sf underground market

SF Underground Market

Vendor Video #2: Sidesaddle Kitchen: Vegan and "not gross" desserts

In the second installment of our vendor video series with partner High Beam Media, we bring you Sidesaddle Kitchen.  Hear about her philosophy that you shouldn't think about whats not in food, but what is in it. Watch the video, then donate to her Kickstarter campaign. Sidesaddle has been a vendor for over a year at The Underground Market, and now she's trying to take it legit, with all the fancy permits required.  She makes amazing desserts, and deserves our support.  Help her get there.

Forage SF Vendor Profile: Sidesaddle Kitchen from High Beam Media on Vimeo.

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

The Kitchen (first steps)

I have a post I'm going to put up soon about The Underground Market (we're working on a way to get it reopened, and I'm confident we'll find a solution), but something else I'm really excited about right now is how this kitchen project is moving along. We found a space! It's still in the beginning stages, so not certain, but it's looking good. The space is 10,000 sq feet of wonderful high ceiling'd bliss (with the possibility of having an acre of rooftop farm up top. I'm thinking chickens, goats, veggies for people to use in the kitchen, rooftop movies, rooftop dinner, bees....). This space won't be just a kitchen rental, but a dynamic space with (and these are first thoughts), kitchen rental for vendors, classes in food business 101, web design, menu creation, pickling, butchery, possible shared beer brewing equipment, a retail space in the front where people using the kitchen can sell their products, farming classes for kids, farming classes for grown ups, and a CSA of the products being produced in the kitchen. There is also a cool crossroads alley/road behind the space that would be perfect for closing down and having markets/dinners/good times of all sorts.

Since I sent that email out I've been getting approached by investors who are interested in being involved, and it looks like its really on its way. So, not a ton of info at the moment, other than I'm excited to finally have a space that can be the center of forageSF. A hub for people who want to be involved, people with some/lots/no experience in cooking to start their businesses/learn about food/ eat food/ take classes/ brew beer/ drink beer....the options are endless. If you have ideas/desires for this space, let me know. Ideas you give could be a reality very soon. Iso

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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SF Underground Market

May 21st Underground Market Vendors

We're at it again! The Underground Market returns to Public Works on Saturday May 21st, with all new and returning deliciousness to behold: DAY

The Nutless Professor - Black rice cheese crisps & Sweets

Absolution – Hot Sauce

Half Pint Pies – Pies in Mason Jars

Go-go Ma's Gomasio - Gomasio

Little Knock – Vietnamese Crepes

Monchi Foods – Pork Kimchi Tamales & Quesadillas

Tapasri – Vegetarian & Chicken Puffs

Urban Preserves – Jams & Pickles

The Cookie Department – Fully Functional Cookies

Simply Mochi - Mochi

Feeding People with Love - Ambrosia

Sandy Hill Preserves – Curds, Preserves & Jams

Good Food Catering - BBQ

Wildwood Pastry – Sweet & Savory Galettes

CocoTutti - Chocolates

I.E. Ice Cream – Ice Cream

Taza – Afghan Bolanis

Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters – Coffee, Brewed & Beans

Chile Lindo - Empanadas

Sweet Vanilla Bake Shop – Sweet treats

Bay Area Bee Company - Honey

Jablow's Meats – Pastrami Sandwiches

Emmy's – Pickles & Jams

Oaktown Jerk – Beef Jerky

Sugar and Swine – Bacon Caramel Corn

Baia Pasta -- Hand Rolled Pasta


Two Bites – Mini Quiche

Fried Pickles by Kevin Dillan

Adobo - Chicken thigh & pork belly adobo

Gluttony Catering Co. – Duck Confit tacos & Veggie chips

Little Knock – Vietnamese Crepes

Frozen Kuhsterd – Frozen Custard

BiBimBopBowl – Korean food

A Humble Plate – Laotian sausage sliders

Boffo Cart – Calzone/Paninis

Schulzies Bread Pudding – Bread Pudding

Rawdaddy's – Vegetarian delights

Sidesaddle Kitchen – Raw Vegan desserts

Hella Vegan Eats –Rare vegan deliciousness

Sajen catering – Kampung spicy rice noodles

Halal Halal – NY Style Halal beef

Jerk. – Jerk Chicken

City Smoke House – Brisket & Pulled Pork Sliders

Busarin kusonroekdee – Thai Curry

Nosh This – Bacon crack and other goodness

Biscuit Bender – Assorted flavors of biscuits

Meat Baller – Meatball Sliders

Island Grubbin – Spam Musabi

Saucy Dumplings! – Saucy gourmet buns

Sanuk – Thai tacos

Marshmallow Mischief – Truffle-sized krispy treats

SF Underground Market

and it was good.

Our very special Easter/Passover Underground Market is over (to be honest it had nothing to do with either of those holidays, but glad people could take a break from feasting to come by). It was quite a success.  We had over 40 vendors, 3200 eaters (a new record), a food truck (a first), and a line down the block.  We were much more careful about capacity this time, stopping entrance at 580 (after which we only let people in when others left), and it made for a much more manageable vibe. We also set up seating outside, so people had a place to sit down and eat. I've felt bad ever since we started having the market at Public Works about the over 21 policy (this is necessary because of the kind of license Public Works has), so we set up an area outside where kids could hang out and eat without actually going into the space. We had about 10 people take advantage of it, which isn't a lot, but a start.  We lowered the number of vendors inside this time around, so people would have more space to walk, and that also improved the overall feel I thought. Overall I (in my humble opinion), thought it was a really great market.

