Last Thursday, I made my way to Piccino, a small new pizza restaurant occupying a street corner in Dogpatch, to participate in an interesting new San Francisco ritual. I looked for the minivan full of vegetables, handed over $25 for a giant box of produce, and then sat down to eat dinner with some friends, side-by-side with other food lovers or food industry folks who were also at Piccino to purchase a "Mystery Box."
The Mystery Box was chock full of enough vegetables to feed a family of four for at least a week, and was grown by the farmers at Mariquita Farm, a well-known organic farm in Watsonville. Until March, Mariquita was a popular booth at the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market on Saturdays.
When Mariquita's owners, husband and wife team Andy Griffin and Julia Wiley, decided to pull out of the market, a roar went up among customers who had been shopping at their market booth for many years. "We stopped going because our restaurant deliveries and CSA were successful enough that we didn't have to go to the Ferry Plaza, but we had customers who were having complete withdrawals and not dealing with it very gracefully," says Julia.
Thus was born the Mystery Box. Julia has a goal of eating at every restaurant that is a customer of Mariquita Farm, and decided to combine this goal with a trip to the city twice a month this summer, parking outside one of the restaurants and selling Mystery Boxes to customers who pre-ordered on the Internet. So far, she has conducted Thursday night box sales at Nopa, Zuppa, and Piccino.