The Mint Shop

The Mint Shop

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Californian Farmers' Markets

So where have I disappeared like this, without any warning or notice? No I didn't get kidnapped by the aliens or lost my job for too much blogging. Simple explanation: I was on holiday (or vacation as my Californian friends would say).

I admit though. I owe you profuse apologies. I am sorry. But I was so excited about packing and planning my holiday that I forgot to post an "out-of-office" message. But the excitement was well rewarded. We spent 10 days in sunny California (with a quick detour to the Grand Canyon). The place is truly beautiful and Californians know how to enjoy life. Great food everywhere and fantastic weather.

A few tips: motels (despite my initial resistance considering the number of dead bodies we see in typical American films, including bloody showers) and hostels are perfectly adequate. We stayed at the Motel6 in Santa Barbara with view over the bay, at the Comfort Inn in Carmel by the sea (more about these later) and the Hostel in Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco which is in an old military basis just along the bay with fantastic views to the bridge. We couldn't have asked for more.

A friend told me that down there Americans are aware of what they eat, keen on knowing where it comes from and how it is grown. True. Locally grown, sustainably produced, organic and GMO-free are very much the concern for the majority of the people there. Food is so fresh, so juicy and sweet. Strawberries and oranges in particular. It is not cheap, despite the weakness of the dollar, but worth it.

At the weekend, every city has its own local farmers' markets. I was so excited! I had heard a great deal about Californian markets and made sure that I didn't miss any single stall at the market in San Francisco. And it turns out that we were really lucky with the weather as San Francisco tends to be pretty wet and damp for most of the year with only degree of variations.

Everything was extremely fresh, colorful and natural! Somehow I repeated myself, so "not American"! Without sounding rude...And we could even attend life cooking demonstrations. We had a wonderful salad which turns out to be really easy but so refreshing and light that I suspect will be a big hit this coming Summer. It requires fish, something with firm meat like monk fish or, as in this case, halibut. The fish gets cooked simply with oil and lemon juice, hence in a carpaccio style - or ceviche (the Peruvian way).

Halibut Carpaccio Salad

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tsp Vietnamese fish sauce
1 tsp mince garlic
1 tbsp thinly sliced shallot
2 or 3 Thai chillies
1/2 pound skinless halibut filet (or pollock, cod, a fish with firm meat)
1 cup loosely packed yellow frisee
1/2 cup coriander
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 pear
2-3 sweet potato chips

1. In a bowl, combine the lime juice, fish sauce, garlic, shallots and chillies. Add the fish and let marinate for 10 minutes at room temperature.

2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fish to another bowl and add the frisee, the coriander (chopped), oil ad salt to taste. Add 1 or 2 tbsp of the marinade.

3. To serve, slice the pears thinly and arrange on a plate. Add the fish and mound on top. Garnish with the sweet potato chips.

The biggest market happening in San Francisco is the one by the old port taking place every Saturday and that you must absolute not miss if you are in the city. I have always thought that markets are one of the best ways to see the culture of a country - much better than museums, and lots of free samples!!




  1. Giulia Portuese-Williams15 March 2011 at 16:03

    mi hai riportato talmente tanti ricordi Francesca, sai che ho passato un anno a UCSB a Santa Barbara a fare la tesi? pensa col campus sulla spiaggia...
    e il Golden Gate.......ho dei ricordi stupendi di un anno davvero avventuroso....tanti anni fa.

  2. Allora aspetta al blog su Santa Barbara... ;-)

  3. Beautiful photos! I miss California a lot...especially the food culture. I'm so pleased it was sunny for you in San Francisco. It really is hit or miss with that city. DId you get a chance to visit the markets in San Francisco's China Town? x

  4. Hi K! We did China Town but no much food market - Japane Town though was great! More to come...:-)