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Posts Tagged 'market'

Back To Work: The Commute

IMG_7784Having been encapsulated in my car for the past three years and not really having to walk the streets of the mid-market area it was a bit of a shock at first.While there are tech companies galore in the area, most are within a few feet of the metro station and the people who work there have little interaction with the locals.

I have a two block walk from Van Ness Station down to 11th and Howard and it’s an interesting walk depending on which side of the street you’re on. But before I digress, let’s start from the beginning. I consider myself rather lucky in that I live in the fifth house from the corner of a stop by the 48 Quintara. I can use the app Routesy to check the arrival time of the bus and thankfully it is very accurate. I can hop on and be driven up to West Portal station where I grab whatever shows up and take that four stops to Van Ness where I can get to work in 35 minutes. Considering most techies consider the Sunset District to be too far away I think that’s a pretty short commute compared to living in say, Oakland.

That being said, when I get off it’s a whole different story. There is a noticeable difference between the left side and the right side of the street as I walk to work. Both are dirty, but the right side is definitely more on the smelly side. On the left side I start off walking by Uber, Square and a couple of other companies and while I don’t have proof I can’t help but think they’re part of the reason it’s not as smelly. There are security guards stationed at the entrance of all the buildings and garages and they’re all big and stern looking gentlemen, but when I walk by they sort of lose that street face probably because they know I’ve got better things to do than mess with them. There’s still a ton of old dried up gum on the sidewalk as I get to 11th and Mission, but it’s missing from the block were Uber and Square reside.

Once I hit Mission things begin to change. There’s a taco truck that I mentioned previously that was chasing away a homeless person who was trying to hide behind it to take a dump. The amount of trash increases here as well as people who obviously look much older than they really are. I have to walk past people having arguments with no one else in side who’s faces show that while they look old and haggard they aren’t as old as they look. Meth comes to mind, but it could easily be years of alcohol abuse as well. If I’m not asked by something slurring their words hunched over for a cigarette even though I’m not smoking it’s considered a good day. As I reach Howard street there’s a bus stop which looks like it kind of doubles as a rest room. In the mornings there are lots of young people who go to a couple of places for mentally disabled people that I feel sorry for because they have to see the ugly soft white underbelly of the city. Most of the people on the streets look angry. If I had to live there I’d probably look angry too. It’s not a very inviting place, yet all the of the tech and tech related companies I pass by have these unadorned fronts with large glass windows showing off their beautiful insides. I can totally relate to people who have to walk by these places daily on the outside looking in. It just feels a bit grim to me.

I mentioned before that there are lots of car repair shops, but what I didn’t mention is that they’re all high end car repair shops. You walk by garages that are dingy on the outside, but when you walk by the opening they’re immaculate Mercedes, BMW, Audi and even higher end repair shops. All the cars look like they just came out of a car wash even if they’ve been in a wreak.

When it’s time for me to go home it’s been a bit warm lately in the evenings and so I walk up the right side of the street to stay out of the sun. This is a whole different area even though it’s just across the street. There are lots of support buildings for those in need and unfortunately it tends to show the downside of those who are less fortunate. There are makeshift tents, people passed out against buildings and smell of sewer plant is highly evident. Why it doesn’t cross the street is beyond me.

There’s a Salvation Army store that takes up a sizable chunk between Mission and Market that I assume is attracting people who go through the stuff the SA can’t use. Having to walk past old dried out gum on the other side of the street isn’t so bad in comparison to having to step over puddles of urine and feces on the other side of the street. I was walking up to Market the other day behind a couple of kids who might have been in their early 20’s chugging a 40oz of MGD when the guy says, I gotta piss hella bad, so he just stopped in a corner and started to relieve himself. His girlfriend noted that she had to too and dropped her pants in the bus stop and took care of business both of them ignoring that I was walking by or that there was an elderly woman sitting waiting for the bus.

Once I make it back to Van Ness Station things seem safe again, not that I’ve been harassed by anyone on the walk back, but still, it’s been an eye opening experience.

Next: Back To Work: Tech Bros, The Real Story.




Have Farmer’s Markets Become Superfluous?

Farmer's MarketMy wife and I took a trip past a farmer’s market yesterday and as we walked around we began to notice something that I remarked to her about. When I was a kid my parents used to go to the farmer’s market out on Alemany Blvd every few months. My Mom was into pickling and she could buy large flats of cucumbers and wax peppers to pickle and can up because they were cheaper. What we found yesterday wasn’t exactly the case.

Today there’s more than produce at farmer’s markets which makes them kind of more interesting to visit. While it used to be though that you would go to farmer’s markets to get things you couldn’t find anywhere else and to get them cheaper this isn’t really the case today.

