Wednesday, December 5, 2012

New Taste Marketplace's Winter Revival

It's no secret that Liz and I are big fans of New Taste Marketplace, the once-monthly benefit for the Food Pantry held at St. Gregory's Episcopal Church in Potrero Hill. When former director Elianna Friedman left earlier this year, the market went into a kind of limbo, but this past Saturday the small food showcase for small Bay Area vendors was back for a special holiday market. With over 30 new and returning vendors, three food trucks, live music, a DJ, knife sharpening, and plenty of food for the stomach and soul, New Taste felt like it had never left the little church on De Haro Street.

When we arrived at New Taste Marketplace the rain had thankfully stopped, which was important because One Ninety Seven Coffee had setup their tent outside the front door, alongside the food trucks Little Green Cyclo, El Sur, and the brand spanking new Frozen Kuhsterd. Liz simply can't resist a good cup of locally-roasted pour over coffee, so our first stop was for a cup of joe and a bag of their excellent Baird beans.

One Ninety Seven starting the day off right

Carrot and dill in a pie from Desperation Bakehouse
After making our donation to the Food Pantry at the front door (special props to our son, who pulled $2 out of his piggy bank to help the hungry), we headed inside and were delighted to find some old favorites like Red Circle Tea, Ruby's Oats, Nute's Cupcakes, and Kika's Treats selling alongside several fresh faces. Probably due to the rain, there weren't any tables setup in the play yard of the church, so it felt like there was a little less elbow room inside as vendors were a bit more crowded together. The plus side was that the play structures outside were free of children, so after grabbing a Dill and Roasted Carrot Pocket Pie (Liz loves anything and everything that has dill!) from Desperation Bakehouse and a pair of arancini from Art of Arancini, we headed outside to let the tike run around a bit while we contemplated our next move.

My favorite bite from the market was the Kabocha Squash arancina, the product of Art of Arancini's Chef Andrea Cesca. This was the first time at New Taste Marketplace for him and wife/co-owner Cindy Cesca Yoshiyama, but with the melty richness of the squash and mozzarella-filled risotto balls, I hope it won't be their last! It was served with a tomato and bell pepper chutney with a spring of fried parsley. Liz had their bolognese and mozzarella arancina with roasted red pepper aioli, and she said it was fantastic, as well. These golden-fried examples of Sicilian street food had a delicate bread crumb crust and were hot out of the fryer.

Duet of arancini from Art of Arancini: Squash (left) and Bolognese (right)

Because it was a special holiday market, there was an emphasis on prepackaged items fit for gift giving. We took the opportunity to cross a few items off our Christmas list with a locally-harvested Sea Palm from She Sells Seaweed, a bottle of finishing oil from California Olive Ranch (we got the last one!), and a few beautifully-packaged boxes of chocolate-covered mango slices (last one again!) and edamame from Jade Chocolates. I decided to buy myself a gift of a delectably sharp and spreadable jar of Strong Cheese's 21st Amendment IPA With 3 Year Old Aged Dutch Gouda. It feels good to buy locally-produced products directly from the hands of the creators because it seems like my wallet really does make a difference both to the success of a fledgling business and the health of the planet.

Treats from Jade Chocolates

Beer or cheese? I choose both!

Running the show for the first time was new director Jesse Hirsch, restaurant critic for the SF Examiner. Because most professional food critics need to maintain their anonymity, word was that Hirsch was going to operate at New Taste Marketplace in disguise. While we did not get a chance to meet up with him, a few of the volunteers donned Zorro masks to fit with their roles as small food heroes. We learned from one masked woman that the plan was for another market during the spring of 2013. Let's hope that's the case!

Who was that masked food hero?

Slow Hand BBQ making Brisket Sandwiches
As Saturday morning turned into Saturday afternoon, we finished up our trip to New Taste Marketplace with a huge Brisket Sandwich from Slow Hand BBQ and an old favorite that is quickly becoming an obsession with our son, the ham and cheese Parisien empanada from El Sur. Our last purchase that afternoon brought us full circle, as I got a Napa Sundae from Frozen Kuhsterd, which is vanilla custard topped with olive oil and sea salt. The frozen treat-slingers have long been regulars at New Taste, but with the launch of both a new mobile cart and decked-out food truck, they can be considered one of the market's success stories and may soon outgrow the little church in Potrero Hill.

Napa Sundae from Frozen Kuhsterd

While we can lament all about birds leaving the nest, in the end that kind of success is the whole point of a venue like New Taste Marketplace. And besides, with veterans moving on to the next step of their food enterprises it just leaves an open spot for the next food startup.

New Taste Marketplace (@newtastemarket)
One Ninety Seven Coffee (@oneninetyseven)
Desperation Bakehouse (@desperationbake)
Art of Arancini (@artofarancini)
She Sells Seaweed
California Olive Ranch (@ca_evoo)
Jade Chocolates (@jadechocolates)
Strong Cheese (@strongcheesesf)
Slow Hand BBQ (@slowhandbbq)
El Sur (@elsursf)
Frozen Kuhsterd (@frozenkuhsterd)

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