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Market Watch: Gypsy Peppers, Gravensteins and the "Sexiest Things"

If anyone has the inside scoop when it comes to the Ferry Plaza Farmers market it's Lulu Meyer, associate director of market operations at CUESA. Every week, she'll be giving us her short list for the market—just in time for Saturday shopping.

The Thursday market is open for lunch! Come and get it.

This week, Devoto Gardens had the first of this year’s crop of Gravenstein apples. Gravensteins—considered a heritage food by Slow Food USA—thrive in the fog and soil of Sonoma County and make their seasonal return in late July or early August. Farmer Stan Devoto, his wife and their three daughters grow these tart treats and almost forty other varieties of apples on their picturesque farm high on a ridge in Sebastopol. Gravensteins are perfect for sauce or pie making.

Next week, CUESA will host another round of cocktail events featuring hand-crafted botanical cocktails highlighting the best produce of the season. On Wednesday, August 12th join us for an evening of sips and bites created by some of the city’s most talented bartenders and restaurants. On Friday the 14th, Scott Beattie, author of ‘Artisanal Cocktails’ will create 2 cocktails from his book for guests to enjoy and lead a hands-on demonstration of cocktail making techniques using spirits from St George/Hangar One. Spirit Guide, Lou Bustamante, of St. George will be on hand to discuss the distillation process and CUESA market chef Sarah Henkin will give a short presentation on pickling your own cocktail garnishes.

On Saturday, after watching the chefs at Namu gather produce for their restaurant’s seasonal menu I decided to stop by their Richmond district spot and see what they were inspired to do with all their loot. My favorite dish was a simple haricots verts salad topped with walnuts, chili threads and crispy fried guanciale. Guanciale—a Roman style cured pork jowl bacon traditionally used in pasta carbonara—can be used in any recipe that calls for bacon or pancetta and will be available alongside the other meaty goods this week at the Fatted Calf stand.

An abundance of gypsy peppers—known for their sweet flavor and versatility of uses—can be found right now at the Tierra Vegetables booth. Tierra farmers Lee James, often referred to as the ‘pepper lady’, and her brother Wayne grow over twenty different peppers on their farm outside of Healdsburg. Gypsy peppers grow sweeter as their color deepens from pale yellow to rich red and their thin skins make them good for quick roasting or dicing and adding raw to a summer salad.

Farmer Rick Knoll of Knoll Farms in Brentwood recently told NPR’s ‘Morning Edition’ that figs are “the sexiest things there is”, and after snacking on a plump juicy Adriatic fig at the Knoll booth this past week, I am inclined to agree. On Saturday August 15th, the market will host a Fig Festival to honor this sweet summer treat and the eight growers that bring them to our market. Activities include fig cooking and tree planting demos, a fig fact booth and delicious fig bars available for a $1 donation to CUESA.