I had a great time, and I hope you did too. I've been looking at some other spaces, and recently sent an email to the armory folks (on 14th/mission, owned by kink.com). Apparently they have a huge space, and maybe they would let us give tours....Thanks to everyone who came out and ate, thanks to all the vendors that made delicious food, it was a good night. Here are a couple pics from the market, in case you didn't get to come. If you are interested in being a vendor at next months market, look here for info on the next sample day. If you're not on our list yet, and want to get a note about the next market, please sign up to be a member here. See you next month!



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.


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


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

If this bill passes, it could destroy the Underground Market

There is a bill being voted on this Monday that could completely destroy what we are all trying to build.  I don't usually speak out against congressional bills, I think that more good is done focusing on building locally rather than getting angry about what is happening on the federal level, but this bill needs to be stopped.  SB510 is a food safety overhall that authorizes fines up to $250,000 for doing exactly what we do at the Underground Market. Selling food made in home kitchens.  Killing small food producers, while allowing agri-business to thrive.  It even makes it illegal to give away food from your own home garden.  This bill would theoretically make every vendor at the Underground Market liable for a quarter million dollar fine for selling you a jar of jam. It could also make you liable for those same fines for giving away your backyard veggies to your neighbor.

I know most of us (and I include myself) often think that our voice has no impact, that writing a letter or making a call isn't going to change anything, but in this instance, we at least need to try.  If you have anything to add, or if you made a call or wrote a letter, let me know with a comment on this blog.

Read this for more information on the bill: http://bit.ly/fwGbwR

Call the congressional hotline to voice your opposition: 1-888-493-5443

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!



Should the SF Underground Market be bigger?

market line

market line

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!



photo by Robin Jolin: robinjolin.com


Alternative currency and the local food economy

I met yesterday with a man named Tim from a place called the Hub, an org that I might be getting involved in. They basically create a space where like minded-folks, entrepeneurs that are working toward social and environmental goals can get a workspace and collaborate. Pretty cool stuff.

Somewhere in our discussion the idea of alternative currency came up. Tim had just been working in England to establish the Brixton pound, a local alternative currency. Apparently they had 40000 pounds in circulation when he left to work for the hub.

Apparently there are alternative currency movements happening all over the world, some in our own city (there is something called "Bernal Bucks" that is gaining traction in that neighborhood). It's such an interesting idea. We all talk a lot about supporting small business, and keeping dollars local, but if you create a currency that is totally local, you can see the real effect of your purchases, with the growth of your local economy.

My immediate thought was to create/use a local currency at the SF Underground Market. How great would it be if we only accepted SF Bucks (or perhaps some more catchy currency name), and the vendors would be able to spend that money to buy ingredients from local farmers to make the products that then would be sold at the next market. And it wouldn't need to be just the market, or farmers that took it, but also local restaurants, cafes, maybe giving a percentage discount if you used it... I have to admit that this idea has its fair share of inherent problems.  We would need a much larger pool to really create a currency that could be used. Get more businesses involved etc.  But it would be really amazing to take this idea of local community support to the next level/keep more money local/give more incentive for chefs/producers to buy locally....ideas?  Anyone want to take this on? I'll help.


and the third market is done!

The SF Underground Market has turned 3 (in months, not years).  It began with me and 7 other vendors selling wild mushrooms, jams, pies and corned beef sandwiches in a mission neighborhood home.  The first market had about 200 people attending. By the third, amazingly, it has grown into a warehouse sized behemoth of 47 vendors selling everything from salami to ginger beer to pickled grapes to wild boar, with over 1,200 people lining up outside to get in.

At this market I made salt and sugar cured pork belly buns. People really seemed to like them, which was nice to see, although I need to figure out how to make them faster (some people waited for 20 minutes for a bun). That’s what’s cool about the market; there is this great public that shows up willing to wait a bit longer for something. Almost all the vendors at this market sold out of what they brought; the hot vendors seemed to be the most popular.

The SF Underground Market is a pretty straightforward idea. It was created as venue for all those of us who make stuff. Maybe its jam, maybe its pulled pork sandwiches, maybe its. It’s a space for those of us without the resources to jump through the increasing maze of regulatory hoops that have been imposed on food producers in this great city.  I've given a lot on thought to why so many people come to these markets. Not that I'm complaining, any organizer loves to see people lining up for their event, but people throw food events all the time without this kind of draw.

I think people love the idea of coming out to support people like them.  People who love to make food, have been making it for years, but have never, for whatever reason, been able to make that leap to selling it.  The vendors at my market don't have business licenses or commercial kitchens.  Many of them are 9-5'ers who have had an interest in starting a small business for years, but need a jumpstart to get it going.  Anyone can be a vendor at the SF Underground Market, all you need is a skill and focus.

If you want to be a vendor at the next market, go to http://foragesf.com/market/vendors/faq/


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.


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