What did the Mission say?

As I approached the youth surveyor’s booth at MCM last Thursday, all six surveyors were engaged in conversation with a passer-by. They looked relaxed and in charge, fielding questions about where to use the bathroom even as they explained Read more

La Cocina Entrepreneurs Hit the Streets

Over the past six years, La Cocina’s Street Food Festival has become a San Francisco staple. The festival features innovative food, education and discussion, and a chance for the SF community to share experience and taste with each other. At the Read more

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

La Cocina Entrepreneurs Hit the Streets

Posted on by Kaiya Gordon in 4505 Meats, Blog, Chaac Mool, HellaVegan Eats, La Cocina, Sugarfoot Grits | Leave a comment

Over the past six years, La Cocina’s Street Food Festival has become a San Francisco staple. The festival features innovative food, education and discussion, and a chance for the SF community to share experience and taste with each other.

At the center of all the flags, festivity, and great-eating are passionate woman. That’s right––along with filling your stomach, the festival is a radical way to support local female entrepreneurs.

La Cocina started in 2005 and is based in the Mission District of San Francisco. The organization provides training, practice-spaces, and support to local food entrepreneurs, focusing on low-income women who want to break into the food industry. Traditionally, working in food can be difficult for those from under-privileged areas, because running a successful food business requires a large overhead cost. And, like so many other industries, being a woman–particularly a woman of color–presents challenges of its own: lower pay and fewer opportunities. Even though San Francisco is the home to many non-male powerhouses creatively running and owning their own business, the public image of a chef is still male.

That’s why La Cocina’s innovative program is so important––it creates space for and amplifies the voices of women who are passionate about food, San Francisco, and their families. La Cocina describes this process, and the content of their program on their website. You can also watch their 6-minute film called “Tameles & Piroshkis: A Journey Stuffed with Love” (but be warned: you might cry). Featured in the video are two of La Cocina’s incubator businesses. Other incubators might be familiar faces to you from MCM––Chaac Mool, Sugarfoot Grits, and HellaVegan Eats are all connected to the La Cocina program.

“[La Cocina] is about the general day to day support,” said Stephanie Fields, owner of Sugarfoot Grits. “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. It sounds boring, but that support means a lot.”

What is the festival?

La Cocina’s Street Food Festival is a multi-day celebration of local food vendors and top chefs. This year, the festival will be kicked off on Friday, August 15th, with the new Friday Night Family Meal, which will feature unlimited varieties of fried chicken from 11 different chefs hailing from Seattle, Oakland, Austin, Alabama, and San Francisco.

The main event––a street food festival boasting over 80 vendors––will be hosted on Saturday, August 16th in the Mission District. On Folsom St. between 20th and 26th, the city will be transformed into an urban food paradise. Expect big crowds, big portions, and even bigger smiles.

La Cocina notes on the event page that the most important part of the street fest are the women who “drive and inspire the festival every year and serve food any street, neighborhood, and the whole Bay Area should be proud of. By serving food, they serve the community, and continue to make the Bay Area’s foodscape one of the most vibrant and diverse communities out there.”

Lastly, the La Cocina community is providing a platform to talk about food with the La Cocina Food & Entrepreneurship Conference on Sunday, Autust 17th. The conference includes conversations about fair prices for ethnic food, food manufacturing, how to use food to bring communities together, and interactive workshops! To be part of the conversation, buy a ticket online. Don’t worry––if you want to go but don’t think you can afford it, La Cocina is funding scholarships.

What should I eat?

As much as you possibly can! Make sure to visit MCM’s own HellaVegan Eats, who will be serving potsticker burritos–a sweet and sticky meal packed with rice, vegetables, potsticker skin and wrapped in a tortilla–”chicken” and waffle mini bites, and their incredible strawberry-watermelon-basil aqua fresca (seriously, how does such complex flavor come from water?!). HellaVegan describes their food as a “multi-cultural explosion of flavor,” and their dishes always deliver color and taste. You’ve seen them every Thursday this summer, handing out their hellafornia burritos, crunchy salads topped with tofu or tempeh, and vegan cupcakes to hungry crowds at our mercado.

And don’t miss 4505 Meats, another MCM favorite, who will be serving the festival with “Frankaroni” and cheeseburgers. Last year, their macaroni rendition caused swarms of hungry cheese-lovers to crowd their tent, so be sure to visit early!

If you’re still hungry, finish the day with something sweet––try one of the eight treats from this list by 7X7SF.

At Mission Community Market, we appreciate all of the hard work that our vendors put in. As an event celebrating local talent and dedication, La Cocina’s Street Food Festival is a remarkable opportunity to engage with the SF food community and share light and love with the streets of San Francisco.

A Sweet Addition to MCM

Posted on by Kaiya Gordon in Blog, La Cocina, Sugarfoot Grits, Vendor of the Week | 1 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

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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.

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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.”

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