Eating through Sonoma County’s Farm Markets

Tasting through the farmer's markets in Santa Rosa, Sebastopol

berry.jpgIt’s a milestone, I suppose, when fresh zucchini and rainbow broccoli become the stuff you daydream about. When filling a market basket with heirloom tomatoes and local olive oil gives you a significantly bigger thrill than your birthday. As the bountiful season approaches, we (okay I) rush to the markets to see what the harvest gods have left this week. Call it a sort of Christmas morning for the foodie-set.

So, okay, maybe kale and honey is still a hard-sell for a six-year-old. But as April meanders into May and piles of kale and radishes become berries, lettuces, beans and citrus fruit, it’s hard not to get a little giddy. Maybe even a little overwhelmed by all the choices. How does one cook dandelion greens, anyway? Which is why local markets are evolving from simply offering produce, fresh eggs and just-picked lettuce to more convenient ready-made baked goods, freezer-friendly dishes and ethnic meals that feature that best of the county’s bounty.

Regardless of your kitchen ability, now’s the best time to familiarize yourself with your market. It’s as simple as grabbing a basket, some cash (many stands don’t take checks or credit cards), a hearty appetite and exploring your way through, one stand at a time. Get there early because the good stuff goes fast and if you love a vendor, ask when and where they’ll be next week, because they sometimes move around to different markets. Right now, the Sonoma (Depot Park), Santa Rosa Farm Market at the Veteran’s Building and Sebastopol Markets are in full swing, with Santa Rosa’s Wednesday Night Market, Windsor, Healdsburg and Petaluma set to open in May.

What’s on the menu? Come along for an early taste of the markets…

fish.jpgFaraway Flavors
Prepare to queue up for Mateo Granados’ tamale stand. The former Dry
Creek Kitchen chef serves up seasonal tamales wrapped in banana leaves,
stuffed with suckling pig, lamb and goat cheese. Or, fuel up with a
plate of Huevos Rancheros and fresh agua fresca at the communal table
(a perfect spot for comparing notes on what’s best at the market
today). Saturdays at the Santa Rosa Veteran’s Hall Farmer’s Market,
Sundays at the Sebastopol Farm Market and May through November at the
Healdsburg Saturday market.

Ethnic home-cooking doesn’t get much more authentic than the
mom-and-pop stalls that line the markets. Among my favorites is Lata
Pagare, who does double duty in Santa Rosa on Saturday and Sebastopol
on Sunday serving up impossibly light Indian samosas, coconut milk
curry and homemade lassis at Lata’s Indian Cuisine. Also worth a stop
are Mommy’s Yammys homemade beef and lamb gyros with couscous salad or
fish tacos on fresh tortillas (and posole) at Nellie’s BBQ Oysters.

Fish and Meat
One of the most entertaining spots at the Santa Rosa Market each week
is the ever-expanding fish stall of Santa Rosa Seafood. One week, fresh
(as in still wiggling) sea urchin and crabs amused onlookers while the
line for smoked salmon and sushi-grade tuna snakes around the tubs of
fish on ice. Don’t miss their prepared spreads and (as the weather
cools) chowders. Saturdays in Santa Rosa, Sundays at the Marin Farm
Market. Santi Restaurant (which will soon relocate to Santa Rosa) sells
their housemade salumis in both Santa Rosa and Sebastopol, its newest
creation a spicy Cajun boudin.

Dip It Good
The first things we crack into on the car-ride home are the myriad dips
and cheeses that grab our tastebuds each week. Favorites: The Hummus
artichoke hummus; bolani (Afghan bread) with garlic mint cream
cheese from East & West Gourmet Afghan Food and lemon quark (a kind
of cream cheese) from Spring Hill Cheese. A perennial fixture at the
Santa Rosa Saturday market, Leon Day is constantly concocting new
condiments to add to his already impressive lineup. Newest is
mint-cilantro chutney, but my fridge always has a bottle of his peanut
sauce to dress up chicken and ho-hum noodles. A new find: Santa Rosa
plum jam, Green Tomato Conserve and Satsuma Mandarin Marmalade from
DeVero Olive Oil (Saturday, Santa Rosa).

Get Baked
Baked goods are a staple of the market, because really what goes better
with all that fresh cheese, butter and produce than a hunk of fresh
sourdough? Best bets: Gorganzola Walnut bread from Bennett Valley
(Saturday, Santa Rosa), veggie hand pies from Flour Creations,
and pretty much anything Full Circle Baking Company has left (they sell
out early). Looking for something heartier? SisterPie serves up
seasonal savory and sweet pies to take home and bake yourself (and of
course take credit for) on Saturdays in Santa Rosa.

Sweet Tooth
Brownies from Rohnert Park’s Killer Baking Company were my top reason
to visit the Wednesday night market through the long hot summer, but
doubly so since Chef Michael recently released his new maple, brownie
bit and pecan ice cream. Sate a raging sweet tooth with a salted
caramel from Gandolf’s Fine Chocolate (Santa Rosa, Saturdays) or
newcomer Sonoma Chocolatiers at the Sebastopol Market.

Still hungry? Stay tuned for even more delish finds as the farm market season continues.

