food

forageSF

a holiday musing on the high church of food...

I hope you’re all having a great holiday. I’m up in northern CA at my dad’s, sitting by a tree cut from the nearby woods. I actually went to church last night for one of the first times (I’m a non-practicing Jew), and was reflecting on how nice it must be to be religious. The foundation that it must give to your life, the calm and reassurance it gives every decision. 

The idea that someone is there looking out for you, but also the way the rituals frame your life that non-religious people search for. What to do and not to do in certain situations. How to treat people and how to solve the problems that come up in every life. I think this is one of the reasons I focus on food. Food, like religion, is a way for people to come together around a common set of ideals; a way to join a community of like-minded individuals that live their lives with common purpose and focus. 

Food has become so much more than just what we put in our bodies. It has become a lens through which we feel we can view and influence every part of our lives, as well as the world. The environment, the economy, health, society, government policy, we can touch all these through the decisions we make with the food we eat. That’s why I’m excited about opening Forage Kitchen. Yes, it will be a place where people can work, but more than that, it will be a place for people with shared ideas can come together. A place to learn, grow, and nurture, not just discrete businesses, but a community of people who share the same ideals about how the world should be. 

Some may say I’m being a bit over the top, but to me food is so much more than what you eat. It’s a daily statement of the direction you want the world to move, and a tangible thing you can hold that expresses what you believe in. 

Forage Kitchen is coming: we’re getting the permits signed, the plans through the planning, and the designs on the paper. I’ll see you all there soon. Hope you’re having a great holiday, and ideally eating far more than you should.

Thanks

Iso

wild kitchen

Health Department Blues

01_Wild_Kitchen_Pop_Up_Restaurant_AndriaLo

Our ever evolving saga with the health department has a new chapter. Since June, when The Underground Market was shut down, we have been trying our best to work with DPH (Department of Public Health). We have all the permits we need, fill out the ever increasing number of forms that are required for the privilege of feeding people in our fair city, and jump through all the myriad hoops put in front of us.  I have been trying my best to come up with solutions to re-open The Underground Market that they're ok with, and at every turn we're rebuked. They seem to have no interest in supporting the food community in SF. Every step they take is a step to push anyone doing innovative food further underground. The most recent situation for us is with our upcoming Basque dinners this weekend. After filling out permits, sending in forms, getting a legit kitchen with a permitted dining room, we are still in danger of getting shut down. The space we are using apparently has an invalid occupancy permit the the fire department. This basically means that a form needs to be turned in to prove that people can safely be in the space. This is the same space we have held our events for months, without a peep about occupancy. Suddenly, a day before our event, we're told we're in violation. I can't see this as anything but a move to shut us down.

I realize they have a job to do, but while the city talks out of one side of its mouth about supporting small businesses, and getting people back to work, the very city organizations that deal with small businesses do everything they can to shut us down. If we desire any real change in the way our country eats, we need to do more than just swear off mcdonalds. We need to work together to create a situation where it's easier to serve good local food at a local scale than it is to serve processed crap flown in from all over the world.  We need to do more than just make an effort to shop at farmers markets, we need to work to make it viable for small producers to start businesses using local ingredients.  Thankfully we're moving in that direction, but certainly not there yet.

We are going ahead with our events tomorrow. Wish us luck.

wild kitchen

Health department blues

Our ever evolving saga with the health department has a new chapter. Since June, when The Underground Market was shut down, we have been trying our best to work with DPH (Department of Public Health). We have all the permits we need, fill out the ever increasing number of forms that are required for the privilege of feeding people in our fair city, and jump through all the myriad hoops put in front of us.  I have been trying my best to come up with solutions to re-open The Underground Market that they're ok with, and at every turn we're rebuked. They seem to have no interest in supporting the food community in SF. Every step they take is a step to push anyone doing innovative food further underground. The most recent situation for us is with our upcoming Basque dinners this weekend. After filling out permits, sending in forms, getting a legit kitchen with a permitted dining room, we are still in danger of getting shut down. The space we are using apparently has an invalid occupancy permit the the fire department. This basically means that a form needs to be turned in to prove that people can safely be in the space. This is the same space we have held our events for months, without a peep about occupancy. Suddenly, a day before our event, we're told we're in violation. I can't see this as anything but a move to shut us down. Its ridiculous that DPH can be so shortsighted on these issues.

I realize they have a job to do, but while the city talks out of one side of its mouth about supporting small businesses, and getting people back to work, the very city organizations that deal with small businesses do everything they can to shut us down. If we desire any real change in the way our country eats, we need to do more than just swear off mcdonalds. We need to work together to create a situation where it's easier to serve good local food at a local scale than it is to serve processed crap flown in from all over the world.  We need to do more than just make an effort to shop at farmers markets, we need to work to make it viable for small producers to start businesses using local ingredients.  Thankfully we're moving in that direction, but certainly not there yet.

We are going ahead with our events tomorrow. Wish us luck.

SF Underground Market

Our Vendors #2 - Sidesaddle Kitchen and Ahram Namu Kimchi

I feel that too much of the discussion about the market hiatus has been about the Health Department. Why they closed us down, when they’ll let us re-open.  While I understand and appreciate the concern for safety, I feel that the real focus of the market, the vendors, has been ignored. Public health is a something we take very seriously, but it is my sincere belief that it is less the stainless steel countertops and three-compartment sinks that makes food safe, but the care and attention of the producer. These small batch producers all have a deep care for what they are doing, and it shows in their products.

What we should be focusing on are the people who create this food, how they have started, and where they are now. The market has enabled them to start a business that they wouldn’t have otherwise started, and many have gone on to become legitimate business owners. We need to expand the ways that these small producers can get their products out to the public. I’ve asked vendors to respond to a few questions about how the market has affected their business, and over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some of the vendor stories:

Sidesaddle Kitchen - Laura Miller

I feel enormously lucky that I found the Underground Market just as I was starting to get serious about Sidesaddle. Being able to meet other vendors, testing out products, and getting exposure to thousands of people every month was incredibly valuable. I never saw the market as a subversive endeavor, but instead as an opportunity that offered a sense of community and support that I couldn't find anywhere else. Aside from the obvious financial challenge of starting a food business, the process can be difficult and discouraging - I may have given up by this point had I not found the market. With contacts made at these events, I have finally gotten into a commercial kitchen and taken the steps to become a licensed operation. Forage successfully organized a logistical framework that is supporting a cultural movement at a grassroots level.

