Burlingame Farmers Market

On Sunday, August 24, 2008, I rode my bike to the Burlingame Farmers Market. The weather was typically perfect California. The two-mile ride was a nice length for a pre-breakfast excursion, though it was through city streets and thus not very pretty.

Although a small market, I'd be happy if it were my local market. First, there was a better band than the usual musician at the San Mateo farmers market. Second, despite the size, there were at least two vendors for most everything, and usually every item that I'd expect to be available in organic form was available. For some food products, the market was even larger than the markets I regularly attend. For instance, there were two bakeries (Bay Bread and Brioche Bakery, which is also at the San Mateo farmers market) and two stuffed Indian bread stands (Sukhi's and East West Gourmet Afghan Food, which is also at the San Mateo farmers market). Also, though most markets have a stand selling the usual Asian vegetables like gai lon and bok choy, the stand at this one had additional, more exotic items such as Chinese long beans, bitter melon, and "bitter okra leaves." However, I didn't see a sign at this stand certifying the vegetables were grown in California, so I'm skeptical that they didn't simply come from the same source as an Asian supermarket. Other distinguishing characteristics (that I don't actually care about) of this market: there were more flower vendors than I usually see at markets, and there were some craftpeople (e.g., selling jewelry).

For breakfast, I had a cinnamon-orange morning bun from Bay Bread. It was okay, covered with too much powdered sugar. I decided to have more breakfast and retreated back to Brioche Bakery (the bakery that I know and like at the San Mateo market) and had a tasty, moist poppyseed muffin.

While deciding what to buy for other meals, I explored downtown Burlingame. It's pleasant, just as cute and large as downtown San Mateo. I wasn't aware it was so sizable. I'm jealous it has a good quality bookstore. (San Mateo does not.) I browsed.

I returned to the market, bought a stuffed Indian bread (stuffed with a mash of carrots, potatoes, and peas; apparently I got the last one of this type) from the vendor I don't normally see, a chicken empanada from El Porteno (getting lucky once again and getting the last empanada that had chicken), some organic blueberries, three organic pluots, an organic white peach, and an ear of corn. I was smart; unlike the time I biked to the San Mateo market in July and had a heck of a time coming home because I bought more than could fit in my backpack, I planned, conscious of my space limitations.

Free Jamba Juice

A recent evening, I went to Jamba Juice. The guy who made my drink decided not to charge me, waving me away. I wondered why. Did he feel bad for me and my hair, dyed with red highlights? Or was it because the store was closing for the night and he didn't want to deal with money? Or did he think my hair was awesome? Or perhaps there was Stanford loyalty at play? (This was a Jamba Juice near Stanford, whose color is cardinal, and my hair was red.)

Golden Gate Renaissance Festival

On August 17, 2008, I drove to a bus stop, and rode to Golden Gate Park for its Golden Gate Renaissance Festival. Though it was mid-summer, I'd forgot that Golden Gate Park is frequently overcast. The day was brisk and I was under-dressed in pants and a t-shirt. While I wrote that statement simply meaning I should've worn warmer clothes, it's also true that this fair had a higher percent of people dressed up than others I've attended. Indeed, perhaps half the crowd was in costume. I felt a little out of place.

Over the course of the festival, I caught a variety of shows: a knife juggler, a show with many macaw bird tricks and lots of bird puns, a magic show with both adult and kid humor, and a surprisingly good-quality belly dancing troupe of older women. They knew how to move--it was certainly one of the best belly dancing performances I've ever seen. I also loved, as always, the costumes and dancing of Danse Macabre as they wound their way down the streets. Finally, near the entrance gates, some people played human-sized chess, and looked like they were having a lot of fun doing it.

I ate a polish sausage and a chocolate-and-banana crepe, both tasty. Though I wasn't intending to get one, I was surprised to notice turkey legs weren't available.

As for the shops, there was the usual renfair stuff. Something about the atmosphere may have enticed me to buy clothing if I could've had a second opinion and encouragement from a friend. Also, I thought about wooden and pewter mugs. I admired pewter figurines, especially those made by Wicked Things (and, of those, especially the tree candlestick-holders and the dragon statues). I glanced at countless weapons. And, last but not least, I bought an uncracked geode. Let's see how lucky I am.

