remarkable because of its variety––in the summertime, Happy Boy sells from over 200 acres worth of production. These acres vary in climate and geography; because the farm grows on multiple fields in multiple counties, some of Happy Boy’s fields are hot and dry, while others get coastal breezes even in the summertime. The result is a a varied landscape for produce.

Drivers at Happy Boy's MCM stall.

Staff at Happy Boy’s MCM stall.

Working for the farm means variation, too. Iva, a driver with Happy Boy, tells me that drivers “play with a lot of different skill-sets,” including interacting with customers, handling produce, navigating markets, and driving long distances. Happy Boy’s drivers start their journeys from the farms packing sheds, where Happy Boy houses seedlings. Before the drivers even arrive at a market, they start out by checking in on the farm’s teeny plants. That initial interaction fosters an intimate relationship between the drivers and Happy Boy’s crops, beneficial for shoppers browsing at Happy Boy’s stalls.

At their MCM stall, the mounds of tomatoes crowding their front tables are framed by the bunches of herbs and barrels of greens behind them. The stall hosts zucchinis, summer squashes, and bagged salad. A few customers in line are clutching finger-fulls of carrots, and some other are cradling bags of Happy Boy’s heirloom tomatoes. In addition to the vegetables, basil and fennel leaves are fanned out on Happy Boy’s tables. While most are likely familiar with basil, fennel’s bulbous white bottom and sprawling top is alien to many shoppers. Fennel has a taste similar to licorice and anise, though it is described as sweeter.

“I’m a really big fennel fan,” Iva tells me. “I feel like every year I work farmer’s markets people get more and more excited about fennel.” Iva suggests getting the most out of fennel by using the stems in pesto. Other recipe suggestions include caramelizing fennel in a salad, baking it with fish, or incorporating the seeds into biscuits.

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During the summertime, Happy Boy has San Marzano, Earl Girl, cherry, and heirloom tomatoes. Iva’s favorites are the purple heirlooms, which she suggests slicing and placing on top of a cooked dish, dicing for salsa, or eating them on their own for a snack. Earlygirl tomatoes are often prepared with mozzarella and basil, and San Marzanos make excellent sauces.

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After customers have come and picked through Happy Boy’s stalls, the farm donates all of its leftover produce. “Personally, one of my favorite things is knowing that everything we have is going to be eaten and enjoyed,” Iva says.

“Personally, one of my favorite things is knowing that everything we have is going to be eaten and enjoyed.”

At MCM, Iva notes, Happy Boy’s customers are variable. And though everyone living in The Mission District is aware of the changes the area has been going through, Iva says that she believes the market has stayed true to the heart and culture of the Mission. “I love the mission,” she says, “and the market is something that feels like it could really build a community. I like the size of it; it feels like people are wandering through.”

“I love the mission, and the market is something that feels like it could really build a community.”

“I love being outside, I love interacting with people––I love people who come from outside California who are surprised by whats possible,” Iva says. “One of the best things is when people are excited when new things come in.”

Mercado Kitchen: Fig-Ginger Chutney

Posted on by Kaiya Gordon in Arata Farm, Blog, Recipes | Leave a comment

I usually say I don’t like nice things––too much pressure, too fancy, makes me feel like a jerk, etc.

But when the nice thing is something that you make for yourself and costs about six dollars, it’s worth it, right?

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As my first spoonful of this chutney made its way towards my mouth, I felt a little bit nervous. I wasn’t sure about how much ginger I had added, I hadn’t made chutney before, and I felt a lot of pressure for this to be really good––when would I have three 1/2 more figs again to use at my leisure? But the first taste was surprising––electric. This chutney is better than good: I want it spread on every slice of bread I have in my house, on the side of every vegetable I eat this week, and over vanilla ice cream for desert.

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This chutney only uses six main ingredients, most of which you will likely already have in your pantry. And it is surprisingly easy to make; I finished the process during the–heartbreaking–United States vs. Portugal soccer game last Sunday. Oh––did I mention that this would make a great dip for a World Cup viewing party? Put it on wheat crackers, toasted slices of baguette with basil, or strips of corn tortilla.

