Cherry Scoop Revisited

Last year about this time, to be exact it was 29 April, I wrote about planning to go to the Justin Herman Plaza farmers market because Juan at the Hamadas had alerted me that he’d have their first cherries and that he expected to scoop the other growers.

Well, I went, but on my way to the Hamadas’ booth I couldn’t help noticing that another vendor had a half-dozen boxes of cherries on display. I mentioned this to Juan as I was buying his cherries, and he remarked, with chilly disdain, “Yes, but did you taste them?” The ones I got from Juan were quite good, especially considering that they were, after all, the very first local cherries to hit the market that were actually ripe.

The following week their cherries were much better, of course, but, as is the case with any fruit, when you haven’t had fresh local cherries in nearly a year, even the very first ones on the market are a great treat. You enjoy them thinking of them as a herald of joys to come.

Flash forward to this year.

Last Saturday was the last time for the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market to be held on the Embarcadero between Union and Green. This coming Saturday is the grand inauguration of the newly-restored Ferry Building with its six-hundred-foot skylight visible for the first time in decades and many other improvements, including outdoor space provided for a farmers market and some permanent indoor stalls. So last Saturday was a low-key farewell event and it was a wonderful day. Most of the vendors I talked to expressed cautious optimism regarding the new location, and I think everyone wants very strongly to make it work.

Perhaps because there were so many other issues being dealt with, when I was at the Hamadas’ booth Juan didn’t mention that the Hamadas would be having the first cherries of the season at the Justin Herman Plaza market on Tuesday. This is perhaps also because he doesn’t work at the Tuesday market anymore since the tragic death of Mrs. Hamada last winter. She was so wonderful, radiating kindness, and every time I go to their booth I am saddened by the memory of her grace.

My friend Chris from Germany is visiting now, and having someone upon whom to inflict all this food is a great pleasure. I wanted to take him to the Slanted Door for lunch, and the place is so popular that you need to be there when it opens at 11:30. Since it’s only six blocks from the Justin Herman Plaza market, we went down to the market first and discovered that yes, the Hamadas have scooped everybody two years in a row. And it’s just as wonderful this year as it was last, to get the first local cherries of the season.

While we were there, we also picked up some green garlic, snow peas, and shelled English peas from the Mouas. Then we got a basket of strawberries from Yerena, to whom I expressed my fervent hope that some under-ripe Tayberries for jelly might somehow find their way to his stall in the Ferry Building on Saturday.

Finally, we got a comparison basket of strawberries from Ella Bella. Hitting Ella Bella was a special pleasure because of seeing the delightful Sharon (whose name I just nailed down at this meeting). She is very seasonal and very part time, but now I can give her the jar of jelly that I missed giving her last fall. Michelle and Brandon, the two regulars for Ella Bella are two of the most charming and delightful vendors at the market, and that’s saying a lot. They’re also beautiful, especially Michelle… not that I would have turned Brandon down twenty or thirty years ago had he been in my generation. No indeed. And as I already knew in my heart, they also have better strawberries than Yerena. A bit more attention to detail is what does it, I suspect. Unfortunately, they’re aware that they have better berries, and they price them accordingly. I try not to look at the prices.

After the market we went to the Slanted Door and gorged on Spring Rolls, Imperial Rolls, Shaking Beef, and Caramelized Shrimp with a half bottle of a superb Spälese. What is it about those sweet wines with spicy food? A wonderful restaurant, delicious food in a beautiful, angular setting.

Sunday night was Ton Kiang. At night they have Hakka food and a modest selection of dim sum. The Hakka stuff was good, but we both felt that having a full selection of their fine dim sum at lunch is better.

This morning I went to an appointment with Dr. Janice Fong, my optometrist and dim sum advisor, who says that Ton Kiang has been replaced in her estimation by Harbor Village. Since we have two more lunches, one will be there since I just love being one jump ahead of the reviewers. Besides, Dr. Fong says it’s more authentic and has not suffered the portion shrinkage afflicting Ton Kiang.

The remaining lunch will be at Tu Lan, a nasty little Vietnamese dump in the Tenderloin/Sixth Street corridor that was Discovered by Patricia Unterman twenty-odd years ago and is still undoubtedly one of the best food bargains in the city if you don’t mind your elbows sticking to the table while you are eating enormous portions of good Vietnamese comfort food. (This was not what mother had in mind when she cautioned me against putting my elbows on the table.)

Tonight we went to Thep Phanom and ate their legendary Larb Ped appetizer while we studied the menu. Emboldened by the symphony of flavors and textures in the Larb Ped, we tried two new dishes: an excellent duck with honey and spinach dish and squid stuffed with pork swimming in a green curry sauce that was so good that we ate the dab remaining in the bowl with spoons. That place gets better and better.

I have decided that I shall start calling Chris “C.H.F.” At least until I see whether I get away with it the first time. I mean, if it works for Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, it should certainly work for Christian Heinrich Friedrich Geibel. I told Chris that he ought to introduce himself as “Christian” over here for the little frisson it would evoke, but he demurred because he knew that “Christian” would get pronounced as it is in English (Kriss Chun), which grates on his ear. Oh, these fussy foreigners. A friend of Jürgen’s who lived in San Francisco for many years always introduced himself as “Chuck.” After I got to know him he confessed that his name was really Herbert, but he could not bear to hear folks using the English pronunciation (Hurr Burt) in reference to himself.

Did I mention I’m off my meds and feeling great?

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