Visitors to San Francisco won't regret time spent at Ferry Plaza Farmers Market despite it being out of the question to carry home the local Dungeness crab or freshly made sausage links on the plane. Hotel-based vacationers without access to a kitchen may not think to embrace a stop at the farmers' market, but it's a rewarding visitor experience.
The flavor of a great farmers market goes well beyond the food. It can be an extremely appealing experience for visitors to mix with the locals, enjoy cooking demonstrations, sample tasty artisan foods, drink wonderful brews of coffee and tea. These opportunities are found in spades three days a week at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco, often considered the top farmers' market in the nation. The view is certainly unbeatable and there's an indoor food market on the off chance that the weather's poor.
A festival for the senses
Here at the very edge of San Francisco Bay, all five senses are on high alert. Catch a sunny day, and you'll be soaking up the rays from a bayside bench just like the seagulls calling from the pier. On a signature foggy day, you'll experience the intermittent moans of the Golden Gate Bridge's six fog horns instead. Either way, take a stroll along the water's edge to admire beautiful bay views at your feet.
Meet and greet
Oysters being shucked and crabs being cracked, coffee beans brewing, local wines being poured, cheese and chocolates for sampling. It's not only fruit and vegetables on display, although dozens of farmers from across the bay have brought their seasonal picks and harvests to Ferry Plaza. Talk to the artisans and farmers about everything from their honey bee farming methods to gluten-free kitchens to find out more about slow food and how it gets from farm to table.
Catch up with a chef under the white tents out front for a 45-minute free cooking demonstration, including samples and recipes. Every Saturday there are two or three presentations, all free, beginning at 11 a.m. brought to you by CUESA, the non-profit Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture which operates the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.
Eat and run
If you don't live nearby and can't take it with you, the best thing to do is throughly enjoy having a bite on the spot. Your most difficult decision will be choosing what to have from the many food stalls and food trucks at the outdoor market. Not to make matters any worse for indecision, but there are dozens more food vendors with permanent shops in the gorgeous indoor arcade of the landmark Beaux-Arts Ferry Building adjacent with oysters, pizza, herbal teas, homemade cheese, bread, candies, pies, and more. Restaurants include award-winning Asian Fusion at Slanted Door, beefy burgers at Gott's Roadside and about two dozen more places boasting bay views.
Take home treasures
Visitors can focus on take home treasures which will transport easily. Nothing wrong with Recchiutti Confections made right here in San Francisco; Mendocino, Monterey, Sonoma and Napa Valley wines; Northern California olive oil; farm sourced skincare products; local honey; herbs, fruits, and nuts from the East Bay. There's even Mariposa, the gluten-free specialties made in Oakland.
Memories and views
When you've had your fill, change it up by hopping on the world's second best ferry ride to Sausalito. Ferries depart from just steps away. Or, rent a bike from the Ferry Building for a ride over the Golden Gate Bridge and back. There's always Alcatraz Island, a fascinating prison tour which can even be taken by night if you're not easily frightened.
The Ferry Building Farmers Market attracts thousands of people to One Ferry Plaza at the foot of Market Street every Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The vendors accept credit cards.