vegansaurus!

09/14/2010

Guest post: Stonestown Galleria farmer’s market!  »


Stonestown Galleria Farmer’s Market
Sundays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the parking lot of the Stonestown Galleria mall, at 19th Avenue between Eucalyptus and Winston Drives.

After moving to San Francisco three months ago, I’ve come to refer to my Sunday excursions as “free breakfast.” The many bread-bakers and fruit-sellers at Stonestown Galleria set out platters of samples, and sometimes approach you with tongs and chunks of their goods; the prepared-food vendors seem extremely interested in giving you a taste. And for good reason—they know that you’ll find it hard not to walk away with their product.

If you have ever visited a farmer’s market in San Francisco, you’ve probably encountered the Afghan culinary delight Bolani. These people shove tender, flaky, stuffed breads topped with unctuous and flavorful spreads at you like they think you’re starving. Only one of the spreads contain dairy, the breads are all vegan, and they even have butter-free baklava. A few stands down, Tofu Yu—tasty local soy products—and Sukhi’s—Indian snacks and condiments, with a delectable jalapeno chutney—will also press samples on you. The Hummus Guy is actually “manned” by a woman, whom I used to avoid: She seemed like the cat lady of hummus, hunched protectively over her various tubs veggie-based salads and spreads, surrounded by bags of pita chips; but when I lingered long enough she offered to let me try whatever I wanted, and was quite kind—her roasted red pepper dip is impressive, though everything I tried was great. The Nago Foods booth is also on that aisle, and sells miso salad dressings, with samples drizzled over little cups of greens—only one of their dressings is vegan, but if you’re munching your way down the aisle, you might as well. Across the market, M&CP Farms have apparently been growing olives in Orland, Calif. for the past 50 years; you can find them here every other Sunday. They don’t just grow, brine and sell some remarkably delicious olives of quite a variety, but they put almost all of them out for sampling, as well as a couple other pickled items and a few spreads. One or two contain cheese, but everything else is vegan: spicy olives, dry-cured olives, almond-stuffed olives, lime olives, just to name a few. If you can coordinate your visit, do not miss this stand. The dudes that run it are super-nice, too, always ready with crackers topped with tapenade.

Probably the only vendor this market lacks is a good vegan dessert—the cupcake lady here only does vegan ones on special advance order. But that leads me to the fruit—every type you can imagine. The fruit vendors are too numerous to name, but I enjoy visiting Malik Ranch for this farmer’s dried fruits as well as various almonds available to try. I particularly appreciate this stand as he actually lists his ingredients for his flavored almonds on the bags, in clear view, and practically all of them are vegan.

If you visit this market, I also recommend you try some of the unusual Asian vegetables. They are extremely cheap and I have yet to be disappointed by an exotic leafy green, even when I didn’t know what it was called (though of course it doesn’t hurt to ask the seller for advice on preparation). Heaps of ginger, garlic, lemongrass, okra leaves and Japanese eggplants dominate your view. From shiitake mushrooms to squash to chard to cauliflower, I rarely have trouble finding the veggie I’m looking for.

Now let’s get to the hot food stands, the real jewel in the crown. The omnipresent Kettle Corn guy is here, as well as a couple Southern-food stands (one actually has a vegan gumbo which is mostly okra, and not bad at all), waffles, and the Pie Press, which sells savory pies, apparently with vegan crusts but rarely vegan fillings; perhaps we should lobby her. The standout is definitely Happy Dumpling, which virtually always has a line, even at 9 a.m. Upon seeing the stand for the first time, with its prominent sign that said “Islamic Chinese lamb kabobs,” I had little hope for the place. However, I’m eternally grateful that I asked, because their vegetarian dumplings as well as their green onion pancake are vegan. The first time I had the dumplings, stuffed with minced, deliciously seasoned veggies and clear yam noodles, my mind was pretty much blown. Best of all, they’re incredibly cheap—$2 for three large dumplings. They are on the soft, doughy side, with a crispy fried exterior, and best dunked in the vinegar and soy sauce available at the condiments table. I recently I tried the green onion pancake but was less impressed. It’s basically crispy-fried thin dough with some green onions folded in—a good conveyance for Thai sweet chili sauce, but not too remarkable on its own, though pulling the layers apart better revealed the flavor of the onions. It’s still a great deal at $2, especially if you are craving something greasy.

I think if Happy Dumpling didn’t dominate the hot food market, Indian Gourmet would likely have a huge line also, because based on the samples they set out of chewy, incredibly fresh naan and dishes like chana masala, mixed vegetables and vegan saag, their culinary skills are quite impressive. Even better, their extensive menu—which includes samosas, wraps, platters and subsi/dal to go in a tub for $5—clearly indicates the vegan item.

I have to admit I rarely eat at the hot food vendors, mainly because I tend to go relatively early and fill up on delicious, but one stand I never miss anymore is Gaga Café. Though I would typically balk at paying $3 for an 8 oz cup of coffee, these locally roasted beans are some of the best I’ve ever tasted, and great to sip on while wandering the market. Given that there aren’t many good cafes in West Portal, he is a godsend. The man who runs it is friendly and works fast, despite brewing each cup individually. If you don’t like to walk and drink (or eat), you can have a seat at one of the many round tables arrayed around the little performance area, which always has live music.

Now that San Francisco’s true summer is supposedly on its way and even this generally foggy ’hood is starting to heat up, consider checking out this unique market, to support the various sellers who help make it a wonderland of vegan eating!

Tamara Failor currently lives in West Portal, and will soon relocate temporarily to Mongolia for work. Though Mongolia is quite possibly the least vegan-friendly country on the planet, she feels excited and up to the challenge. Tamara has lived in Portland, South Korea and North Carolina, and while in Portland documented and reviewed the city’s various vegan reubens. This is her first post for Vegansaurus; all photos by Tamara Failor!

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