Ahram Namu Kimchi - Ahram Kim

When I first heard about The Underground Market, I didn't know whether or not I had a viable product.  I had a homemade organic kimchi that I was sharing with friends and co-workers.  Many were encouraging me to turn it into a business, but I didn't know the first thing about starting one.  Nearly selling out of all the jars I'd prepared for my first market, made me realize that there was a demand for my product.  It encouraged me to pursue something I have always been passionate about, but never dreamed that I could make a living from.  That first market was a little over a year ago, and now I'm working out of a commercial kitchen and selling my product in three stores in The Bay Area. The Underground Market means the world to me.  Without it, I wouldn't have my own business which has gone from a hobby to my major source of income.  The market provided me with huge motivation to continue to pursue my business.  I went "above ground" 10 months ago, but I still participate in The Underground Market because I love interacting with the public and getting their direct feedback.  I also love the sense of community amongst the vendors.  I've gotten so much good advice from other vendors, and always look forward to trading items and discovering the next big food idea.

San Francisco is a notoriously expensive city and the start-up costs of a business here seem really prohibitive.  The pop-up restaurants, food trucks and The underground market are a reflection of our economic times and the high cost of rent here.  Few people have the capital to rent a commercial space.  When I first started out, I had nothing. The underground market helped me get to where I am now.  It really is a food incubator for those like me who have an idea, but not the means to start a business.  To even get to a point where you want to invest the time and money into starting a business, you need to first figure out whether there is a demand for your product, and the markets help you determine that before you've invested all your savings or quit your day job.  In a city that's known for innovation and progressive ideas, it would be a shame to stifle something that has been so positive for not only the vendor's but also for the public.  Please let the market continue to make a difference to budding entrepreneurs.  Don't makes us take our dreams to Portland!  WE LOVE SAN FRANCISCO!

SF Underground Market

Our vendors

I feel that too much of the discussion about the market hiatus has been about the Health Department. Why they closed us down, when they'll let us re-open.  While I understand and appreciate the concern for safety, I feel that the real focus of the market, the vendors, has been ignored. Public health is a something we take very seriously, but it is my sincere belief that it is less the stainless steel countertops and three-compartment sinks that makes food safe, but the care and attention of the producer. These small batch producers all have a deep care for what they are doing, and it shows in their products.

What we should be focusing on are the people who create this food, how they have started, and where they are now. The market has enabled them to start a business that they wouldn’t have otherwise started, and many have gone on to become legitimate business owners. We need to expand the ways that these small producers can get their products out to the public. I’ve asked vendors to respond to a few questions about how the market has affected their business, and over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some of the vendor stories:

Randall Hughes: Oaktown Jerk It was forageSF where my business made its debut with the public. The forageSF market place allows me to get great and very useful feedback from the public. With every market comes a wealth of networking opportunity and I always managed to network with people who in one way or another have helped me launch my business. Now I work out of a commercial kitchen, which has allowed me to get my product to even more venues. I wasn't certain that I could justify investing the money ($10,000 in equipment alone) it cost to establish a legit food company. But after vending at several forageSF markets I felt confident that I was producing something that was worth taking to the next level.

Thanks Iso! You've helped me with my business more than you can imagine! Now I am at the Farmers' Market : http://www.urbanvillageonline.com/markets/oldOakland.php I am scheduling to do many venues in and around Oakland in 2011: http://www.oaktownjerk.com/UpcomingEvents.html And I am also still at forageSF because I really like the market and what it stands for.

I started making beef jerky in my kitchen and would share it with my coworkers. This was my market analysis. I started with coworkers and friends but then knew that I needed the feedback from absolute strangers. That's where forageSF became a very key resource in the success of my company. I think forageSF should stay open because it is the birthplace for so many great artisan companies. This market is a serious springboard for so many folks who are trying something new for various reasons. For me and so many others it has been a place to explore the talents that we have decided to tap into for reasons due to the economic downturn. It's truly amazing to see and feel the energy at the market. forageSF is helping to develop small business ownership. We should be embracing the people who provide such a wonderful venue, which allows us to showcase our wares. What a great thing!

Kai Kronfield: Nosh This

The Underground Market has been invaluable to me and a host of other small-scale producers. It has provided me a venue and a "customer base" if you will, to explore different ideas and to do real-time market research into what products have traction as I build a business from scratch. Aside from the opportunity to sell my wares, the Underground Market embodies a community of vendors/producers who feed off each other and raise each other up. There is no "competition" amongst vendors. We assist each other in terms of honest, knowledgeable feedback about ingredients/flavors/techniques and are a source of encouragement for each other. Not having such a venue would re-establish a great obstacle on the path to legitimacy for a lot of people.

Further to that excerpt, the UM provided me with exposure to dedicated foodie customers who were eager to give feedback and when warranted, praise. It has helped to raise my profile from "a guy on a street with a few candies" to a recognizable and trusted producer of fine artisan chocolates. I'm confident I would have gotten to this point eventually, but this market streamlined that process. I am now cooking out of a commercial kitchen and starting to look at wholesaling and online sales.

Of course I believe the market should stay open. I'm thinking mainly about the people who are just starting out and I think it would be such a shame if they didn't have the same opportunities that I and many of the other current vendors had. Sadly, they may opt not to start a business which would be a shame for them and for the San Francisco food community which has always had a bit of an experimental streak.

Ina Golad: Ina’s Kitchen

Ina's Kitchen was organized to raise funds for a non-profit education foundation that helps underprivileged children to advance their skills in athletics and technology. The underground market provided an incredible forum for Ina's Kitchen to sell its food products. Prior to finding the underground market and meeting Iso, the devoted and energetic organizer, Ina's Kitchen faced many challenges. These challenges included costs of setting up fundraising events, finding space and volunteers to run the events, and advertising. The underground market that Iso has organized takes care of all of these challenges and provides an amazing opportunity for Ina's Kitchen to raise money on behalf of the non-profit education foundation. Ina's Kitchen sincerely hopes that this market remains open so that it and other vendors with charitable goals can enjoy the convenience of this perfectly organized market.