Chutney differs from jam (even savory jam!) because it is made with larger chunks of fruit and is simmered for a shorter length of time, leading to less water evaporating and fruit congealing. To determine whether your chutney is done simmering, draw a line through it with a wooden spoon. If the chutney fills the line back in immediately, it isn’t done. If the line holds, and you can see the bottom of the pot, your chutney is ready to eat.

This Thursday, Arata Farms will be bringing their last batch of Black Mission Figs! Get a basket before they go, and then try this chutney out. Let me know how it goes by tweeting @missionmercado, or leaving a comment below.

I already can’t wait for Arata’s White Kadota Fig season––I’m picturing a sweet chutney with white wine and raisins.

fig chutney

Fig-Ginger Chutney

Recipe adapted from Not Enough CinnamonThe full recipe appears after the jump.

Read more

Not blacksmiths but Tea Smiths

Posted on by Kaiya Gordon in Blog, The Tea Smiths, Vendor of the Week | Leave a comment

The Tea Smiths are Chad Smith and Grace Landsdale––though the two are engaged, and Grace plans to be a Smith soon, too. In one way, she already is. “We’re tea smiths, instead of blacksmiths,” laughs Smith.

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“We focus on herbal medicinal teas,” he continues. “We like teas with a purpose.” The Smith’s collection is expansive, and the couple offer a wide variety of green, black, and yerba mate teas, along with their herbal blends. Their most popular tea, however, is one of those “teas with a purpose:” a tea to aid sleep called “sleep blend.” Landsdale points me to another health tea, her favorite, healthy tummy. It’s made to coat the lining of the stomach and consists of peppermint, calendula flowers, marshmallow root, and chamomile flowers.

Healthy Tummy tea, with marshmallow root and peppermint.

Healthy Tummy tea, with marshmallow root and peppermint.

Along with their stock blends, The Tea Smiths offer custom tea blends. Customers can order online, or they can discuss their desired blend with The Smiths at Mission Community Market and pick it up the next week. And if you’ve got kids––don’t worry. The Smiths are in the process of brewing up a child’s line of teas. They’ll be a little bit sweeter and can help out sleeping problems and tummy issues too.

All of The Smith’s ingredients are ordered from certified organic distributers, and The Smiths are in the process of getting certified organic themselves. “A lot of people seem to dismiss the importance of organic teas,” says Smith. But for The Smiths, it’s all about the quality and safety of ingredients. In addition to their own tests, they work with master herbalists to create teas that are effective and safe. Some of their ingredients I had never heard of before, like marshmallow roots–used as a throat coat–and kava kava roots. Kava kava has an earthy taste, and is used as a muscle relaxer. In recent years, it’s gotten a bad reputation for liver problems associated with using the entirety of the root, but Smith assures me that if you use water to extract the root, like The Smiths do, it’s safe.

Smith has been making tea for about a year. He calls it “total tea immersion.” In addition to his daytime tea brews, however, Smith works with other brews at night––beer. A bartender in San Francisco, Smith says that he “destroys livers at night and repairs them in the morning.” But tea brewing and bartending actually have more in common than livers; as a bartender, Smith works to create new drinks. Now, at The Tea Smiths, he matches herbs and flavors to create the best teas. “It’s an ongoing process,” Smith says. “There are trials on a daily basis.”

“It’s an ongoing process. There are trials on a daily basis.”

The Tea Smiths have a large stock of green, black, yerba mate, and herbal teas. All ingredients are organic.

The Tea Smiths have a large stock of green, black, yerba mate, and herbal teas. All ingredients are organic.

Perhaps one reason why The Smith’s teas are doing so well is that process. The couple is in the middle of a wide rebrand, and before setting any new tea on the table, the two undergo tastings and testings to be sure that every recipe is perfect. One way that The Tea Smiths address customer satisfaction is by speaking to the customers about what they do and don’t like. “If we hear a complaint 3 or 4 times, we start to think that maybe we should change something,” Smith says. On the contrary, if they “get a lot of requests for one herb,” they’ll add it to the list. Often, The Smiths say that they’re swamped with requests for one sort of tea––the craze of the day, so to speak.

