No need to cross a bridge to go holiday shopping, all you lucky folk in Marin: you've got lots of great gifts right here at your local farmers' markets. Here's a few favorite seasonal treats for sale at the Sebastopol and Marin Civic Center markets this week.
Newcomers Joel and Carleen Weirauch of Weirauch Farm & Creamery are already generating a buzz about their small-batch cow's-milk cheeses. Now, you can serve them in style on the handmade, one-of-a-kind oak cheeseboards they're selling this month. The boards are made from oak salvaged from a 100-year-old Kentucky tobacco barn, finished satiny-smooth with olive oil and beeswax ($35-55). Get to the market early enough, and you might be lucky enough to pick up a block or two of their flower-embossed soap, made from sheep's milk and local olive oil in scents like rose geranium, lemongrass, lavender, and star anise. The Weirauchs are raising a herd of dairy sheep in Petaluma; come next spring, once lambing starts, they'll be making their own farmstead sheep's milk cheeses, too. Find them on Sunday at Sebastopol and Thursday at Marin Civic Center.
Also at the sweet Sebastopol market: Terra Savia's bright, peppery new-crop olive oil, made from organic olives grown along the Mendocino/Sonoma border and pressed just last month at Terra Savia's olive press in Hopland. This luscious olio nuovo is a Tuscan-style treat that's perfect for dipping into with a chunk of fresh, crusty bread. Terra Salvia also offers several single-varietal olive oils as well as wildflower honey, olive-oil soaps and a soothing botanical salve for moisturizing winter-dry skin.
And while you're there, don't miss the snappy, poinsetta-red boxes from Sonoma Chocolatiers, filled with handmade, chocolate-dipped salted caramels ($20). You can also put together a chic assortment of truffles ($2.25 each) in nifty flavors like fig-cardamom, holiday spice, smoky chipotle, and tequila-lime, or pick up a stocking-stuffer bag of crunchy chocolate-covered organic almonds, sugared or cinnamon-spiced.
Feeling a little DIY? Believe it or not, you can still turn out a few gift jars of homemade, local strawberry jam using Tomatero Farm's late-crop, Watsonville-grown organic strawberries ($3.50/pint), sold at the Marin Civic Center market. Or pick up a mix-and-match assortment of low-sugar, big-flavor berry jams made by Swanton Berry Farm, in flavors like tayberry, olallieberry, strawberry, and blackberry ($7-$9). They're all made using the farm's organic, union-grown berries.
Tea drinkers take their brews seriously, but they're often outnumbered by the coffee geeks. Show your tea-drinking friends that you respect their cuppa with a gift from Sky Tea at the Marin Civic Center market. Tea lover Jeni Quigg started her luxury tea company a little over a year ago, travelling around the world to source rare, small-batch, artisan-grown teas--what she calls "legendary teas." Her personally blended masala chai, which she also sells brewed by the cup, has a bright, clean spiciness to it, thanks to cardamon and peppercorns that Quigg picked herself on the Malabar coast. Even decaf drinkers can find something to love here, thanks to several blends made with rooibos or decaffeinated teas, including a rooibos chai and a seductive cinnamon plum sprinkled with saffron, flax seeds, and marigold petals.
Known for their rustic, rough-hewn hearth breads, Della Fattoria bakery also has a popular side line of pastries, including gift bags of biscotti and chocolate-chip cookies ($6) sold at the Marin Civic Center market. This year, they're offering an Italian holiday specialty, panforte ($16). Dense with dried fruits, honey, nuts, and spices, this chewy confection has a history stretching back centuries. "It was the Crusaders' little powerbar," says owner Edmund Weber. It has a deep, winter-spiced taste, lovely with a cup of Sky tea or a glass of dessert wine, the perfect reward for shopping local this season.
A note to shoppers: Both the Sebastopol and Marin Civic Center markets will be operating this Sunday, December 18. The Marin Civic Center market will be operating on Thursday, December 22. Both markets will be closed on Sunday, December 25.