I've always shopped farmers' markets, no matter what country I've been in. There's something special about being outdoors, in the fresh air, sun, if you're lucky to have it, and not too hot a sun, with people whose lives are centered close to the yield of the earth. It's a healthier way to shop and eat, it gets cheaper and cheaper in most parts of the country, and it's a social, cultural and educational endeavor. In its own way, given what I saw today, the experience can rise to a work of art.
I've been a regular at the Santa Rosa market for many years now, and have watched it grow from a steady, small market into what struck me today as a real breakout experience, rivaling any fresh market in the Bay Area. Being there this morning finally gave me pause to wonder what ingredients constitute growth in a farmers' market? Novelty, variety, numbers of consumers and interaction with the vendors are a few components of a robust, thriving market. There's an energy present; everything's in motion.
All of these characteristics were in blazing evidence today. For example, parking has become a challenge due to ballooning numbers of shoppers. As a result, I had to enter at the back end of the market, and the first new thing I ran into was a mobile brick-oven! It was churning out pizzas at a rate that was utterly remarkable! I asked to jump into the cooking area with the camera and this is what I saw. Fabulous. This is cutting edge stuff!
Pizzeria Rosso (I admit it; I, hadn't heard of them) makes a mean pizza, and they cater. It's a big novelty at the market. (707) 486-7528)
Another indicator that Santa Rosa's Market has 'arrived' is that vendors from Healdsburg are coming down! Mateo Granados (former chef of The Dry Creek Kitchen) was first, with his Mayan cuisine truck, but NOW there's Per le Stelle, of Mora Estate. Owner Fabiano Ramaci was stirring this gigantic Paella pan with great aplomb before offering me a plate
while his wife Alena, CFO, was chatting with customers about the winery's products, some still in prototype, including infused oils in her exquisitely hand painted bottles. For more on these wonderful purveyors, see perlestelle.com
And it was raining cherries, Bing, Brooks and Rainier, as it has been pouring rain for months, and that had a thunderous energy to it, that poundage of sweet meat.
And I noticed that more and more vendors are moving to beautiful signage and striking presentation of their products, an appreciated and strategic art worldwide, especially in Asia and Mexico.
I realized today that I'm like a parent who has watched her child reach adulthood. That which has been growing in front of my eyes for several years has come to present itself as a mature, beautiful adult. If you're in the Bay Area, the Santa Rosa Farmers' Market is one you'll definitely want to take in -- it's as fine as they come.