A love letter to the Alemany Farmers Market

A small selection of Saturday's haul

Today is February 13, within spitting distance of Valentine’s Day, and everyone is thinking of ways to tell their sweetie how much they love them. But, as much as I adore the Cocktail Host, today I have another love on my mind: the Alemany Farmers Market, which I visit every Saturday I can.

I think of it as the Goldilocks of San Francisco farmers’ markets. Sometimes, if I have plans on Saturday morning, I go to the Heart of the City market on Sunday instead. There’s nothing wrong with this market, but I have a hard time getting excited about their selection. The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is the most impressive in the city,  with lots of artisanal prepared foods mixed in with the most gorgeous fruits and vegetables you’ll ever see. Still, the crush of tourists there and  the heart-stoppingly high prices mean shopping there is only an occasional indulgence. I once paid $6 for a peach there. Six freaking dollars. It was a beautiful, sexy peach—one of the best I’ve ever eaten—but did I mention it cost $6?

So Alemany is my farmers’ market sweetheart. They’ve got lots of organic produce in addition to the conventionally grown stuff and stock just about everything I need … and many things I need but just didn’t know it yet.

Cardoons, anyone?

Cardoons

Or maybe you could use some five-foot long stalks of sugarcane?

Sugarcane

And who wouldn’t want to eat their veggies when they see a pile of eye-popping rainbow chard?

Rainbow chard

And the cocktail geek in me does a little dance every time I walk up to Rosa de Santis’s citrus stand, which sells citrus of every stripe. Of course there are blood oranges in season, about which I have written often, here, and here, and here. But that’s just the start of it.

There are kumquats and limequats and mandarinquats, oh my!

Kumquats and limequats and mandarinquats, oh my!

Buddha's hand

In addition to rangpur limes, calamondini, and more, she also almost always has Buddha’s hand, which I’d love to use in some homemade bitters, or just infuse into some simple syrup.

And last month I discovered her blood limes. Who even knew there was such a thing? I was going to post some photos of them a few weeks ago—they make beautiful ruby-colored cocktail—but unfortunately my friends and I drank them all up before I managed to work out the perfect cocktail recipe for them. I bought another batch on Saturday, so I’ll let you know if I come up with anything interesting to do with them.

In the meantime, I spent the weekend making soups and salads and roasting broccoli and figuring out what to do with my Jerusalem artichokes.

Some of Saturday's groceries

I’m sorry. Did you see those purple and yellow carrots, which I’m planning on making into a salad with tahini dressing?

Purple carrots!

Alemany Farmers Market, will you be my valentine?

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The Apothecary

Spring may have technically sprung a few days ago, but the Alemany Farmers’ Market is still full of beautiful winter citrus fruits, from teeny calamondins to pomelos the size of bowling balls. For the past few weeks they’ve had the most beautiful magenta-colored blood oranges, which has been making me hanker after a drink I call The Apothecary.

Photo by Ingomar Lochschmidt

A few years ago I entered a cocktail competition sponsored by Hendrick’s Gin. The assignment was to come up with a cocktail that highlighted one of the many ingredients used to flavor the gin, from the obvious (juniper berry) to the less so (infusion of rose petals). In addition, you had to write a limerick about your drink, or Hendrick’s gin, or some related topic, about which the less said the better. I won’t include mine here, because it was dreadful. I’ll just mention I rhymed “uses,” “juices,” and “produces.” Enough said.

After unsuccessfully playing around with cubeb berries, the most obscure ingredient I could find on the list of botanicals, and discovering that muddled cubeb berries taste not unlike a bar of soap, I settled on using orange zest as my featured ingredient.

The following was the recipe I submitted, which in retrospect seems a tad fussy, but the drink isn’t half bad, if I do say so myself. I made it to the finals, where I got to make the drink for a panel of judges. When all was said and done I didn’t place in the top three, but considering I was up against some San Francisco bartending superstars like Jackie Patterson, I can’t say I was surprised.

The Apothecary

2 1/2 ounces Hendrick’s gin
1/2 ounce Aperol
1/2 ounce Mandarine Napoleon
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed blood orange juice
Orange sugar, for rimming the glass (see below)
Piece of orange peel, for garnish

Combine the gin, Aperol, Mandarin Napoleon, lemon juice, and blood orange juice in a shaker filled with ice. Shake well until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass dipped into the orange sugar mixture. Flame the orange peel over the top of the drink and serve.

Orange sugar

Finely grate the zest from 1 blood orange. Spread onto a plate and let dry for at least two hours, or up to overnight. Stir together with 1/4 cup superfine sugar.

If you make this drink, let me know what you think in the comments.