When I first heard about the Underground Farmers Market, I was immediately intrigued to check it but sadly disappointed that I had a conflict. So when it came around again, I was determined to check it out and that I did. The concept behind this event is to provide a venue for any and all vendors, chefs, and purveyors of edible goods who aren’t able to set up shop at official farmers markets that require the food to be prepared in a commercial kitchen. In gathering these vendors together, organizers give the legion of SF foodies an exciting opportunity to discover some really good food that they might otherwise never have a chance to try.
Pdho and I got there right at 6pm which was the start of the night shift, and there were already a fair amount of people. TUmmy met us a little bit later and she eventually ran into some of her friends as well. Anyways, Pdho had done some research and read about the Banh Mi Burger from Kitchen Sidecar, so I was pleased to see them set up outside near the entrance. After doing the prerequisite circle around to see what other goodies were up for the tasting, I made a bee-line back to put in an order for the Banh Mi Burger with a side of Rock Shrimp chips for a total of $9. They had a nice little set up going. They had one grill firing up the pork belly patties and smaller table top grill to toast up the baguette bread. The patties were made from ground pork bellyand green garlic and were delicious! It could have used a tad bit more seasoning, but with everything going on in the sandwich, it is a minor critique. The real key to a great Banh Mi is the condiments, specifically the mayo, the pate and the vegetables. The vegetable mix had the usual carrots and onions, but instead of daikon they used a red radish I think. It was pickled, but it could have used a little more tang especially in this case since the patty was so juicy and fatty. The meyer lemon aioli sounded really interesting, but I don’t think I really tasted it. It might have been due to the healthy spread of chicken liver pate which really overshadowed the other flavors, albeit in a very good way. The bread was a little bit too hard, so I might recommend them using a slightly softer bread… or maybe they just toasted it too long. Nevertheless, it was an excellent sandwich. It doesn’t get as many points for authenticity, but it’s a very delicious take on the Vietnamese sandwich and that is equally if not more important, in some cases.
Some of the other things we tried were okay, not bad but not necessarily great either. I can’t explain why, but every time I see mac and cheese, I have to try it. It’s so strange, because I really don’t like cheese. I probably should have tried harder to ignore my craving, because even though there were pieces of hot dog mixed with it and topped with potato chip crumbles, it tasted a little plain.
The dumplings from Saucy Dumpling were good. Although it looked like they were made by Asians, it didn’t have the familiar flavors that you would expect from an Asian dumpling. The vinegar sauce was also a little bit to tangy and could have used a little more soy sauce. It was still a pretty decent tasting dumpling in spite of the 3 for $4 price tag.
The desserts were pretty good for the most part. The best dessert of the night was the Meyer Lemon Strawberry ice cream from Do Good Ice Cream. It is probably one of the most delicious yet unique tasting flavors I’ve ever had. There were strawberries and lemon zest pieces mix throughout the ice cream. It was absolutely yummy! Although it carried a hefty $10 price per pint, I think it’s probably worth it.
The Lemon Meringue Tart was a close second. It definitely tasted a lot like a Key Lime pie, but was interestingly sweet and tangy at the same time. The cream filling was almost too sweet sometimes, but I think as long as you took a big chunk of the crust with each bite, you would be okay. The crust was probably the best part of the tart.
The Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta definitely looked better than it tasted. I think it was lacking in agar which would have made it much more solid, so the consistency turned out to be more like pudding than a firm panna cotta that I am used to. The vanilla bean flavor was definitely there which was good and the strawberry and orange zest went well together with the the aged balsamic vinegar. Although, I expected more from the balsamic vinegar, maybe because I had a similar dessert at 54 Mint, and it was amazing. My guess is it needed to be higher quality balsamic vinegar.
I only took a bite of this dessert, because by this time, I was COMPLETELY stuffed. The mango was encased in a ball of coconut-flavored sticky rice. It was okay tasting, but necessarily memorable.
Overall, I had the best time at the Underground Farmers Market. It was stimulating to all five senses… starting with the intoxicating aromas from the grilling meats and the din of bluegrass music in the background mixed with hundreds of Foodies conversations that immediately engulfs. I eventually became mesmerized by the sheer number and variety of different treats and felt tempted to pick up every sample that was offered. The best part of all was enjoying a collection of delicious food, some being so unique that I would probably not be able to find again given the set up of some of these vendors. It was a great experience and not necessarily for Foodies. It was such a social environment with people exchanging compliments and suggestions on the different things they were eating. I was pleasantly surprised to see how easy it was to strike up conversations with random people… it goes to show how food and drink can really bring people together.