Cruising down Garnet, heading for the #30 bus at Mission and Felspar, when I find myself crossing Bayard.
It’s closed off to traffic. Huh. Oh, yeah, it’s Tuesday. Must be the farmers’ market. Lots of tents. People sauntering.
I head into it, and it hits me: this scene can’t be much different than, say, 100 years ago, or maybe even those medieval markets you read about. Tents, stalls, veggies, fruits, people shouting, touting their wares. Troubadour singing. Smells of herbs, like fennel and rosemary (there’s a minty-mustardy tingle I get in my nostrils, I swear), and carroty steam from a vegan soup a-cooking.
Why don’t I see if I can get myself a three-course meal here and not bust the bank?
The guy singing is Vic Moraga, the “Castilian Gypsy.” Wailing away on some Gordon Lightfoot. “If you could read my mind, love, what a tale my thoughts could tell…” Pretty darned good voice.
I hang around to hear the end of the tune, right beside this tent with a hanging sign that reads “Organic Soup.”
“We have three flavors today,” says Camilo, the soup guy. He’s a civil engineer from Chile. “Everything is organic and vegan. No meats, but they’re very filling.”
In the cool of the evening, this could go down great. Tonight’s choices includes a “zesty lentil soup,” with spuds, lentils, tomatoes, carrots, and onions. There’s also a mushroom-and-wild-rice soup, with leeks, carrots, celery, mushrooms, and herbs like rosemary and thyme.
Hey, now I remember this outfit. From the Barrio Logan farmers’ market. I had this same soup last October. Thick as a stew.
This time, to be different, I ask for the ginger-carrot soup. It costs $5 for an eight-ounce cup. It’s got carrots and onions and apple juice, but what you taste most is the ginger, zesting it up. Camilo slices off the end of a big rounded loaf of bread. “I bake this myself,” he says.
Whew. Flavorful, and filling — except, net effect, it only awakens my hunger.
Right at the market’s far end, I see you’ve got a choice. On one side, Chip’s red-and-yellow Beach Eatz truck. Deep-fried stuff, like spicy crabwich ($10) or Kalua pork sandwich ($8). On the other side? Two guys, Joe and Phil, are handing out samples of a green gloop that looks straight from the swamp.
I decide to line ye olde gut with green.
Stall’s called “GreenFix,” and what you get is a witch’s brew of all the dark-green veggies your ma had to force down your gullet: kale, chard, collard greens, romaine lettuce, plus, uh, dandelion greens, and parsley. Everything tossed in a blender.
“It’s what your body needs,” says Joe. “We add apple juice, fresh apple, banana, and flax seed. Live enzymes! It tastes great.”
He hands me a little plastic sample cup. I take a sip.
Hmm…sweet grass, I’d say. You can get it in a 16-oz plastic glassful for $4.95. A one-gallon bottle costs $29.
Right now, this guy Matt’s plunking down a growler and handing over $27 (he brought his own bottle, gets $2 off). “I’ve got a jiu jitsu tournament coming up,” he says. “I need the vitamins. This’ll last about a week.”
It’s clear they really do make it here, ’cause there’s a guy inside the tent with veggies all around him. He’s shredding off big dark leaves from a stalk — collard greens? — and bundling them into a blender.
Why not? I lay down a Lincoln and start slurping it down. Taste? It’s your lawn-clippings-with–Sweet’N Low meets fruitie-smoothie.
I drain it in three, then cross over to Chip’s Beach Eatz truck, ’cause I spotted his sandwich board: “Taco Tuesday. Fish tacos $1.50. Ceviche $5.”
Guess I can handle a buck-fifty for a fish taco. ’Specially when Chip, the happy guy who pokes his head out through the serving hole, says it’s halibut. Caught right off the shores here.
Chip should be a dab hand at this: before launching his food truck last year, he says he spent 27 years in restaurants, 19 as an executive chef.
“I just got tired of working for other people.” He hands me the tight-wrapped taco he’s cooked.
Have to say, standing here in the people-filled street, leaning over, trying not to drool as I chomp — this is the best way to eat anything. And the batter-fried halibut is so succulent. Outrageous amount of fish, with a lot of mayo-ish “secret” sauce to juice it up. Delish.
This gal Desirea gets a paper tray loaded with the $5 ceviche. Tempting, what with the avocado slices, cilantro, and lime on top of a generous bowl of ceviche (little chunks of marinated halibut, I’m guessing). Plus, you get a bunch of corn chips.
Or, I could have two more tacos and be totally bursting for $4.50 total.
But I resist both of these, because I saw a French place farther up. Still want to feel hungry when I try one of their genu-wine French crêpes.
Tent’s called “L’ardiguel.” Gal, Isabel, is from Paris. Everything’s organic, she says. She even buys all her ingredients at this farmers’ market. Cool.
I want to try a galette. It’s a savory crêpe made of buckwheat (which isn’t wheat, meaning it’s gluten-free). Isabel fills them with interesting stuff. Like, for the “Norvégienne” ($7), it’s smoked salmon, cream, and lemon. The “Saint Jacques” has scallops and spinach ($7).
On the other hand, sweet tooth’s kicking in.
So I go instead for a crêpe with chestnut spread ($3). It’s French kids’ after-school favorite, Isabel says. Her crêpe is paper-thin, and the filling’s sweet. Perfect end to the meal.
So: this has cost me $14.50. More than I meant to spend, but still, for a four-course meal — soup, gloop, fish, crêpe — I ain’t complaining.
As I pass by on my way out, Vic the Castilian Gypsy is belting out the Moody Blues classic, “Go now!”