Many of the non-produce packaged foods can be found in local upscale grocery stores usually at less price than at a farmer’s market because they just have to deliver the product and not stand around all day to hock their product. With the produce, I’ve seen the same trucks that work the markets at our local produce markets unloading larger amounts than they bring to the farmer’s markets and they are the same quality and cheaper.

So I thought for a second about why would you go to an outdoor market to buy your vegetables and other items when you could get them any day of the week for less at a produce market? I have yet to figure that out. I think it’s nice that there are a few food trucks there because they’re something different, but I just can’t bring myself to spend $20+ to feed my family when there are local restaurants that I can get it cheaper.

While I find them fun to walk around and see what’s available I usually don’t drop more than about $5 and that’s usually at one of the booths set up by a bakery. Frequently we’ve found that the produce we’ve purchased at a market doesn’t last more than a few days and you can never tell if the same business will be there next week.

So if you enjoy purchasing at farmer’s markets please comment and tell me why because I’d like to know.

Stonestown Farmer’s Market

I grew up with my family going to farmer’s markets on the weekend. Back then though there was only one in San Francisco out on Alemany Avenue that still is there today. Back then things were a little different from what I remember. There was pretty much only fruits and vegetables and they weren’t organic, but they were good quality. My Mom used to buy pickling cucumbers when they were in season by the crate and make Kosher dills and bread and butter pickles [those are the sliced pickles of today]. She’d also get various wax peppers and pickle them too and there was always the fresh fruit for making pies and cobbler. My Mom could cook to say the least.

Now, the farmer’s markets are focused on organic and artisanal products. Stonestown Farmer’s Market is pretty similar to other farmer’s markets around the city that you’ll see. Most of the vegetables and fruits are trucked up for the day from down South and while the fruits tend to be pretty good I can get a crate of strawberries on one of the corners from a hispanic kid selling them before the police chase them away for less. Not that I’ve had a need to purchase a crate of strawberries anytime in my life, but if I did I know where to get the cheap. Generally the fruits and vegetables are a little bit cheaper than in stores, but the vegetables tend to be lacking in quality. Our trip yesterday yielded us not too much other than some baked goods which specializes in pretzel based breads. The time before that our purchase of vegetables ended up having to be thrown out as after we got rid of the outer bits of leaves the inside tended to be molding and rotting. The potatoes we purchased were pre-bagged and were rotting when we opened them up.

That being said, there are some interesting things you can try and purchase at the farmer’s markets. Baked goods, cheeses, olive oil pretty much anything packaged will be good quality, but beware of the term artisanal in front of it. We had some cheese samples that were very good, but when you have it called artisanal cheese expect to pay a higher price. We tried an aged cheese that was washed in beer, but that meant nothing to be as I didn’t get any taste of beer from it. Another was brine washed called salty dog and while there was a hint of salt, it was a longer aged cheese which could have contributed more than the brine wash.

There are also several jewelry, clothing and art retailers there that while nice wasn’t enough of an attraction. There were several food vendors that were tempting me, except we were going out to lunch so I didn’t want to spend money twice and not be able to eat all of the food I purchased. Stonestown’s Farmer’s Market also had weekly bands that aren’t blasting loud, but entertaining and seem to be enjoyed by the children when they aren’t enjoying the bouncy house at the far end. It’s every Sunday until 1pm and I definitely think you should check it out, but keep in mind that not all fruits and vegetables are in season year round.

Squeezing the Cucumbers @ Parkside Farmers Market

If you live in San Francisco you learn quickly that big chain produce needs a major overhaul. Thanks to my wife who gives me a kick in the head everyone once in awhile she got us to go into some of the local produce marts in San Francisco. I’m going to just talk about one, but they’re in every part of the city and the best thing is that not only is the produce fresh, but it’s cheap.

My wife, hereby referred to as wife, one day suggested we pull over and check out the Parkside Farmers Market. It’s at 16th and Taraval. I figured we didn’t have anything else to do so why not. We’ve traveled into a fair amount of stores that we wouldn’t have normally gone into just to see if we were missing anything. This place was pretty cool. I learned a lot from our trip in there.

The Parkside Farmer’s Market has in addition to produce a lot of rarely seen Mediterranian fare, Russian fare and some Asian fare [Irving street is better for Asian fare]. For those of you familiar with a candy called Aplets and Cotlets, they actually come from a candy called Turkish Delights. If you like them, then you need to go here as they are better and cheaper. You can also find lavash bread which is used in making wraps and shawarmas and pita bread and god knows how many types of feta cheese.

