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It was only two decades ago that the thrice-weekly Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market at the historic Ferry Building welcomed its first shoppers.

Today one of San Francisco’s must-see attractions, the market is all grown up, and to celebrate, locals and travellers are invited to two tasty events – an evening cocktail party and a family-friendly morning birthday bash, both feting the Californian city’s love affair with sustainable, locally sourced food and drink.

The events will unfurl in the Ferry Building plaza, with the organisers of the weekly market, CUESA (the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture), pulling out San Francisco best flavours, giving guests the chance to try the inventive food and drink that makes San Francisco one of the world’s favourite foodie destinations.

Thirteen local mixologists and seven chefs (a total of 20 people to mark the 20th anniversary) will host the cocktail event on 15 May, including subterranean cocktail bar Local Edition; seafood restaurant Dobbs Ferry; restaurant Maven, which pairs unique cocktails with small bites; 25 Lusk, with its seasonally driven modern American cuisine; and Starbelly, a casual cafe known for California comfort food. 

The walk-around tasting event begins at 5:30 pm, and the $40 ticket give the holder two full-sized signature cocktails, 11 sample-sized drinks and hors d’oeuvres, all highlighting spring produce available at the market; try the chilled English pea soup with goat cheese foam from chef Isaac Miller at Maven. One of San Francisco’s newest bars, Trick Dog, and resident mixologist Chad Amholt, will be serving up their new concoction Crimson Stone, a cocktail combining American Harvest Organic Spirit, a farm-to-bottle vodka made in Idaho, with lemon juice, honey, cardamom pods and a sprig of rose geranium.

The birthday party begins at 9 am on 18 May and ticketed attendees ($20 per adult/$10 for children under 10) can explore the market, create a custom drink at the mimosa and juice bar, and indulge in sweet and savoury toppings – such as mushrooms, black garlic and fresh fruit – on homemade shortcakes at one of four extravagant stations curated by top local chefs William Werner of contemporary patisserie Craftsman and Wolves; Francis Ang of fine-dining restaraunt Fifth Floor; Jen Musty of boutique bakery Batter Bakery; and Luis Villavelazquez of Les Elements Patisserie, an artisan baker and regular at the market. 

Bringing the community closer to locally sourced food has been CUESA’s mission for the last two decades, and the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market has been instrumental in bringing the farm-to-table movement to San Francisco. When the market debuted with 85 farmers, it was one of just three markets operating in the city. These days you can barely throw a kumquat without hitting one – but the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market remains among the most popular with locals and chefs, as well as travellers who come to the Ferry Building to browse the gourmet shops and restaurants inside, or catch a boat to the towns of Sausalito and Tiburon across the bay.

The market today hosts 117 farmers who sell anything from fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, meats and eggs to such artisan specialties as breads, cheeses and jams and gourmet street food, including wood-fired pizza, sandwiches and tacos. With thousands coming each week to poke, squeeze and taste California’s abundant bounty, it looks as if The Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market is here to stay, and that is worth celebrating. 

Tickets for both events can be purchased online.

Kimberley Lovato is the San Francisco Localite.

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