Wine & Food

Snooth User: dmcker

Favorite local markets for special meals or everyday

Posted by dmcker, Apr 20, 2017.

OK, what's your favorite market in your area for buying good meats, dairy, produce, etc. when you want to prepare a proper meal, likely accompanied by wine? Or just for everyday living? And what do they provide that you value so?

Last couple of times I was through San Fran I realized Bi-Rite in the Mission would be mine there. Very much appreciate their ancillary businesses and social/cultural/political initiatives, too.

NYC would be Zabar's and maybe some of those markets around South Street or the west side near Meat Packing. Eataly near Madison Sq. Park, etc., though I haven't properly lived there so these are fleeting impressions and would like to hear from people who know more.

How about where you live?


Reply by bostonlobsterman, Apr 20, 2017.

Ahhh Zabar's is a classic. Sister-in-law has a place 2 blocks away. Lox to die for. Every cheese you could want (well, almost anyway). My favorite local is Trader Joe's. I even buy wine there sometimes (gasp!) I also shop Whole Foods occasionally. 

Reply by rckr1951, Apr 20, 2017.

I shop locally at Super 1 foods.  A decent decent market for a town of this size. Good meats (duh) and cheeses (double duh).  Basically entry level wine with a smattering good mid-priced wines.

When I get out of town Trig's is located in a well to do about 45 miles away and their selection of sea foods and high end offerings of meats, fish and the like (crab cakes) and their Smokehouse Brand of meats is good. They have and very good wine selection at their Cellar 70 however the mark up can sometimes be aggressive.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Apr 21, 2017.

In the East Bay, esp my neck of the woods (North Oakland/Berkeley), it's an embarrassment of riches in this as in so many other things.  Andronico's, a formerly swanky market, is all but gone, and AG Ferrari is closing up its last shop after years of sinking into dismal faux Italian market-hood. But others have taken their place, albeit not in exactly the same niches.  We lack, as far as I'm concerned, great Italian regional markets, which is sad for an area that had clubs for immigrants from every part of the boot nation.

In addition to great butchers/meat purveyors at our farmers markets, like Prather Ranch, a couple specialist butchers have cropped up, like Local Butcher in Berkeley and my neighborhood joint, Clove and Hoof.  John Blevins, the owner, is friendly and will make deals, custom cut a piece on site, whatever you like.  For prime rib, I'll drop what it takes to buy his product, and he'll work with me so it's possible.  We could stand a few places that offer more than the usual beef/pork/lamb/chicken, but there you go.

For a European feeling, with high end and good selection, there's Rockridge Market Hall.  Produce shop, butcher, fishmonger, wine store, pasta/cheese/prepared foods purveyor, bakery, and coffee joint under one roof.  If I shopped carefully I might be able to buy all my perishables there--the wine shop has probably the best selection of reasonably priced goods.  But if I need lamb or duck stock, fresh pasta or sheets of pasta, real Balsamic vinegar, epoisses cheese for GregT--it's the closest place to go.  It's probably a mile from our house, but, assuming millenials paying top dollar for houses in my area ever learn to cook, we could use one in our own neighborhood.  (We've got a great potential location if someone ever gets a clue.) 

If you need some obscure fruit or vegetable, want to do all your grocery shopping at one purveyor, and are willing to put up with the craziness that is Berkeley, there's the venerable Berkeley Bowl.  Originally in a converted bowling center, and originally exclusively (or close to it) a produce market, they moved into a store Safeway abandoned, then built a second market on the west side of Berkeley a few years back.  They were among the first places to sell sushi-grade fish to the public, and occupy a place in Berkeley foodie lore right up there with Chez Panisse, Kermit Lynch, Acme Bread.  I find the places poorly laid out and overwhelming, and I think they don't get the quality or variety they used to, but the wife loves it, and sometimes there's just no other place you will be assured of getting an out-of-the-way ingredient. 

There's also a great selection of ingredients in Oakland's Chinatown, which is a real, working immigrant neighborhood, and not overrun with tourists.  It's actually kind of pan-Asian (except Korean--more on that below), so you can get ingredients for a wide variety of things, or eat a Vietnamese banh mi for lunch between picking up your Chinese greens and your duck.  Speaking of duck, I like to buy my roasted ducks at New Gold Medal.  I don't think they have a website.  For Duck Taco Night one year I bought 15 ducks from them.  They remember me for that. 

We actually live around the corner from the largest concentration of Korean restaurants in the Bay Area, but the markets are a little closer to downtown on Telegraph, which is our main artery, running from downtown Oakland to the Cal campus.  I don't shop at them much, but if you needed something to make authentically Korean food, or just wanted to mess with the ingredients, you'd be in good company.  Also more kinds of kim chee than you knew existed, with and without MSG.

Finally, we've got top year-round farmers markets.  On Saturday, there are three major ones, the best and swankiest being the Ferry Building market in SF, which can be accessed by BART (4 stops from my home) or--get this--an actual ferry.  It's not unreasonable to get there if you also want to pick something up at Prather Ranch, but with our own butcher in the neighborhood, it's less common for us to do.  On Sunday, our own Temescal Farmers Market has Prather and one other meat purveyor and a good selection of mostly organic produce, but it's also become a major hang-out/community gathering place, for good or ill.  Lines for coffee--really, you didn't have  a cup at home first?--are really long.  There's a couple good bakers, a fishmonger, a cured pork products purveyor, olive oil and juice stands.  So if you are having folks over on Sunday, you can shop like a chef the same day.  There's even a place that sells vegetable plant starts for your garden. 

As I write this, I am thankful to be living here, and realize what it is we get for the high cost of living.  Shame it can't be like this in more places, and shame that more people can't afford or appreciate what we have here. 

Reply by outthere, Apr 21, 2017.