SF Underground Market

Underground Market Shutdown : An Update

I started the Underground Market in 2009 as a reaction to the high bar of entry that has been created to start a food business, something that I experienced personally. Starting in a house in the Mission with seven vendors and 150 eaters, the market has grown to feed over 50,000 people and help over 400 vendors get their start.

As many of you have heard, the health department came to the last Underground Market on July 11th and served us a cease and desist letter, stating they no longer considered the market a private event.

The market was able to function to this point because it was considered a private event (hence the market sign-ups). We organized it in this way following a suggestion by the health department. Everyone who walks through the door is a member who knows they are eating un-certified food , so technically the health department doesn't have to be involved.

They have decided (apparently with pressure from the state level), that the market is no longer a private event, and can therefore not continue as it has. We have requested a meeting with the city attorney for a definition of what a private/public event is exactly, so we can determine where the line is, and continue running the market.

This was not an unexpected event. We’ve known that it was only a matter of time until someone became upset about the popularity of the event. Because we’ve been expecting it doesn’t mean that we accept it.

Over the last year and a half The Underground Market has grown into a supportive community of makers and eaters. We see that in the 30-50 new vendors that apply every month, bringing samples of foods they clearly poured their hearts into, and the thousands of people who walk through the door each month to eat that food.

Our goal is to keep this momentum going. We would like to see the market continue to exist much as it has because we feel that it provides a necessary venue for people starting new food businesses. We’re interested in providing a space for entrepreneurs who for a myriad of reasons are not able to abide by the regulations put in place. The regulations, upfront costs, red tape, and lack of clarity in procedures all too often stop amazing food from ever being eaten.

The market is used in different ways by different people. Some are home cooks that have always wanted to sell, but for various reasons have not been able. Cocotutti is a prime example. She sold her first chocolates at the market over a year ago, and has since won national awards, moved into a commercial kitchen, and is approaching markets to stock her goods. KitchenSidecar worked at a bio consulting job, with a food blog on the side, before she found the market. Now she cooks full-time, caters, holds her own dinners, and collaborates on a Vietnamese pop-up restaurant called Rice Paper Scissors with another vendor, Little Knock. Nosh This was working as an architect before he was laid off and turned to the world of candy. Following his recent appearances in the New York Times, his wholesale accounts have exploded, he has moved into a commercial kitchen, and is working to make “Bacon Crack” a household name.

These are a few examples of people whose business, and some would say lives, have been changed because of their exposure at the market. People who have been able to earn money for themselves instead of populating the unemployment rolls. People who are contributing to the local economy while at the same time expanding the local food community.

We want the Underground Market to be a space for food entrepreneurs to get started on a small scale. And we want to continue to offer them more resources to move forward. We have seen the need for some time to have a space where vendors can produce their wares commercially. A space where we can hold classes on food safety/business, have commercial kitchen space for vendor use, retail space for them to sell, and café space with rotating chefs for them to cook. This space will be a hub, a place where people can come together around the wealth of food being produced in our city. We are starting work on looking for a space/getting details together on the project, and will send more information out soon.

On a personal note, I want to say that I really appreciate all the support people have shown. From emails from friends to tweets from strangers, you have all shown that you think the market is an important event and that you want it to continue.

This shutdown is an opportunity to find a workable model that can help not only The Underground Market in SF, but similar markets all over the country. The precedent we set here will ripple across the country. It will effect not only San Francisco vendors, but vendors nationwide. From cottage food laws to street food, we’ve seen an explosion of opportunity for small entrepreneur food businesses pop up over the last several years. We will continue to move forward toward our goal of keeping the market open, and our struggle can be an opportunity to find yet another way to help this movement grow.

Thank you,

Iso Rabins founder, forageSF

------- How to be involved --------

Contact your local city supervisor or: - Call or email the Mission District supervisor, David Campos

David.Campos@sfgov.org (415) 554-5144

There are also more tangible ways to get involved, especially if you have legal expertise, so please email us if you’d like to get help out:

1. Keep the Underground Market - Legal and political organizing expertise, email markets@foragesf.com 2. forageSF incubator project - Investors, designers, contractors, lawyers email iso@foragesf.com

We want to hear what you think, so if you have any other ideas, questions, or suggestions, please email iso@foragesf.com. To stay up to date on what’s happening, follow our blog at foragesf.com/blog.

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thoughts

These Days: an update

Hello my friends from the internet ether.  I haven't written for a while, and I wanted to give an update of the goings on at forageSF: 1. I've been talking to Hank Shaw, a guy who writes a pretty amazing blog called Hunter, Angler, Gardner,Cook, about collaborating on a dinner. We're going to take 20 or so people out on a fishing boat (already pretty exciting), and then invite them to a Wild Kitchen dinner made with the catch. I've been following his blog for about a year now, and was really excited when I got the email from him. It will be partly an event to promote his new book Hunt, Gather, Cook, which I myself have on pre-order. If you're interested in cooking, hunting, foraging or fishing, his blog is one to get in the google reader, really great stuff, with great pictures.  The dinner is planned for July, and we'll be opening up tickets for sale sometime in May, so hope you'll join us.

2. I finally sent out my own book proposal for a book on The Wild Kitchen, with recipes, stories, pictures, and a bit of food politics (never imagined just writing the proposal of what a book will be could take so long). I had a ton of help from my friend Will Schrom, who reads book proposals for a living, so I think it turned out pretty well. Sent it off to agents a couple days a ago, and already heard back from a couple!

3. I'm going hunting! My very first real boar hunt is this weekend down in Southern CA.  I am very excited, got the gun all sighted in (means I practiced at the range to get the scope to read accurately at 100 yards) with lead free bullets, got my pig tag, and huge knife.  I'm ready. This time next week, I will have become a man.  I'm planning on having a huge boar roast if I get one, so maybe Ill see you there.

