The concept of wholesale shopping is very American. In other parts of the world, people often shop every day or just for a few days. Provides fresher ingredients and reduces food waste (and requires significantly less storage space than Costco’s test results).
It turns out that so many Bay Area professionals – chefs, cookbook authors and food manufacturers – also shop. They often visit small local grocery stores and specialty markets such as Anchor Pantry in Vallejo, Namaste Plaza in Belmont, and Nijiya in San Francisco. Once a week or more, they shop for produce at the region’s plentiful farmers’ markets, letting the seasonal splendors there inspire their restaurant menus and table décor, as well as their home cooking.
Paul Magu-Lecugy, Reve Bistro
Farmers’ markets – and full aisles of produce and specialty foods at Lafayette’s Diablo food — draw chef Paul Magu-Lecugy, the chef who owns this French bistro in Lafayette with his wife Laura. Paul was a chef at the Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis in San Francisco before the couple opened what they call “a little bit of Paris on the estate”.
“I spend many hours creating a new menu,” he says. “Of course, being French and owning a French bistro, I am inspired by the flavors and food of France. I always collect new cookbooks to see what other great chefs are doing.”
But it is the farmers’ markets that shape his week and provide seasonal inspiration.
“Every Sunday, I start the week with a trip to the Walnut Creek Farmer’s Market,” says Paul. “It’s where I can see what’s really seasonal locally and talk directly to farmers to get an idea of what’s coming and when. I usually pick up a few things there for my weekly seasonal specials. When you see, smell and taste a perfectly ripe fruit, vegetable or root that was on a tree, vine or in the ground only a day ago, there is nothing more inspiring than that. Cooking is an art and eating is a medium.
Details: Rêve Bistro is located at 960 F Moraga Road in Lafayette; http://revebistro.com. The Walnut Creek Farmers Market is open on Locust Street on Sundays; www.cccfm.org. Find gougeres Rêve in the freezer at Diablo Foods, 3615 Mt. Diablo Blvd. in Lafayette; www.diablofoods.com.
Avery Ruzicka, Manresa Bread
Ruzicka began her career by baking bread in the legendary three-star restaurant Manresa in Los Gatos. Until 2013, she made bakery booths at farmers’ markets. The first Manresa Bread location opened in Los Gatos in 2015, and its fifth location is set to open this fall in Westside, Santa Cruz.
With half a dozen farmer’s markets in or near her hometown of Santa Cruz, Ruzicka has plenty of options.
“We’re lucky to have so much to choose from each week, with two separate markets on Saturdays,” he says. “I try to source all of my produce from my home garden or local farm and only purchase items from the grocery store that I cannot source directly from the manufacturer. I diversify my local finds with funny canned food, e.g. smoked fish Fishwife and spicy condiments I read about on Instagram. I’ve found it allows for the most creative eating habits.”
During the pandemic, Ruzicka planted a vast raised-bed garden in her backyard, which has been so prolific that it is enough that it ends up at the farmers’ market every few weeks. And the long-neglected, blossoming apple tree she discovered in that garden also inspired a new dish.
“A warm salad of baked sweet potatoes, tender pumpkin and apples, mixed with raw shaved apple and pumpkin that has been quickly marinated in apple cider vinegar and garlic,” she says. “Finish off the salad with a little local olive oil and some toasted nuts, and serve with Manresa Bread Levain, of course”
Details: Find details on Manresa bread and its locations in Los Gatos, Los Altos, Campbell and Palo Alto at www.manresabread.com. Order canned fish at Fishwife at https://eatfishwife.com. Find details of the Santa Cruz Farmers Market at and
Katia Berberi, Toum Anna
Katia Berberi didn’t start out in the world of professional food — she was Operations and Span Manager for five years. (Try spreading it with grilled cheese or drizzling on a kebab, she says.) In 2019, she launched her East Bay-based company, Anne’s Toum, in 2019
“I shop every day,” says Berberi. “When I eat breakfast, I think about what I’m going to eat for dinner, and then plan to buy it later in the day.”
In addition to shopping at local markets, Berberi enjoys shopping at several markets, including Vallejo’s hometown Anchor Pantry, which offers a tempting selection of pickles, cheeses, sausages and crackers – and Anne’s Toum.
“While there are a lot of great Middle Eastern grocery stores around,” says Berberi, “we usually buy our Arabic bread, Arabic pickles, hummus ingredients, baba ganoush, and even ready-made labneh at San Ramon’s Shish Market. They also have a great selection of Arabic spices.”
Details: Find the Anchor Pantry at 620 Marin St. in Vallejo; https://anchorpantry.com. The Shish Market is located at 1061B Market Place in San Ramon, www.theshishmarket.com. Find a list of shops and farmers’ markets where Anne’s Toum is sold www.annestoum.com.
David Yoshimura, Nisei
Yoshimura began his career with New York’s WD-50, then moved to the then-new Californios in San Francisco, which now has two Michelin stars. He can now be found at Nisei, a gourmet Japanese restaurant he opened on Russian Hill last year, as well as Marin Farmers Market and the San Francisco Ferry Building Market, where Yoshimura and his team shop for ingredients twice a week. And when she goes to cook at home, she buys ingredients at the Japanese Nijiya supermarket in town.
“I usually get my cooking inspiration from the seasonal produce at the (farm) market,” he says. “We like to wait for the seasons and plan our menus for what’s coming in the future. Inspiration can come from past experiences with holidays and loved ones, or just looking at the reward that surrounds us.”
This inspiration extends from the menu to the decorations in the dining room. “Fall is one of the best seasons for Japanese cuisine,” says Yoshimura. “In general, I’m looking forward to using pumpkins in different ways, persimmons and chestnuts. Hoshigaki is a sign of autumn and we can’t wait to hang it in our window in Nisei.”
This harbinger of autumn consists of strings of slow-drying persimmon that are gently massaged daily for four to six weeks. It’s a Japanese tradition that goes back centuries.
Details: Nisei is at 2316 Polk St. in San Francisco; www.restaurantnisei.com. The Marin Farmers Market at San Rafael’s Civic Center is open Thursdays and Sundays; www.agriculturalinstitute.orgFerry Plaza Farmers Market is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays; https://foodwise.org. Nijiya has locations in San Jose, Mountain View, and San Mateo, as well as San Francisco; www.nijiya.com.
Hetal Vasavada, milk and cardamom
Every gourmet has, of course, a favorite farmers market. For Vasavada, the Belmont-based food photographer and recipe creator behind the popular Blog Milk and Cardamom and dessert cookbook 2019, is San Mateo Farmers Market. You’ll find her there on Saturdays, sorting through baskets of persimmons, pomegranates, heirloom apples, and more. She says fall is baking season, a time to “create little memorable moments of sweetness.”
“Being a blogger and an Instagrammer, it’s always a plus when the fruit is also visually stunning,” she says.
Vasavada also loves Sigona’s Farmers Market, a small, family-run market in Palo Alto and Redwood City. And for Indian food, head to Namaste Plaza in Belmont.
Details: The San Mateo Farmer’s Market is held on Saturdays on the campus of the College of San Mateo; www.pcfma.org/sanmateo. Find detailed information about Sigona’s location https://sigonas.com. Namaste Plaza has six locations in the Bay Area;
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