There were many guilds (basically social groups) at the fair. Each had its own area in which to hang out. Some were recruiting new members. A few groups played a four-foot-high version of jenga. One played jenga with swords, allowing players to only use their sword tips to push each block out. Neat. I watched all this with some envy; it seemed like a nice place to be, a nice activity to do, with like-minded friends.

One guild gave free fencing lessons, which I briefly contemplated taking. I contemplated paying to use the archery range for longer, but decided to skip it. I had enough of the fair and simply wanted to be home and comfortable.

Belmont Farmers Market and Much More

Because I had the urge to go a farmers market and didn't get a chance to go to one yesterday, I researched what Sunday farmers markets existed and chose to head a little south to the Belmont one. I didn't have anything in mind that I wanted to buy. I just wanted to browse a market.

The Belmont farmers market would probably be considered a reasonable size by many. I, however, didn't like it because there were only two organic stands, one for some vegetables and one for some fruits.

One nice thing about going to a farmers market close to closing is that the vendors drop their prices. The many purveyors of peaches and grapes dropped their prices from $2/lb to $1/lb. The one organic peach vendor did not reduce her prices, leaving them around $3/lb.

I left the market with two ears of corn, two organic tomatoes, a bunch of organic green beans, and two organic yellow-fleshed pluots ("flavor queen"). I would've bought more of the last but none of the rest looked good. No, I don't know what I'm going to cook with this stuff.

Next I went to Ranch 99, a local Asian supermarket. They didn't have what I wanted, but instead I got some lychee and loganberries. I tried loganberries for the first time in years two weeks ago in Singapore and liked them well enough (though not as much as lychee).

Hungry by this point--I'd hoped to buy a pastry or something for lunch at the farmers market, but no such luck--, I drove to a local Malaysian restaurant that I generally like, Langkawi, and had a dish that reminded me of, but was a sad reflection of, one I had in Singapore.

I walked across the complex to Marina Market, another Asian supermarket. This one had what I was looking for: kaya spread. Kaya is a coconut-egg jam spread on toast in Singapore. (I tried it there and liked it.) Incidentally, although Ranch 99 had it as well, I didn't buy it there because both of Ranch 99's brands had added food coloring. One of Marina's brands did not.

I stuck my head in a Chinese bakery in the same complex and picked up a red bean bun for later.

My final stop was Safeway, mainly for general household needs. Then I happened to spot organic grapes. I've been looking for organic grapes for the past two months, ever since I recalled how great grapes are frozen. Although I'd seen grapes constantly at farmers markets, they were never organic. Here, Safeway had organic grapes, and they were on sale for half-price. Perhaps I went a little overboard, but I bought six pounds. I picked up some bananas too.

Pistahan (Filipino) Festival

On Saturday, August 9, 2008, I took the train into San Francisco to go to Yerba Buena Gardens for the Pistahan (Filipino) Festival. I went last year; this year's festival was similar. It had the same food stands. The secondary stage was devoted entirely to hip-hop and rap. The booths covered the same range as last time, from books (on Filipino language, cooking, and history, as examples), to t-shirts (many gangsta style), to hats and handbags, and to booths staffed by the festival backers such as local banks, periodicals targeting Filipinos, the Filipino-American sheriff association (for public relations and recruiting), and the Filipino tourism bureau. And, also like last year, there was one "heritage" booth devoted to Filipino history and culture, much like a museum exhibit, and one devoted to art. I think more cultural festivals should have booths like these.

One booth that interested me was the one staffed by the transportation authority that promoted plans to run a new, underground T-line into Chinatown.

Aside from looking around, I sat in the grass, ate, and listened to the Filipino jazz group which happened to be playing at that time. I also explored, during which time I caught performances of operatic singing, a DJ spinning dance music, and Filipino folk dancing. Easily the most irritating feature of the festival was that the church across the street periodically rang bells, sometimes for upwards of a minute at a time, making it difficult for the audience to hear the music or announcements. It was clear the performers were also frustrated.

As I left the festival, I grabbed dessert, which I ate on the way to the train station and on the train. Although I didn't think I was going to cut it closely, I arrived in the station as they called "All Aboard."

Over the course of the day, I took some pictures of what I ate and a few videos of the performances I saw.