Sunday, August 8, 2010

East Bay Underground Market

For those who couldn't get enough street food, the underground market was the place to be Saturday evening. After starting in San Francisco about a year ago, the underground market crossed the Bay for the first time, with about 40 vendors selling food, jams, breads and other homemade goods. Different from farmers markets where the food has to be made on commercial equipment, the underground market is for home chefs, so even you can open shop.

Those looking for fresh produce will be disappointed, as there were none. The underground market is a showcase of street food, ranging from Mexican tamales and moles to steamed dumplings and mac and cheese. Those with a sweet tooth can find plenty of options in artisan choclates, vegan chocolate cakes and of course various cupcakes. There are no home brewers, but organizers sold 12 oz. cups of beer for $4.

The couple vendors I sampled left me unimpressed. The $6 roasted potatos with melted cow's milk cheese sounded delicious but was a letdown with cold potatos and cheese that congealed too quickly. The overcooked, mushy rice was all I could think about in the $7 seafood paella. The mac & cheese sounded promising, but I was too slow and it sold out a couple hours before the evening ended.

While the food vendors offered nothing extraordinary, I did walk away happy with a jar of strawberry and meyer lemon jam from Jeannie's.

Despite the late hours from 5 to 11 p.m, the event is family friendly. The $2 admission doesn't cover any tastings, but you can enjoy the live performances that start around 7:30 p.m. Also remember, the market is cash only.

The underground markets have been held sporadically in San Francisco, so there is no regularly scheduled day, time or location. This weekend's event was held in a parking lot off 24th and Broadway in Oakland's Uptown district. For information about future events, sign up for the free newsletter.

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