4. Hiring: We got a ton of great applications for the Underground Market manager job, so Ive been sifting through those, trying to decide who to interview. Hiring's hard, and everyone I talk to has a different take on how to do it. Ive settled on about 20 phone interviews, followed by 8 in person interviews. I'm excited about the people I'm interviewing, so probably the hardest part will be choosing who to hire.

5. Got a couple events coming up . Next Wild Kitchen dinners are the 15th, 16th, and the next market is the 23rd, so planning on getting out and doing some foraging soon. I really wanted to include wild mussels on the menu for this dinner, but at the last minute a shellfish quarantine was issued, so we're going with herring (which I think might actually be more delicious).

6. Been talking with Slow Money, an org whoes goal is to have 1 million people invest 1 percent of their income in sustainable food projects within a decade.  They are having an event in a couple months where we may incorporate an Underground Market.  It's a really interesting organization, with some great ideas about re-thinking the of a "successful" investment.  There are an amazing amount of people interested in starting sustainable food businesses, so a group that can connect them with the money they need to get going definitely has my support.

7.Thinking about shooting a cooking show, more youtube than Travel Channel, so look out for that on the site in the next couple months.

Thanks for reading, and come say hi if you see me at a dinner or the market.

Iso

SF Underground Market

February 5th Underground Market Vendors

The market is at SomArts, at 934 Brannan St, in SF. Starts at 11am, ends at 11:00pm. DAY VENDORS:

Sasonao latin Cuisine  --  Tony Ulloa  --  Nicaraguan cuisine Fresh Bite Bakery  --  Cindy Tsai Schultz/Terry Betts  --  http://www.freshbitebaking.com/ --  baked goods Todd Masonis  --  bean-to-bar chocolate mo foods  --  Caterina Rindi/Jae Brim  --   www.mo-foods.com --  foraged/gleaned pickles & preserves Epicurean Solutions  --  Moira Tocatium  --  Veggie Deli Salads Starter Bakery  --  Brian M. Wood  --  www.starterbakery.com --  bakery Three Bowls  --  Indu Kline  --  Ambrosia - food of the gods James Saltzman's Smoked Bacon  --  James Saltzman  --  smoked bacon & brownies Rokas/Kelli Armonas  --  honey & mushrooms Beet Freaks  --  Sharon Salmon  --  pickles Earth Alchemy Chocolate  --  Susan Marjanovic  --  earthalchemychocolate.squarespace.com/ --  raw herbal chocolate Bread Project  --  Diedre Linburn  --  chocolate chip cookies The Chai Cart  --  Paawin  --  hot chai & chai packets Canvas Underground  --  Peter Jackson   www.canvasunderground.com --  meats & gumbo Raja Sen  --  dal and balsamic vinaigrette Quackery  --  Scott/Ramona  --  kombucha Ben Sawicki  --  flavored kale chips & veggie curry Josey Baker  --  bread Dehesa  --  Edward Lekwart  --  artisan sausages Tamales By Rudy  --  Rudy Santiago  --  burrito-sized tamales German Bread  --  Katrin Staugaard/Daniela Busse  --  traditional German bread & foraged plum jams Le Chaudron Magique  --  Isabelle Sin  --  seasonal jams Kirsten Roehler  --  seasoned goat cheese, seasoned salts & pickled lemons Yaella Frankel  --  chutneys, relishes & salsas Telegraph Hill Coffee Roasters  --  David Oliver  --   www.telegraphcoffeesf.com --  coffee

NIGHT VENDORS:

Flosa Creamery  --  Jordan Grosser  --  bacon-wrapped mochi CoCoTutti  --  Elyce Zahn  --  http://cocotutti.com/ --  caramels, chocolates Jilli  --  Will Schrom and Jacky Hayward--  www.jilli-icecream.com --  sarsaparilla and raw ice cream! Whole Beast Supper Club  --  Kevin Bunnell  --  pig products Lan Kulapaditharom  --  Tawainese: beef/chicken slider & shrimp wonton Lelajay's Ridiculously Good Gluten-FREE  --  Lila Akhzar  --  gluten-free brownie bites Aaron's Almost Better Than Sex Cake  --  Aaron Keller  --  chocolate oreo-toffee cake & beer dogs Sidesaddle Kitchen  --  Laura Miller  --  www.facebook.com/SidesaddleKitchen --  raw vegan pies Mama’s African Kitchen   --  Dupe Bello  --  traditional African curry dishes JazzyB's Recipez  --  Jasmine Ball  --  mac n’ cheese-veggie & w/pork belly A Humble Plate  --  Rathsamee Ly  --  Laotian Food Saucy Dumplings  --  Michael Lee  --  pork & vegetarian dumplings Hella Vegan Eats  --  Sylvester Chitica/James Raushenberg  --  www.hellaveganeats.com --  Vegan deliciousness Luscious Liquids  --  Kathy DeWitt/Tracee Raptis  --  elixirs and such Sajen Foods  --  Morisinah Katimin  --  Gado-gado & satay burger w/peanut sauce (Indonesian street food) Laksa Pho King  --  Stephen Backer  --  Vietnamese Pho & Malaysian Curry Laksa The Occasional Macaron Shop  --  Katie/George Wang  --  www.facebook.com/macaronshop --  macarons Angry Man Eats  --  Paul Midgen  --  chicken & waffles Tamale Nation  --  Alison Greenwood/Maria  --  tamales & empanadas Eric Eberman  --  veggie empanadas Bake It Banana  -- Courtney Dougherty  --  banana desserts

OUTDOOR NIGHT VENDORS: Kitchen Sidecar  --  Katie Kwan  --  www.kitchensidecar.com --  banh mi burger Pizza Hacker  --  Jeff Krupman  --  pizza The Grilled Cheese Guy  --  Michael Davidson  --  grilled cheese Sataysfied  --  Feldo Nartapura  --  www.sataysfied.com --  Indonesian satays Boffo Cart  --  Rhasaan Fernandez/Crystal Williams  -- hot sandwiches & paninis Panguita  --  Andre Joffroy  -- beer battered fish tacos & beef tostadas

SF Underground Market

San Jose Market, or How the health department showed up (again)

This past Friday we had our first Underground Market in San Jose. At 5:10, 10 minutes after the market was scheduled to open, I was standing in a circle with a San Jose police sergeant, health inspector, and the fire marshal.  The three people I would least like to be talking to before a market of un-certified foods.

