Summer's peaches and tomatoes may be gone, but the farmers' markets in winter still offers myriad delights. These past few weekends, we've had crisp, nippy mornings and sunny skies giving a bright-blue backdrop to the crazy-colored squashes, brilliant orange persimmons and gold-stemmed chard. So far, the rains have held off but the temperature's finally gotten Bay Area-wintery, making a cup of hot chocolate a festively necessary hand-warmer for strolling from stand to stand.
And this season, while you're buying your pastured chicken and dry-farmed potatoes, spaghetti squash and sourdough bread, you can do your holiday shopping, too. At the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market, there are lots of excellent and delicious treats on hand to provide a wonderful taste of our local terroir for friends and family near and far. And if you can't decide what your local pals would like best--lavender honey or cider syrup? quince cheese or goat cheese?--the market is offering its popular gift coins again. Each wooden "coin" is worth $1, and can be redeemed at any market stall. They're available in any amount, but you can get a cute, ready-to-go brown box filled with $25 worth of coins from the information booth. (A good trick to know if you run out of cash at the market: use a credit card to buy coins instead of waiting in the long ATM lines inside the Ferry Building.)
Is Dad finally upgrading to a new crock pot? Give him a little inspiration with Rancho Gordo's heirloom bean box ($50), a selection of five one-pound bags of organic dry beans (including, naturally, Christmas limas), plus a sturdy fabric totebag and a copy of Heirloom Beans: Great Recipes for Dips and Spreads, Soups and Stews, Salads and Salsas, and Much More from Rancho Gordo. The best stocking stuffer? Forget the Old Spice; grab a sheaf of Fatted Calf's awesome beef jerky instead. Fatted Calf also has a great selection of holiday gift boxes for the carnivores on your list; you can check out their selection on their website or at their retail shops in Hayes Valley and the Oxbow Public Market in Napa. If you want to pick up a gift box at the Ferry Plaza market instead, just give them a call at their Napa store (707-256-3684) to make arrangements.