Shop Local: Pop-Up Holiday Gift Markets

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Real Merchantile Wednesday Evenings in December

A Fruit-of-the-Month Club subscription? Some Williams-Sonoma peppermint bark?

Oh, if only your holiday shopping could be that easy! Irresistible as that minty bark may be, would any foodie worth her Maldon salt be caught wrapping something that anyone with a credit card could secure with a few clicks or a trip to the mall?

This year, as the vogue for food trucks, bike-delivered treats and pop-up markets continues to grow, contemporary cachet demands not the most expensive gifts but the most hyper-local, made on a micro-scale by moonlighting chefs or your enterprising, underemployed neighbors who know how to rock their chocolate-covered bacon (and their Twitter feeds).

While chefs like Daniel Patterson get bragging rights from the obscurity of their foraged ingredients (reindeer lichen, anyone?), the holiday-hostess gift of choice this month will be something made by one guy in the Mission and sold only every other Wednesday in a warehouse off Cesar Chavez or San Pablo.


For many, the charm of these places lies in the opportunity for community chat. You can talk to the person who made what you're buying, probably that very morning, and find out that she used to play in your buddy's band, or that you both once worked in the same overpriced Union Street restaurant. And, of course, there's the here-today, DIY settings where the soundtrack's more likely to be The Pogue's "Christmas in New York" than syrupy carols crooned by Carrie Underwood.

Produce to the People Jam. Photo by Lauren Anderson
Produce to the People Jam. Photo by Lauren Anderson

On Saturday, Dec. 4th, from noon-4pm, youth-training organization Produce to the People will be running a foraged-fruit jam fundraiser at Mission Pie. For sale: quirky jams (plum with blue basil, apricot lavender, ginger pear butter) made from locally sourced fruit and herbs, hand-drawn fruit calenders, jam recipe cards, and more, plus you can chow down on some tasty pie while you're there.

Every Wednesday in December before Christmas, Real Mercantile will be running a food gifts-and-crafts market at Chez Poulet, a San Francisco warehouse space on Cesar Chavez St. from 5-9pm. (Full disclosure: I have sold homemade jam at this market, and may be selling there again.) Organized by Nieves Rathbun, who will be selling her own line of body-care products, this market started with crafts and fashion, but has been adding more take-home food products lately, as well as on-site tasty treats for noshing. Featured vendors include Underground Preserves, Cocotutti, City Smoke House, Mo Foods, Boffo Food Cart, and more.

On Wed., Dec. 8th and Wed., Dec. 22nd from 5-7pm, Oakland's chef-run Pop-Up General Store will return with its usual elegant (and pricey) eats from a long list of local chefs and artisans. (Pre-ordering online several days ahead is encouraged, since quantities are limited.) They'll also be including some non-food (but food-related) gift items, like handmade dishware by Diana Fayt, hand-sewn market bags, a seasonal-produce calender by Pie Bird Press, and a new addition, the Pop-Up Bookshelf, with signed copies of books by local authors such as Novella Carpenter, Alice Waters, and Vanessa Barrington.

On Friday, Dec. 10th from 4-9pm, La Cocina will be holding its 2nd annual Gift Fair at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts in San Francisco. On offer: well-packaged sweet and savory delights from the many small food businesses that use La Cocina's spacious kitchens-for-hire. And there'll be on-site gift wrapping!

The church-basement tradition of holiday markets gets a hipster makeover at St. Gregory's this season, with the advent of the New Taste Marketplace at 500 DeHaro St in San Francisco on Saturday, Dec. 18th. The requested sliding-scale door donation ($0-$10) goes to support the church's weekly free food pantry. There will be over 30 vendors, selling everything from granola to jam, sausage to soda, chocolate, flavored butter, DIY ramen kits, bbq sauce, and much, much more. The don't-miss item? Bacon Crack (chocolate-covered bacon brittle) and Irish Coffee on a Stick, both by Kai Kronfield's Nosh This.

Nosh This Medley. Photos by Kai Kronfield
"Nosh This" Medley. Photos by Kai Kronfield

Still hungry? On the same day, the SF Underground Market will be running a special holiday version of its uber-popular market, with take-home items for sale from 11am-4pm and hot foods to eat on the spot from 6pm-midnight. The market has grown exponentially from last year, and now fills the SomArts space at 8th and Brannan in SF. Admission is $5; free pre-registration required.

Know of another holiday pop-up market happening in your neighborhood? Tell us about it in the comment section below!