Then as you travel down the aisles you’ll find odd spices and grains that I had no idea what they were, but the people working there had no problem explaining to me how to use them. This was one of the places that turned me on to cacahuates, those Mexican candy coated peanuts dusted with chili powder. I learned about pickled turnips and how actually while the name doesn’t sound so good they’re pretty tasty.

Now wife is a stickler for fresh produce since I brought her out here from back east. When she sends me out to the store for produce I receive proper instructions on how to check if the produce I’d getting is fresh. This is a big point when it comes to cucumbers since it’s a food our daughter loves. I have learned that you have to squeeze the cucumbers to make sure they’re good and hard. A cucumber that isn’t is kind of squishy when you eat it and you don’t get the crunch. So I walk in and head to the cucumbers, specifically the smaller persian cucumbers and pick one up and start squeezing it. As I’m standing there squeeze the cucumber I suddenly hear a woman’s voice, can I help you? This is one of those points where you realize that you’re standing there squeezing a cucumber when a woman walks up and you start hearing this 70’s waka-waka music [Let’s Get it On, by Marvin Gaye if you need some help] in your head and think you’re in a really bad porn movie. I replied, no just checking that the cucumbers were fresh. To which I received in reply, our cucumbers are fresh and hard. No need to worry. OK, cue the waka-waka music again. [I’ve been really tryin’, baby. Tryin’ to hold back this feelin’ for so long]

I was able to shake off the fact that my mind was telling me that Larry Flynt was in charge of directing this portion of my life for a minute and got to continue shopping. Persian cucumbers, like regular cucumbers are best when they are fresh and hard, all jokes aside. I bought ten of them for about $1.69. I also picked up some of the finest English peas at $1.29/lb that were huge and also fresh. The Parkside Farmers Market only takes credit cards if you are buying more than $10 and it’s been hard for us to reach that amount sometimes.

If you get a chance to drive out to the Sunset definitely check this place out and make sure that even though it’s a small store to take your time to look up and down. You’ll be surprised at some of the things you’ll run across….and now I have to go wash out my brain with soap.

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Live Poultry Banned in San Francisco

Not a big shocker here, but the United Nations Plaza farmer’s market has finally banned the sale of something that has already been against the law to sell in San Francisco—live chickens. What I find odd is that the city has let this go one for some time without having a problem with blatant out in the open violators of the law collecting money.

The chickens being sold are said to be spent hens and roosters that serve no further purpose to the poultry farm they came from and are sold stuffed into a sealed paper or plastic bag and given to the buyer to take home and kill as they please. This is kind of a rock or a hard place argument because there are lots of people against factory farming. I’ll have to say though if I was going to be a domestically raised chicken who had to die to feed other people I’d rather I be killed by trained professional with machines meant to do that than someone trying to wring my neck or slit my throat with a knife that probably isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer.

You also have a sanitation issue. San Francisco while not the densest of cities still has a lot of people coming and going and bird feces aren’t something you want introduced into large populations. That’s part of the reason most farms are outside of towns so that you can have a town in the first place.

I’ve talked about Jackson, CA before and I’ll bring it up again because I was a city boy who spent his summers in a country town. It was easy to get to the farms outside of town. It was mostly for produce because the factory meat farms where bringing the meat in cheaper. If we wanted the odd treat every once in awhile Joe Valvo down the street from my Aunt might come by with some goose eggs from the flock of Canadian Geese that occupied his front yard. Joe mostly raised them for their eggs and only ended their lives when they were started to have difficulties and then he’d have goose meat for a few weeks. The problem was that his front yard looked like crap—literally. It also smelled pretty bad on a hot day and when Joe would hose out the front you could see it all running down the street. Now this was from only eight geese that he had. When you compare this having over 1000 factory farmed chickens twice a week in a space that probably the entire population of Jackson travels through in a day and you start to have health problems.

Some people have taken the stance that these are better to eat because fresher is better. These birds are probably worse off than the chicken you buy at the store because as I said earlier, they are spent hens and roosters, not healthy birds. They can’t reproduce or lay eggs so their food supply is cut back so that the more productive birds get what they need to make more money. These are starving and undernourished animals that are probably barely up to the legal standards for McNuggets.

People need to understand that livestock butchering put into the hands of people is not a good thing. Buying live doesn’t mean it’s better quality, in most cases it’s a worse quality bird than the Foster Farms you buy at the store. These birds don’t go through any inspections or testing before being passed on to the public. Luckily there’s only the Raymond Young Poultry company that’s doing this and now he has been relegated to Richmond, CA to sell at their Farmer’s Market twice a month. Below is a piece of footage from the Civic Center Farmer’s Market that shows the pre-bagged chickens being tossed to people. Don’t watch it if you have a weak stomach.

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