Where to go:
Santa Rosa Market – Veteran’s Building: Year round, Saturday mornings
from 8am to noon. Santa Rosa Wednesday Night Market, May 13 through
August 12, 5 to 8:30pm.
Sebastopol Farm Market: Town Square, April through November, Sunday from 10am to 1pm.
Healdsburg Certified Farm Market: Vine & North St., May through
November, Sat., 9am to noon; Tuesdays in the plaza from 4-7pm, June
through October.
Sonoma Farmer’s Market: Year round, Friday, 9am to noon in Depot Park
Windsor Farmer’s market: May through November, 10am to 1pm, May through Nov, Thursday nights 5-8pm on the Town Green.
Petaluma Farmer’s Market: May through October, Saturdays, 2-5pm, Walnut Park.


25 thoughts on “Eating through Sonoma County’s Farm Markets

  1. There is a crepes stand at the San Rafael market, Sundays. Don’t know if it’s the same guy but they are good!

  2. Alan knows his stuff! The BBQ at Petaluma’s wednesday night market is the best i’ve had. Maybe it’s because everything is fresh out the smoker and hasn’t been sitting around, whatever the reason, i can’t wait to get some.
    And for Sonoma on the cheap…..the BBQ guys have Paella too. It’s fun to watch them make it right there, and oh so yummy too.

  3. The Hummous guy makes about the best Arabic dips in the bay area. Believe me, I have tried them all looking for authentic and this is the real taste I remember from my childhood. Try his pita chips, they are truly wonderful.
    Even though I was teasing him, he is Algerian, and the dips he sells are sort of Levantine, from Lebanon etc, I have to give him props. Also, him Pita bread is fantastic.

  4. Since it was so highly recommended on here, I tried Lata’s samosas today at the farmer’s market. I’m sorry to say- in my opinion- not good at all. Dry, greasy, really starchy and without much flavor. Where else locally can I get good samosas?

  5. Right on Cricket! What great recipes. I’ll try to keep up with your recipes because I’m always looking for yummy ways to use stuff from the market!

  6. I am really lucky to visit the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market every week and try to come up with something fun to make. They are one of our clients at the radio station, and I have a full collection of seasonal recipes online. I agree with Heather, as the seasons begin to change, I almost start to hyperventilate anticipating the new fruits and veggies making their way to the market. I just tried Bernier Farms and they have some great greens. Check out my recipes and keep shopping at your local farmers market!

  7. Lata Pagare is one of the most incredible chefs around..congrats to you Lata, for getting recognized for your gorgeous creations, of which I’ve known and bragged about coast to coast!

  8. since this post is missing at least two of the county’s farmers markets (occidental & cotati), i don’t suppose the post could be updated to include them? seems like most folks won’t make it all the way thru the comments to find this info…
    fyi: occidental is fridays, 4pm ’til dusk, june through october.

  9. Don’t forget about the Cotati Farmers Market, celebrating it’s 8th season this year. It runs every Thursday, June 4 – October 1, 4:30 – 7:30 p.m. in La Plaza Park, downtown Cotati. If you haven’t been for a while, it’s bigger and better than ever, with live entertainment on the bandstand at each market.
    For more information, contact the Cotati Chamber of Commerce at or 707-795-5508. To be a vendor at the market, contact Market Manager Karen at 707-769-1830.

  10. Thanks for the name of the truck. I couldn’t remember it- and I had heard they normally park on Sebastopol Rd during the week. Still need to verify if that’s true… If it is, I could be eating there a LOT! Alternate between that and Las Palmas.

  11. The Santa Rosa Farmers Market Blog has a fairly complete directory of the vendors.
    Thanks for a great column and making me very hungry.
    The Santa Rosa Wednesday morning farmers market got a new vendor last week – the next generation of Berniers of farming in Dry Creek. The stand had some great looking produce and very nice looking tomato plants for sale. The markets provide Sonoma County’s best street food.

  12. After trying the CSA (local veggie/fruit subscription service) thing last year, and it not going so well, my plan is to stick with just getting all my produce at the farmer’s markets. I’ve tried several and my favorite by far is the Santa Rosa one at the Vet’s Hall. One additional food suggestion- the burrito wagon that’s there every week (can anyone tell me the name?? I forget) has the BEST shrimp tostadas ever. Fresh avocado, fresh shrimp, delicious homemade sauce…yum!!

  13. We used to go to the Farmer’s Market all the time with my mom when we were kids. And in my adult years, I’ve gone sporadically. But I fail at making it a regular thing. Lately I have just had this urge to start making Farmer’s Marketing a more regular habit. The other day I stopped at the roadside stand on River Road and was suddenly transformed into a sworn Farmer’s Market junkie! Just the fresh lettuce alone makes me a believer. I’m hoping to never buy produce at the store again.
    P.S. Is it just me, or has the Saturday SR market grown considerably? I think that’s fabulous!

  14. aw, shucks–don’t leave out the occidental bohemian farmers market, original home of lata’s amazing samosas, and going into its 8th season… it’s a bit cooler out in west county, so the market doesn’t open until the first weekend of june, but it’s jam-packed with wonderful farmers + gerard’s paella & kashaya’s wood-fired pizza!

  15. Last year, at the Petaluma Wednesday night market was a crepe stand – good savory and sweet crepes.
    I can’t wait for Petaluma markets to open!!!

  16. Mmmmmmmm……crepes! What more could you want from a food but to be both sweet and savory! Pure perfection.

  17. Hey Ilovefood…he’s disappeared off the radar, as many cool folks who try out ideas at the market sometimes do. I’ve asked around, and I hear he still does catering. Perhaps he’ll come back with the crepes!

  18. Didn’t you do a blog on a guy that made crepes there at the Santa Rosa Market??? I have never been able to find him… Help, I dream of them after reading your article! Thank You!

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