We had made the trek down to the South Bay for the 01SF biennial festival in San Jose, a festival that celebrates art whose tagline is "Build your own world.” From what I saw between meetings with the health folks, it was actually a pretty cool festival. However, it felt like a bad idea from the beginning. Usually we have our market in an enclosed space, or in an out of the way parking lot.  We organize the market as a private club, which is not open to the public, so has been able to avoid government scrutiny, but I’ve always felt that they really don’t want to see it in the open. To have the market in the middle of a city funded festival that the health, police, and fire departments were sure to attend, seemed a bit fool hardy (as my grandmother would say). We have worked it out with the SF health department, but had no idea what the San Jose folks would think. To make sure it was legit, I asked the Zero One folks to probe the health department about the market weeks in advance, to see how they would feel about an event like ours. I was told that they were amenable, if not necessarily comfortable.

Back to the parking lot. It was us, the health, fire, and police departments, and the Zero One organizers standing in a circle. The health and fire inspectors detailing why we were going to get shut down, the Zero One organizers suddenly explaining to us that they had contacted the health department, and they had been told that a market like ours would definitely be shut down! They had known all along, and instead of letting us know, they had forgot to mention that little point. I have not been that mad in a long time.  Suddenly they were acting like we had just shown up, without any partnership with them, to put on the market.

I was sure the market was over.  The conclusion of our talk was a laundry list of the laws we had violated, and an explanation that the next step would be for the inspectors to go around and shut down the vendors one by one. They explained to me that all 29 vendors would have to 1. Go home, wasting all the food they had made 2. Those that had produced their food commercially (about 3 amongst the lot) could buy them for an intensely inflated fee.  The idea of this market is to give a chance to people who are just starting out. To lower the bar of entry in a way. This would have killed the chances of many of the vendors there if it had been shut down.

As we started to accept this as our horrible fate, the health inspector made a phone call and the other person at the end of the line said it would be okay to let the market carry on. With one phone call, the issue quickly went away, as if there was no threat to the market to begin with. We had to give assurance that the market was only one day, and that everyone who entered got a wristband, but that was about it. The health and inspectors still inspected vendors, but it was more a friendly attempt to do the best they could with what they had, and no one had to leave.  The inspector went booth by booth, outlining ways vendors could hew closer to health department regulations, which we try to do as much as possible.

I don't know who this faceless person on the other side of the phone was. One of our vendors suspects that San Jose city lawyers recommended they leave it open less they open themselves up to a lawsuit. A cop who was standing near by told us he thought the whole thing was a publicity stunt to amp up Zero One. I heard a rumor that a channel 5 reporter was taking the angle that the cultural commission had pushed our market as an event that they knew would get shut down, as a way to make the city look bad, although I never saw the story.  To be honest I’m not sure what happened. Maybe San Jose didn’t to shut down an event they allow in SF. Maybe somebody knew somebody, maybe we’ll never know. (if you do know for some reason, please pass it along)

In the end it worked out. The market happened. It started three hours late, but about 1,200 people came. What's so amazing to me about this experience is the clear line it drew of the way bureaucracy works.  Everything the health inspector told us before that phone call was legit. She detailed the law, and why and where we had broken it.  Then she called someone, and the law changed. Which is great. I think the law should change – if an adult chooses of their own free will to eat food that was made in someone else’s home they should be able to.  As it stands now, the government doesn't agree. That night, someone decided that they did.  Every time we succeed putting this market on we set more of a precedent.  A precedent that states that food made at home is just as safe as food made in a commercial kitchen.  That stainless steel and walk in freezers don’t make food safe, but rather the care of person producing it.

wild kitchen

Pics from our last dinner

Hey all This last week we did three wild kitchen dinners in a row. Was fun, and really exhausting.  I love cooking, and being able to do it on that scale was a good time.  We're going to be doing at least 3 more this month, look out for the menu in about a week. We're also going to be offering ten $40 tickets per meal  (in addition to the the 55 $80 tickets).    I like the idea of the dinners being more accessible, but I couldn't pay the rent, and get the quality of food I serve, if they were all that price.  If you can afford the $80 ticket, please leave the lower priced seats for those who can't.  I will be announcing the sale of these lower cost tickets on twitter a few days before the general tickets go on sale, so if you're not already, follow us (that phrase has always stuck me as strange, but what else is there...twitter us....join us....). Anyway, onto the pics! These were taken by one ms. Andria Lo, I really like her style.  If you want to check out the next dinner, please sign up for our email list in the "subscribe" box at foragesf.com

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SF Underground Market

A great night.

East Bay Underground Market

The East Bay Underground Market was a bit of an experiment. Would it work in the East Bay? Would it work outside? What did we have to do differently? Would the fire marshall show up because it was outside? Would people show up?  No way to know really.

The Paella Tent

I have to say that I had the most fun this market. It was really nice to be outside, both for the weather, and for the fact that it gave the market a much more open feel (I suppose thats a pretty obvious observation).  I really like SomArts, but it can get a bit clausterphobic. We had about 2000 people through the course of the night, but it never got too full that we had to stop letting people in.

I met a mushroom forager from Shasta (Kevin), who, like most mushroom foragers, was a bit crazy in all the best ways.  He came down to the city with a backpack full of morels, which I promptly bought (and which you'll taste in this upcoming Wild Kitchen dinner), with a promise that I could visit his farm sometime in the future.

Pizza Lovers

I found out that one of my vendors is actually a lawyer who specializes in...I believe she said it's called high risk legal strategy, and since I happen to run my life in a particularity high risk legal way, she's definitely a good person to know. Hopefully we're going to be working together to help some of the vendors jump through some hoops towards legitimacy, a hard process indeed.

We got Beat Beat Whisper to come back, this great Oakland based sibling duo that played at the first two SF Underground Markets. I love their music, makes me happy every time I hear it (I'm actually listening to it as I write). They're going to be playing at Eat Real (another great Oakland festival you should check out), at the end of the month, they are really not to be missed.

