It is finally widely recognized that farmers markets are the best destinations for seasonal produce, pastured eggs, grass-fed meats and poultry and, in many cases, fresh local seafood. But farmers markets are also increasingly a resource for pantry items and prepared foods, from oils, vinegars and spice blends to handmade sauces, jams, jellies, hot sauces and all manner of baked goods.
The Santa Rosa Original Farmers Market has a huge array of these products and now, when summer produce is at its peak and fall produce is starting, seems like a good time to focus on them. I haven’t paid a huge amount of attention to this element of the market primarily because I’m such an advocate of making everything from scratch. But we all stock our pantries with essentials that we don’t and realistically can’t make, there’s nothing like a homemade pie or scone made by someone else and sometimes we need healthy short cuts. Let’s talk a look at what’s available.
There are two primary olive oil vendors in this market, The Olive Press, located in Sonoma, and Stonehouse California Olive Oil, with groves in Oroville, near Chico. There is also smoked olive oil from The Smoked Olive. Vinegars are from Vivo Vinegar, which produces excellent varietal vinegars using the French Orleans method, and Bruno’s, which specializes in red wine vinegar. Kimberly Cook-Fallon’s Cook’s Spices–primarily her own spice blends, with single spices also available–is doing really well; she sources great ingredients and uses as many organic herbs and spices as she can find.
Peppahead features their huge array of sauces, like Mighty Red, Johannesburg Red, Chile Loco and Trauma. The company is based in San Rafael but ingredients are not sourced locally, which matters a great deal to some shoppers and not at all to others.
The Hummus Guy is a regular, too, with traditional hummus and several not traditional blends, including artichoke hummus, cilantro and jalapeno hummus and several others. The company also has tzatziki, tapenade, pita chips, pita bread and couscous salad. Again, the ingredients in these products aren’t necessarily local.
Pat Hicks of Just Like Grandma’s makes wonderful condiments, including orange-carrot marmalade, strawberry jam and a yummy hot pepper jelly, which all have a homey, Midwest comfortableness about them, just like the label promises.
Sabrina Kahn of Penngrove makes delicious jams and jellies using fruit from the market and sells them under the label Blue Moon.
Malaysian Mei’s Southeast Asian sauces and condiments quickly have become a fixture at this market. Red curry, green curry and peanut sauce all have passionate fans; if you haven’t tried them, you should–the booth always offers samples.
Not Your Mama’s Granola attends weekly, on Saturdays, and is hugely popular, too.
The Santa Rosa market really soars when it comes to baked goods. Worth Our Weight features a changed array of scones, fruit turnovers, bread pudding, brownies and, occasionally, individual Boston cream pies.
Flour Creations’ cinnamon rolls are quite popular, especially with early morning shoppers; you’ll also find pies, cookies and breakfast burritos at the booth.
Crumb Hither specializes in really good cupcakes with the right texture and good, true flavors, including, now and then, red velvet, a personal favorite.
Dominique’s Sweets, perhaps best known for ethereal French macarons, has outstanding fruit pies and galettes, too. Each nibble of a galette is like a little trip to Paris.
Bliss Bakery, based in Santa Rosa, specializes in gluten-free cookies, cupcakes, brownies, pies and a selection of savory baked goods. If you are looking for Mama Baretta of Penngrovem which also specializes in gluten-free baked goods, they are not currently attending the market.
If you need to take something home for a near-instant dinner, Mi Fiesta’s tamales and enchiladas are quite good, as are their accompanying sauces and salsas.
If you’ve been wondering where Sister Pie’s booth is, they won’t be back for a couple of months or perhaps a bit longer. But they will be back so don’t worry; you’ll get to enjoy one of their delicious meat pies again.
The Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market accepts CalFresh but is currently taking some time off from its monthly Savor Saturday, a monthly program that featured extra market bucks, cooking demonstrations and special information geared to CalFresh shoppers. The market has now used the grant money awarded for this purpose and is currently pursuing new grant sources so stay tuned.
Paula Downing is the manager of the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market, which is held on Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to noon and on Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the east parking lot of the Veteran’s Building. There is a third satellite market on Thursday mornings from 8:30 a.m. to noon near the back of Coddingtown, not far from J. C. Penney’s back door. Both the Wednesday and Saturday markets operate year round. The Saturday market is both the oldest in the county and the largest.
As you have probably read, new controversy about the market is emerging, with a lawsuit filed by a member vendor. I’m not going to jump into the controversy itself but I would like to make a point. Before you take one side or another, look at the market itself: Does it function well? Is it successful? Is it well attended and are shoppers satisfied? Are vendors pleased with their market? In the end, these are the most important issues. Any farmers market must serve the community with a diverse selection of farmers, ranchers and other producers who offer honest, high-quality products.