Food halls + farmers markets
Whenever I travel I seek out food halls and markets to get a taste of a wide spectrum of culture and flavors from the local community. In Oslo, the beautiful new Mathallen takes visitors on a journey through some of Norway’s best chefs; Kyoto’s bustling covered Nishiki market has been in operation since the 1300’s with everything from fresh fish and spices to knives or green tea ice cream; Zurich’s biweekly Bürklimäärt has an unbeatable lakeside location that locals flock to for their flowers, and I’ll never forget my first time to a French farmer’s market in the Graves region, where a sweet and soft-looking white rabbit sat in a cage with an already bloodied knife resting just above his head. There’s nothing like a local market to understand a region, its foods and its culture. Yet somehow, its easy to forget to be a tourist in one’s own city.
So here’s a collection of a few key food halls and farmer’s markets in the east bay where you can not only get to know your local seasonal produce — but also your neighbors and community.
Alameda Flea I’m assuming you already know about this one (you must!!) so I’ll keep it brief: the first Sunday of every month, this behemoth of a market features the widest, best selection of antiques in the bay area. It’s right on the water, so bring sunglasses as the glare of the sun off the bay and pavement is absolutely blinding. There is something for everyone here, if you have hours upon hours to spare to try to see it all.
Laurel Evening Market - many years ago I went to Hong Kong for work and spent a dizzying night exploring the Kowloon night market with my boss. There’s something really special and a bit surreal about a nighttime market, a time when most people are winding down for bed, and instead participating in a sort of electric, carnival-like adventure out in the streets. The Laurel Evening market is a monthly marketplace with music, art, vintage goods and food from local purveyors. Every third Thursday from 4-9 p.m. you can find this market at 4171 macarthur blvd. The next one is coming up on September 19.
Market Hall - will break the bank. This Rockridge indoor market-styled shop has everything you could need if you were assembling a very expensive gift basket or hosting a gourmet dinner party to try to impress your in-laws, but otherwise this probably won’t be your every day go-to market. There’s a vast selection of cheese, many of which are available for the tasting, fresh pasta, oils, tinned fish, quince and candy, anything your heart desires really, plus a Highwire coffee, Hapuku fish shop and Paul Marcus wines. If you do go, I’ll spare you the indignation I’ve faced many times: bring your purchases to the proper register to pay — buy the wine at the wine shop, the fish at the fish, etc, etc, etc.
Moraga Farmer’s Market - big and bustling, the weekly Moraga farmer’s market is one of the few signs of life in Moraga with more than 40 local vendors with great produce, meats, fish and fresh baked goods. Like many markets these days they have a Highwire coffee outpost, and my favorite baked treat this season is the everything-seasoned pinwheel ham and cheese croissant from Alameda-based Crispian bakery. The Moraga market has the best parking situation of any bay-area market I’ve seen (its both ample and free) and they celebrate the seasons with an adorable children’s costume parade for halloween, an easter egg hunt and other festive events. Usually a good place to take the kiddos on a weekend for them to run around and taste all the produce. Sundays 9 a.m. -1 p.m.
Old Oakland Farmer’s Market - every Friday from 8 a.m. -2 p.m. a few blocks in historic Oakland near Swan’s market (also an important market to visit!!) are shut down from traffic to host a packed and jovial farmers market with just about everything you do or don’t need - from backyard plants, to soap and jewelry to the usual farmer’s market staples of bountiful seasonal and organic veggies and fruits. The Midwife and the Baker even comes up from mountain view with their insanely good bread and pastries. This is probably the best market in the east bay and highly recommend if you can swing it on a Friday for lunch.
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