Ayla and Davyd Nereo of Beatbeat WhisperWe learned a lot at this market. About the OPD, generators (who knew renting a generator for one day could cost $3000?), porto-potty placment, spider boxes (I'll leave it up to you to imagine, although the reality is less cool than your imagination I can assure you ((hint: it has less to do with spiders, and more to do with power)).  We had some great help from one ms. Consuelo Jacobs, who I met a couple months ago, and for some reason dedicates fully too much of her time to helping make the market amazing, which is very much appreciated. We had some great vendors this time. We put out the call a couple months ago for East Bay Vendors, and got a pretty good response. Out of the 130 or so that signed up online, about 35 showed up for sample day (this is about par for the course, which Im always surprised by, but its a good way to see who is serious), of which we accepted 30.  Overall we had 55 vendors, so about half East Bay, not bad for a first attempt....enough business talk, onto the food!

Really great stuff, of which my words won't do justice, so I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. Thanks to everyone that came, vendor and customer alike, it was a really great night.

mmm butter! A Humble Plate - Savory Lao cuisine Rogue Pizza? No, the Pizza Hacker Sasonao Nicarguan Cooking Sweet Life Cakes

Photos by Jon Wollenhaupt

SF Underground Market

July Market-a review

The market went great, the best so far from our viewpoint. Most of the vendors sold out by the end of the night, with some done within a couple hours of opening. Thanks to everyone who showed up, the market had a really nice vibe this time. We were all super relaxed thanks to all the staff and volunteers we had (who were great), and people really seemed to be having a good time. We had a DJ this time, which changed the feel of the place a bit, but it was fun once you got used to it (I even saw an impromptu dance party start up as the night waned).  We tried something new (at least for the market), a plate of local yellowtail sashimi with tempura fried sea beans and a ginger ponzu, sold really well.

We tried some new things this time around, some were successful, some not so much:

1.    Pre-sale tickets: In an effort to shorten the lines, we sold pre-market tickets through eventbrite. The idea was that people who really couldn’t stand the wait could get in a shorter line. Unfortunately it didn’t work quite as planned.  The first problem is that the market filled up within an hour of opening (the night section, day was very steady with no line), so whether you had a ticket or not, the line was the same length.  Also, the service charge on the tickets was crazy (at least percentage wise), $1 for a $5 ticket. Not the most money in the world, but that’s coming dangerously close to Ticketmaster service fees. If we do sell tickets again, we’re going to have to think of another way to deal with creating a separate “ticket holders” line, but for the time being, I think the idea is on hold.

2.    Hiring people: We hired people this time! If you were wondering where your extra $3 went, it went into the pockets of some very nice trash monitors, residents of our fair city. We had some trouble with trash separation at the last market, which ended up costing us hours of digging elbow deep in piles of compost, and still we got fined for unsorted trash. Not this time. It went smooth, smooth, smooth.

3.    Day market: We really pushed the day market this month by offering a lower entrance fee, as well as mentioning every chance we got. It worked! We had 1,100 people come through from 11am-4pm, up from 300 last month. This was really satisfying for me. It was an idea I had, splitting it up so different kind of folks could feel comfortable (people with strollers and those who wanted to take stuff home etc.) Last month it was a bit of a failure since there were so few people during the day, which resulted in a couple vendors getting pretty pissed at me, so it was nice to see the day vendors selling out towards the end of the shift this time around.

4.    $1 for bringing your own plate:  We had the idea offering people a buck off for bringing their own plate and silverware in order to cut down on waste. It didn’t go so well. With the constant rotation of volunteers at the door throughout the day (who were all great by the by), I neglected to let everyone know about this little fact, so what ended up happening was people came to the door with their own plate, and were given a blank stare. This was my bad. I imagine I would have been pissed, so if that happened to you, I’m very sorry. On a brighter note, all the vendors brought compostable plates and utensils, so thanks! We’re going to try it again. This time I’ll be sure to let volunteers know.

Ideas for next time:

1.    Vendors should bring more food. It’s a hard thing to gauge. One stand might sell 150 sandwiches, and one might sell 50, but definitely something we should think about.

2.    Hmm, lots of others will spring up no doubt, now I’m getting hungry, so gotta go. If you’ve got suggestions or comments, good or bad, let us know, we’re always looking to make it a better market.

Thanks for coming!

Iso

wild kitchen

June Wild Kitchen pics

Here are some pics from our last Wild Kitchen dinner. If you’re interested in coming to the next one, sign up in the “subscribe” box at foragesf.com, and we’ll send you an email when its coming up. Thanks to everyone who came to the dinners this past Thursday and Friday. It was our first attempt at doing two in a row, and it turned out to be a lot of fun.

photos by Robin Jolin: robinjolin.com

Thanks!

thoughts

Should the SF Underground Market be bigger?

The first and most obvious answer to this question is yes.  If one throws an event that draws more people than your space can fit, you move up. Bigger is of course better, and in all things, we want to be as big as we can get. Right? I'm not so sure.

It’s a question I get a lot. People tell me that we need a bigger space, and the running joke seems to be that we should move it to the Cow Palace. Its definitely something we think about not the Cow Palace – when I see the hour and half wait to get in, get angry emails from customers  (actually just got my first one a couple days ago), and patiently explain to vendors for the 20th time that in fact we can’t let anyone else in at the moment, lest we all die fiery deaths as martyrs for the local food movement (translation: we've reached fire code capacity).

We’ve done our best to make the market accessible to as many people as possible.  We started this past December in a small Victorian in the Mission (seven vendors and 150 customers), and moved to a warehouse on Capp St. (30 vendors and 700 customers)— both still not big enough.  When we approached SomArts I thought that was it. There was no way we could overfill that space. This of course hasn’t proven true.

The space we have now, SomArts, is in the range of 5000  feet. That's 35ft wide, and 144 feet long. It's a large space by any measure.

We pay several thousand dollars to rent SomArts for a night and by SF standards, that's very cheap. The next space up in size is about $10,000. That’s before shelling out for a cleaning staff, security, insurance, alcohol license, the band, equipment, and all the other less obvious costs that go into creating an event for 2,000 people.  I don't say this to complain, but to set the stage for a fact: If we got a bigger space, we would be forced to raise the vendor fees. As it is, the vendor fees don't cover the cost of the space, which is why you paid $2 to get in this month. In May, we lost money on the market because the event was free. We don't need to make a killing, but a market that loses money every month will not be around very long.

