San Francisco

Farmer’s Market (Ferry Pier, San Francisco, CA)

You can’t set foot in California these days without bumping into a farmer’s market. They are as popular as coffee houses and have fast become weekly events in many towns along the West Coast and beyond. The Ferry Building in San Francisco is a well known hub for ‘foodies’, housing restaurants which serve local, seasonal foods often sourced directly from the weekly farmer’s market held just outside. There were about thirty farms with stalls at the market and the selection of food they had brought with them was pretty impressive. For any die hard ‘locavores’ there was a helpful map at the market entrance labelling where each farm had travelled from so you could decide for yourself on where you wanted to draw the ‘local’ line. We sampled about ten different varieties of peaches and nectarines before buying one of each (including the fashionable donut peach which looked a bit like someone had sat on it to me) along with a large zucchini-style vegetable called a ‘Zephyr’ squash.

The market has a fantastic information stall helping you make informed buying choices via info sheets on intensive/industrial & factory farming; sustainable seafood and sushi; organic produce; fruit and vegetable seasonality and food miles (we were particularly drawn to the example, that in 1996 Britain imported more than 114,000 tonnes of milk while it exported almost the same amount in the same year)!

The Centre for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA) had a big presence here and were behind quite a few of the info leaflets. Their web site has most of this information on it, but in brief it is a good idea to at least consider your food choices once in a while because:

  • If everyone converted 10% of their diet to organically farmed produce, we could capture an additional three million tonnes of CO2 in the soil, the equivalent of taking two million cars off the road a year. Organic farming builds organic matter up in the soil, sequestering additional carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere.
  • Eating locally can make a real difference – in the developed world, our food travels an average of 1500-2500 miles to get to us – which is 25% farther than it did two decades ago.
  • Food composting can also really help as it cuts down on methane emissions from food landfill sites. Food composting will also help boost the soil’s power to retain carbon.

Information aside, this marked the beginning of Anna’s peach addiction so there must be something to be said for the taste of the food too!

Cafe Gratitude (1730 Shattuck St, Berkeley, CA 94709; 2400 Harrison St,
San Francisco, CA 94110)

This independent chain of Vegan restaurants in and around San Francisco serves a wide selection of raw and “live” food – each dish is named after a particular state of mind, each with their own interesting ingredients (coconut maple ‘bacon’ being one). Like many Bay Area restaurants, they are very community focussed, offering quirky menu items such as a dinner which you pay for by donation or a ”buy it forward” food item where you pay towards something for someone in your community who can’t afford the food. When we placed our order, we were asked if we would like to hear the question of the day. Appropriately,  this was: “what do you like most about your community?” Which we sadly never got the chance to answer, getting sidetracked by some vegan ice cream.

They are also expanding further down the coast: just after we passed through, on August 15th, the Santa Cruz branch of Cafe Gratitude opened…

Greens (Fort Mason, San Francisco, CA)

When we asked around about vegetarian restaurants in San Francisco, Greens was the place that everyone mentioned. One of the original vegetarian restaurants in San Francisco, it’s housed in a converted warehouse near the marina at Fort Mason on the north side of town. It has long links with the Buddhist zen centre and most of its fresh (organic) produce comes from Green Gulch Farm, located in the Marin Headlands just 14 miles away from Greens Restaurant. We managed to get there just in time for a lunch  of grilled blossom peaches with bellweather cheese, honey and watercress  (which worked as a combination and could probably be recreated fairly easily at home) followed by grilled vegetable brochettes and an espresso mousse cake.