It's a rainy Saturday and what better way to spend part of the day than indoors at a holiday food market! One such recent event was the New Taste Marketplace at St Gregory's Episcopal Church in the Portrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco.
The market is the brainchild of SF Examiner food critic Jesse Hirsch and it highlights local food vendors trying to get their businesses off the ground and also doubles as a benefit for the food pantry the church runs to help those in need. All around a a good cause so you can feel less guilty about your gluttony--ok my gluttony. There were lots of goodies to choose from so I made my way around the room twice before deciding which items to try more than just a sample. First up was Strong Cheese.
A truer description of a company and what they offer can not be found. This is some hearty, tangy, tasty and stinky cheese. It is not for the faint of heart and if sharp cheddar isn't your thing then this surely will not be either. They offer 3 types and each is infused, flavored, loaded up with a different type of beer, cheese and spices. Gouda, garlic and IPA. Goat cheese, white ale and herbs. Cheddar, green onion and something called Firestone Walker's Velvet Merlin--a hearty oatmeal stout. Plus its holiday party ready and rolled in crushed walnuts--ahh--a childhood memory from my parents holiday parties. The cheeses are all creamy and spreadable and perfect for get-togethers. Remember if you like your cheese with some serious bite then this is for you. Next up was something totally opposite, but still homey comfort food--biscuit and sausage gravy from Sweet Jo's Chili & Biscuits.
I had a chat with Jo and turns out she used to spend summers in North Carolina while her father went did the Rice Diet at Duke University--it was all the rage in the 70's. Let's start with the good--the sausage gravy was thick and black peppery with nice chunks of sausage and the green onions added some good texture. I liked it, but then you know in the South gravy is a beverage. As for the not quite good, the biscuit was a bit of a let down. The inside was light and fluffy but the outside was baked too hard and I nearly broke my plastic spoon trying to cut into it. The hard outer crust made me wish for more gravy as the outside was also dry, but it did have a nice buttery flavor. Sadly though, I can't overlook an over-cooked biscuit. I then decided to finish off my day with, what else, a cupcake from Nute's Cupcakes.
Nute specializes in mini's and unusual flavors including pandan coconut, chili lime, green tea, chocolate bacon and caramel espresso. Of course I went for the chocolate bacon, I was already on a Southern theme so why not. These were mini's so for me anyway, it was a one bite deal. It was moist and she didn't skimp on the icing. What I also liked is she didn't mix the bacon into the cupcake but had a decent amount of crisped up bits between the cake and the icing. It helped keep that good smoky bacon flavor prominent and not overshadowed by the chocolate. A sweet tasty bite.
While I only tried whole portions from these vendors I did sample some other tasty treats like rugelach from Doll's Kitchen, bacon apple "shirt pocket pies" from Desperation Bakehouse and homemade pierogis from Pachamama Cookery--all tasty and worth trying. Since all the vendors were local and trying to share their food passions they are all worth trying and supporting and you can find links to all the vendors at the New Taste Marketplace website. You can also check there for when the next market is happening and add it to your calendar--support local foodies.