Wow, where do I start? Famed horticulturist Luther Burbank called Sonoma County God's chosen palce. We probably have more fresh local/organic fruits and vegetables here on a year round basis than anywhere else in the Country. Do I take it for granted? Yup, until I travel to other parts of the Country. Then I get a feeling of pride and appreciation for where I live. Whether it grows in soil or eats what grows in soil we have an abundance of it here.

Every non-chain market has something special. For produce and organic items you can't beat Andy's Produce Market. Started 60+ years ago as a seasonal roadside produce stand it is now a West Sonoma County institution. If you can't find it here it probably does not grow in soil.

For a more traditional market I avoid Safeway, Lucky's, Whole Paycheck and instead drop in at Pacific Market. More expensive than the average grocery but the quality of goods is always top notch. Since we are empty nesters I always choose quality over quantity and long ago cancelled my Costco membership. Pacific always seems to have what I am looking for short of odd produce. Then I stop at Andy's which is just down the road and on my way home.

Olivers Market has 4 locations in the County and is a larger version of Pacific Market. Quality Prodcue great fresh Seafood and Meats and an abundant selection of craft beer and premium wines.

For meat I have a few great options. Sonoma County Meat Company is a USDA meat processing facility and uses only locally raised beef, pork, lamb, goat, ranbit or chicken. They sometimes source Wagyu Beef from Oregon. They also process your wild game if you are a hunter. Full smoking, sausage making, dry aging facilities. No matter what cut you want and/or how long you want it aged they can do it for you. The easiest stop for meat but not the only option. Willowside Meats has been around for decades. A small family owned hole in the wall on the backraods on my way home every evening. Good selection of grass fed dry aged meat, sausages and ground wild game meats.

Yet there is no peer to Flannery Beef in San Rafael. Bryan Flannery buys, butchers and dry ages only the best of the best beef available in the State and across the Country.  The authority on quality beef in the Western US. I most often purchase his beef online but on occasion get the opportunity to visit his butcher shop. Of all the things he offers one of my favorites is the Burger Builder where you can build the ultimate burger blend to your specifications. It's like taking the best steak you ever ate but ground in a burger form. One that you can safely grill a perfect medium rare without fear of getting sick from salmonella/e.coli. At an average of $10/lb it's easilt]y $10 or more a pound less than you would pay for the same beef in steak form. You've tried the rest, now try the best.

If it's specilty foods or desserts it's hard to beat Kozlowski Farms and/or Mom's Apple Pie both legendary staples of Sonoma Couty Culinary history.

But I'm just scratching the surface. This is a foodies Paradise.

Reply by GregT, Apr 21, 2017.

Zabars was a pain to get to if you're not in Manhattan. Brooklyn had a lot of small butcher shops, called pork stores. Best for mixed stuff was Sahadi's on Atlantic. Pretty much whatever you needed. Then in Queens, the Chinatown shops. Off Lexington in midtown was Kalyustan's - you need powdered goat cheese? No problem. Not sure just yet where to shop in my new surroundings.

Reply by dmcker, Apr 22, 2017.

Great response, guys, and I was correct in anticipating the enthusiasm.

Fox, no response to Bi-Rite?

Greg, I always just taxied to Zabar's on Broadway, but that was me, the busy tourist. No idea how their online or Eli Zabar's places work. Where are you living now, still SD?

Keep it coming, folks!

Reply by dmcker, Apr 23, 2017.

Fox, so no Trader Joe's, Whole Foods or Safeway?  ;-)

I have close family who live nearby and tell me Temescal is gentrifying/hipsterifying rapidly as long-vacant buildings and lots are being redeveloped on Broadway, and Telegraph expands its grip.


Reply by Richard Foxall, Apr 24, 2017.

D, the one thing we are missing in Temescal proper is a market.  Lots of stuff around us, but we could use a Rockridge Market Hall set-up closer by.  I've seen a number of spaces that would be ideal for it, but so far no one wants to do it.  We considered doing it ourselves a few years ago, but we didn't have the time.  Now we lack the resources.  Maybe if we had some partners, but I think the real estate might price us out now. There are still too many empty buildings, as my nephew noted yesterday, but it's not the place I moved into 19 years ago.  Some of the changes are certainly for the good.  Maybe if the millenials who buy into the 'hood learn to cook someone will build that market.

Re: response to BiRite:  When I met my wife, she lived right around the corner from BiRite.  Their stuff is great, but it's expensive and it gets absurdly crowded, or did.  It's tiny. We met at Rainbow Grocery, which I actually ought to give a shout out.  Yes, it started as a hippie market, but they have always had a leaning towards local, sustainable, and tasty.  The cheese monger there for many years was Gordon Edgar, who was partners with my wife's college friend--they attended our wedding together, only to break up a few years later.  Still the best place in the Bay to buy cheese, IMO. 

OT, I have driven past Andy's scores of times.  Sounds like I should stop in sometime.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Apr 25, 2017.

D, I didn't answer your query about TJ's, Whole Foods or Safeway.  We do shop those places for certain staples and when we're being a bit lazier.  (Not so much Whole Foods--at those prices, we can just get the organic things our local vendors provide.) Who doesn't do that sometimes?  TJ's has certain good prepared food options and is okay on cheeses, chips, stuff like that, and it probably is where we buy most of the stuff we buy regularly, like peanut butter, syrup, flour, pasta, ice cream.  We use it as the path of least resistance.  Safeway is where we buy paper goods, Chobani yogurt, chocolate chips (TJ's chips are horrible) and a few other things, but no one would ever call shopping there an enjoyable experience. 

I'm really looking forward to the summer, when I'll get my tomatoes, peppers, kale, beans, cukes, Italian squash, lettuce and arugula, and herbs from my yard.  The fig tree is looking healthy, too.

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