"But wait,” you say, "a bigger space would mean more people, more people equals more money, so no need to charge the vendors more.” Not necessarily. A larger space would definitely let more people enter at the same time, but the number of people coming in would not be guaranteed to go up by the amount we would need to make it worth the costs.

The current vendor fee is $50, a very low bar for entry into a commercial sales space like ours, but for some of our vendors it’s a stretch to pay that cost. Our vendors are making products that they are passionate about, but are also very expensive to produce. The profit margins are already slim, and it wouldn’t feel right to charge the $100-$300 per stall that a larger space would require.

I like the size it is. The market feels more like a big party, rather than a vast trade show. I like that we can fit upwards of 40 vendors inside and still have room for a couple hundred people, while at the same time being able to see the whole space in one sweep.

I like SomArts. We have a good deal of freedom at SomArts and the people who work there. They are very supportive of our ideas, and seem to genuinely want to make things work for us. No one working on the market has much professional event organizing experience; there are a million random things to think about when planning a market, so getting some help along the way is key. A larger commercial space probably would not offer that kind of support.

I like the idea that in creating a market for the SF food community to come to together, we are at the same time supporting a venerable SF non-profit event and art space. A space that hosts the kind of events that make SF what it is. They go out of their way to court and support burgeoning orgs (like ours) that would otherwise not be able to afford such a professional space, and for that they deserve our support. Every person that walks through their door helps them to get funding from grants as well as the city, so 2,000 people coming through each month at our market gives them some real leverage.

People do have to wait. I don't feel good about it (although most people I talk to seem pretty happy with the whole experience, meeting fellow food obsessives in line is always fun). It’s great that people come out to show so much support, and ideally we wouldn't make them wait so long to show that support.  Note: If you want to miss the lines, come during the day next month, there will be tons of room.

Next months SF Underground Market will again be at SomArts on July 24th(this time on a weekend!).  Although there is often a wait at night (hint: for a more relaxed time, come during the day).  I want to say that I really do appreciate that people wait as long as they do. That kind of support shows the vendors that there is a market for what they make, and encourages them to keep getting better at what they do.  I do believe that bigger is not always better, and there is a really intimate vibe now that I feel like we may lose if we expand. This doesn't mean it will always be there, but for the time being we're staying put.  Let me know what you think. You think we should move? Did you see anything at the last market that needs changing? Thanks for reading, and thanks for coming, see you all next month!

Thanks,

Iso

photo by Robin Jolin: robinjolin.com

Uncategorized

SF Underground Market March 6th

The next market is here!  The date and location are set..

When: Saturday March 6th from 5-11pm

Where: 9 Langton st (near 7th/Howard) in SF

How: Sign up here for a free membership

This time around we've got twice as many vendors, 3 times as much space (so the lines should be shorter), and more great music and workshops. Come early to avoid the lines, leave late to catch the party.

Vendors:

Pearls Kitchen- Jewish deli fare
Dontaye Ball- pulled pork
Morgan Woolley
greenheartsfamilyfarm- pastured meats
Elianna Roffman & Morgan Lee Woolley -Hawaiian baked goods
Dafna Kory -Jams from locally foraged fruits
Paawan- TheChaiCart- Hot Chai, Chai Mixes, Chai Blends
Dirk -Traditional Veggie German Sausage
James Grossman- “Salumi”
Alice Wilson -Jams, sweet breads, foccacia
Katy McLean & Christopher David -Macaron Parisian macaroons
Michael Christie- Real French artisinal warm Quiche
Kathy Dewitt -Herb & spice blends, sea salts
Jeff Tidwell -Krauts, kimchi and preserves
Margaret Wong -Mushroom spread & dark chocolate almond date balls
Jackie Woods -“delightfully tasty cakes” and cupcakes
Claudia Comerci -Flower & Healing Essences
Valerie Johnson -Multi-grain artisinal gluten free breads, granola, scones, etc
Becky Spencer- (Urban Preserves Jams & Pickles
Erik Kamprud -Fried Chicken & Andouille Sausage gumbo & vegan gumbo
Rathsamee Ly- Laotian sausages & Nam kao
Marisol Kim -100% grass-fed organic beef jerky
Shakirah Simley (Slow Jams) -Jams, preserves, marmalades, spreads & relishes
Katherine Kirby- Granola
forageSF - wild mushrooms and other foraged goodies
Sybil Johnson (Heartbaker) -Baked Goods & Pastries
Jana Blankenship -Soaps, bath salts, scents, balms, candles, etc.
Roger Freely -Indian Street food & Regianal Mexican specialties
Robin Jolin -Peanut brittle, lemonade, sparking lemonade
Linh Nguyen -Vietnamese foods
JD Collins -Salsa dos gringos
Kitty Myers -Jams, marmalades, chutneys, flavored olive oil, etc
Kevin Bressani- Beet kvass
Gabriel Mitchell -Truffles, tarts, caramels
Christina Yu -Cheescake-sweet & savory
Alexis Mian & Elena Herting -Raw, vegan, organic meals, snacks & desserts
Francisco Grajales -Vegan (and some gluten-free) Baked Goods
Erin Murray -Fermented Veggies
Ruza Markov- scones and such
wiley rogers-honey
Rana Chang-kombucha
Ariana Montemayor
Boris Price-demi glace
kate thompson-granola
kim Nguyen
susan marjanovic -Raw Chocolate
Mary Powell

Uncategorized

Troubled Times at The Fancy Food Show

The first thing I noticed was "the look", followed by averted eyes. I have been thinking lately that I might want to expand into products. Bottles of stuff, sea bean pickles, acorn flour, all manner of wild foraged things. With that in mind, I bought a ticket to this most recent fancy food show for $35.  My badge said "foodservice" at the bottom, something that I would later find out was very important, but more on that later.