“We’ve always wanted to focus our teas within San Francisco.”

For The Tea Smiths, working at Mission Community Market is a realized dream. “We fell in love with the city and wanted to move to San Francisco,” Smith says. “We’ve always wanted to focus our teas within San Francisco.”

When farm is family, the fruit is too: farm profile featuring Arata Farms

Posted on by Kaiya Gordon in Arata Farm, Blog, Vendor of the Week | Leave a comment

Farm profile header3Ask Nicholas Arata what his favorite peach is and you’ll be rewarded with a family story. “The Reginas [yellow peaches] are my favorite yellow fleshed peach to eat,” he says, noting that the farm has had Regina trees for 30 years. In fact, says Nicholas, “they were planted the spring I was born, or the season before that. When you look off into the backyard, they are the first trees you can see.”

Arata has a grove of about 150 Regina trees. “When you think of your grandmother making peach cobbler, or something nostalgic with peaches,” Nicholas continues, “I think of the Regina flavor.”

“When you think of your grandmother making peach cobbler…I think of the Regina [peach] flavor.”

Nicholas isn’t the only Arata who grew up surrounded by trees. The farm is owned by his father, Mike Arata, and has been in the Arata family for 4 generations; this Mike Arata, the third in the family, grew up working on the farm with his grandfather, Mike Arata I. Now, the Arata farm continues to sell produce at local markets, including MCM, and at their stall in Brentwood.

This week, Arata’s table is in transition. Though some fruits, like cherries, which had an especially early crop this year, are on their way out, shoppers have plenty to look forward to. The table is spotted with figs, pluots, santa rosa plums, wesley apricots, and angelcots. And next week, the Reginas will come in.

Left: Arata's peaches, cherries (done for the season), and pluots. Right: Along with their yellow regina peaches, Arata has a grove of white peach trees.

Left: Arata’s peaches, cherries (done for the season), and pluots. Right: Along with their yellow regina peaches, Arata has a grove of white peach trees.

As I speak to Nicholas, he and his father call back to each other. “How long have we had the Reginas?” Nicholas asks. It is apparent that Arata is a collaborative farm––as the two banter, they swap information about fruits.

And as I speak to the Aratas, it becomes clear that they know their trees like they are a part of the family.

Arata's black mission figs, which they hand pick from their crop.

Arata’s black mission figs, which they hand pick from their crop.

One of the highlights of the Arata table are the black mission figs. Mike tells me that the figs will be at the table next week, too, though neither Mike nor Nicholas is sure how many there will be. “There are crops every year,” Nicholas says, “but we go through the trees and hand-pick the ripe ones.”

Nicholas describes black mission figs as “standard fig flavor,” saying that “they taste like a fig newton.” Along with the black missions, Arata grows white Kadota figs. “The Kadota’s are sweet––honey sweet,” Nicholas explains. “They’re sticky inside, almost seedy. They’re more creamy.”

Figs are versatile and add subtle sweetness to a variety of dishes. They can be made into jam or dressing, or used in salad, tartlets, cake, crumble , or–the option I’m salivating over–creme brulée.

Or they can be prepared simply: “one gal just bought my last basket––she was excited to cut them up and put them on ice cream,” Nicholas says. “A lot of people grill them, and a lot of people bake them.”

Another highlight are Arata’s white apricots, called angelcots. “They’re a new item for the states,” Mike tells me. The two try to figure out where angelcots are most popular––Nicholas thinks that they come from the Middle East, and, in fact, he’s right. Angelcots are the hybrid of Iranian and Moroccan apricots.

Angelcots look like white apricots and taste sweeter than their familiar counterparts.

Angelcots look like white apricots and taste sweeter than their familiar counterparts.

Angelcots are picked like white peaches. The fruit is very tender, with a lot of liquid inside, which makes them especially sweet. “They’re great bruised,” says Nicholas. “They just bruise because they are so delicate. People think of a bruise as a bad spot, but it’s just the matter of the fruit.”

Try angelcots in a pastry or with goat cheese for a quick and fulfilling snack.

And on Thursday, be sure to stop by and check in on Arata farms––they’ll treat you like family.

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