Party At the Market

November 30, 2007

CUESA’s culinary intern, Julia Allenby, wrote this week’s e-letter.

The holiday season is in full swing, and that means parties. Whether you’re planning an elaborate soiree or just want to make sure you’re prepared for inevitable drop-in guests, you can find plenty of options at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Local fields and waters yield everything you might need to nourish (and impress) your visitors.

What could be easier than a bowl of nuts? At the market, you’ll find roasted and seasoned almonds and walnuts, and several vendors offer chestnuts, ready for roasting, and walnuts and pistachios in the shell.

Ready-made dips like hummus and flavored goat cheeses make a perfect pair with fresh-baked bread or crackers from one of several bakeries. Mix together fresh goat cheese and yogurt and add some fresh minced herbs for a delicious dip. Your crudités platter can include perennial favorites like thick carrot slices, celery stalks, and blanched snow peas.

It’s easy to put together a cheese tray using the selections available from the market’s cheesemakers. A well-balanced plate includes a soft or triple cream cheese (like Andante’s Picolo), a semi-soft cheese (such as Point Reyes Original Blue), and a firm cheese (try Achadinha’s Capricious). Pair your selections with marmalade from June Taylor, like Meyer Lemon and Rosemary, or drizzle a generous wedge of cheese with Snyders or Marshall’s honey.

A charcuterie tray is another simple party option. Ready-to-eat sausages and salumi can be garnished with pickled vegetables from Happy Girl Kitchen, like spicy carrots and bread-and-butter squash.

Oyster lovers can get a variety of treats at Hog Island’s stand. The “extra smalls” and Kumamoto varieties are best for eating raw on the half shell. Pick up a shallot or two, and mix up a quick mignonette sauce of diced shallots, olive oil and wine vinegar.

Cap’n Mike made a great suggestion as we passed his stand the other day: a half salmon, smoked and cured. Arranged on your best platter, surrounded with fresh dill and lemon wedges, it’s an easy and elegant party starter.

If you’d like to spend a little time in the kitchen before your guests arrive, you can whip up some deviled eggs, stuffed mushrooms, or a quick quiche. Our website has some great recipes provided by local chefs, like Sherry Glazed Figs Stuffed with Toasted Walnuts and Cheese, and Kale, Sun-dried Tomato & Goat Cheese Pesto.

You can also satisfy the dessert lovers in your crowd during your farmers’ market visit. Several bakeries offer pies, pastries and cookies in addition to their crusty loaves. Or fill a bowl with nut brittle or chocolate-covered dried fruits and almonds. Create a simple, edible centerpiece by filling a bowl with luscious apples, persimmons and Satsuma mandarins.

To help you with your decorating, many flower vendors offer wreaths and holiday-themed bouquets. You can even select your Christmas tree (with a loading zone located conveniently nearby).

You’ll find the beginnings of some classic holiday beverages at the market, as well: crisp apple cider and creamy eggnog. And don’t forget the freshly roasted coffee beans.

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