For those who don't know (and you could count me in that group until yesterday), the fancy food show is a trade show of all the specialty foods from around the world (there was an italy section about 20 times bigger than my apartment).  These fancy foodies take over the moscone center once a year (except last year apparently, because they forgot to book the center in time...how does that happen?).  The moscone center is HUGE, just about 2 city blocks, nestled in downtown SF, and it was packed. Everything you could imagine, fois gras, tons of flavored water (some that I swear was just water with a drop of mouthwash added), curry spreads galore, cheeses, and everything else that you might buy at a wholefoods-esque establishment.

It's amazing to see it all together like that. To get the real idea of the scale of food being created right now in the world (and this was only the people who made expensive stuff, and were willing to pay $10,000 for the pleasure of letting people taste it)

It was seperated into two parts, the small and the big. The big side was full of...well you can probably guess, big brands. Godiva and the like (although cowgirl creamery was also over there, which really surprised me, I always thought they were more mom and pop, but I guess thats the idea).  The other side was full of companies that were a bit more boutique.  Homemade(y) looking jams and BBQ sauces and the like.

So about "the look". I may not have even noticed "the look" if I hadn't attended the festival with Carolina (of CMB sweets).  She's a veteran of the show, so she gave me the inside scoop on how it all worked. It was nice having someone to help me navigate the storm of samples, and she seemed to have some inside info on most of the vendors we passed (even at a global conference, its a small world).

When you sign up for the market, you are asked a series of questions. What's you're business, how long in business etc..Your answers decide what is written on the bottom of your badge in large colorful letters. Some (like me) say foodservice, others say "manufaturer", "agent", "trade representitve" , "distributor" and so on.  What this does is give the people presenting an idea about whether or not you're worth 30 seconds of their time. What my badge translated as was "this guy is not a distributor, and so he is going to eat your food and never give me anything", whereas "distributor" translates into "this is a guy who is worth...maybe even 45 seconds, because if he likes my product, he'll buy 400 million jars and I'll be rich until the end of my days".

So the look is like many looks, although this look is right into your soul. You don't have to judge by dress, demeanor, smile, or any of the other cues that we've been taught through our lives to value, all you have to do is look at the badge. It's like first class in a plane, sure, the guy in the full reclining padded chair with the glass of champagne and fresh baked bialy in the front may look sloppy, but you know he's got something going on.

Now don't get the idea that this bothered me, I liked being ignored. It makes for much better people watching when people aren't paying attention to you.  I got to see all the plastered on smiles, faked enthusiasm and warm arm pats that salesmen employ with each other, and then I got to hear what they really though, as they walked away.

It's interesting, seeing how the food world actually operates. In San Francisco we have this idea that people who are involved with food are all a bit different. We are defined by our passion for whatever it is we do, be it cooking, farming, foraging. This passion is what keeps up going in an industry that, lets face it, makes few people very rich.  This feeling was not in abundance at the Fancy Food Show.  It seemed that the people could have been selling anything. Trying to move 10,000 bottles of amys hoisen infused teriyaki spread doesn't take a passion for bringing the wonders of asian cuisine to the west, but instead, takes a saavy business person. Someone who understands the finer points of shelf life, mass transport, how oil prices affect shipping costs, and what small things supermarkets hate (note: supermarkets hate hanging labels, like those ones on the side of jars of jam. Apparently they don't stack right). Selling a popular product isn't so much about making something that tastes good (because believe me, most of the stuff there was not delicious), but about understanding that people don't really buy something for what's inside.  They don't know what your product tastes like until they've already bought it, and chances are if they feel good about the company, they'll like it even if it doesn't actually taste all that great.

Bottom line, going to the fancy food show made me not want to sell food, at least not to the masses.  I don't want to be there, trying to push my product, schmoozing distributors for a piece of prime shelf space. When making a recipe, I don't want to think about how rosemary doesn't test well with Iowans in the 34-56 yr age range.  Maybe thats the real world but, at least for now, I'll stay in the make believe land of underground dinners and foraged walks, and put off growing up just a bit longer.

Uncategorized

Planning and Hachi

Just met with Noriyuki Sugie to talk about Hachi! Its a guest chef project at Bread Bar in LA that Im going to be doing in feb.  All the talk of PR companies and press releases is not exactly what Im used to, but should be a lot of fun. The concept is that a guest chef comes in once a month and creates 8 dishes (6 savory, 2 sweet), that each sell for $8/each, as well as 3 specialty chef created cocktails ( a lot like the mission street food concept, except that they take reservations, and drinks are $12(( which I guess is pretty standard in LA))).  I guess the idea is to give chefs in LA a chance to get some buzz...since I dont live in LA, Im not sure what it'll do for me, but it will be an experience to be sure. The fact that Ive never really been to LA should make it even more interesting. If you live in LA, you should come check it out, its in the end of feb.

The planning for the next market is going. This should be a good one.  We've got a lot of people writing about it, and over 40 vendors that want to sell their wares, just need to find a space to bring it all together. I have some leads of warehouse spaces in the mission, so it looks like its going to work out. Answering emails is starting to become a full time job, but I may be getting a new intern, so that will help.  I think its really great how interested people are in the market, it seems to have struck a nerve.

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Acorn Ginger Bread

Acorn flour is delicious. A bit (well, more than a bit), time intensive to actually get the flour from the acorns, but once you do, you can treat it just like regular flour. I like to use 1/3 acorn to 2/3 white flour in recipes.  It gives the bread/cake/muffin/ice cream, a really great nutty fullness which I really like. I won't go through the actual acorn processing steps here, but there are many great guides already online for that. Here is a great recipe that we made for the last Wild Kitchen. We served it with plain old vanilla ice cream, but it's also good with whipped cream or creme fraiche.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup leached acorn flour ( this is pretty hard to come by if you don't make your own, we have it from time to time for sale.
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preparation:

Grease and flour a 9-inch square baking pan . Heat oven to 325°.Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl; beat on low speed of electric mixer until ingredients are combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl and increase mixer speed to medium; beat for about 3 minutes longer. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan.

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Cut into squares and serve with freshly whipped cream. To serve leftover gingerbread, warm slightly in the microwave for about 15 to 20 seconds.

This gingerbread freezes well: cut into squares and wrap individually. Thaw and warm in the microwave just before serving.