By Molly Gore
By Molly Gore
By Pete Kane
By Lou Bustamante
By Pete Kane
By Ashley Goldsmith
By Pete Kane
By John Birdsall
As we left that day, laden with our finds, many people were stopping at the stand that features huge smoked turkey legs to pick up one or two for Sunday dinner. (Alas, I've heard that the turkey legs might not be available for a few months.) One aficionado told me that he always purchases a dozen homemade tamales to go from Rosie's Mexican stand, where I had an excellent carnitas burrito.
But the Alameda Faire takes place only one Sunday a month, and the hunter-gatherer instinct is strong, so I made my way out to the Alemany Flea Market, which takes place every Sunday. Alas, it proved to be more of a massive garage sale than a treasure hunt, with many items labeled from the school of wishful attribution and sellers whose sad collections of objects were reminiscent of what you might find in a market in the former U.S.S.R.: a broken radio, three chipped plates, a stained Pierre Cardin tie, two beetroots, and several sprouting potatoes. The jovial proprietor of one of the few stands that offered actual antiques and practiced the art of display, Absolutely Wonderful Antiques, had a paper-plateful of good-looking skewered meats, and he pointed me in the direction of Rita's catering truck, after I admired his bright-yellow suspenders printed to look like yardsticks (and not for sale). But I was waylaid by another truck, Dad's Dogs, where I succumbed to the lure of a grilled Hebrew National hot dog on a fresh seeded bun for $3. (The Alemany Espresso stand offers a steamed Hebrew National dog for $2, if you're interested in compare-and-contrast.)
I also succumbed to the lure of "one used videotape for $5, or 5 for $20," since the getting-and-spending gene was not being satisfied. When I got home, I found that the Pinocchio video had once been in the collection of Sam Lamott (familiar to all readers of Anne Lamott or viewers of Bird by Bird; provenance is all, though I don't think 2-year-old Ben, for whom it is destined, will be impressed), but hadn't noticed that the Mars Attacks! one was in Spanish. Oh well, you win some and you lose some.
Alameda, CA 94501
Shrimp salad sandwich $5
Fried calamari and fries $6
Alemany Flea Market
Panorama Baking Co.
Thai Buddhist Temple
Fried chicken with sticky rice $4
Papaya salad $4
Khanom krug $3 Alameda Point Antiques and Collectibles Faire, W. Atlantic & Ferry Point, Alameda, (510) 522-7500. Open the first Sunday of every month, from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: easy. Noise level: low.
Ole's Waffle Shop, 1507 Park (at Lincoln), Alameda, (510) 522-8108. Open Monday through Friday from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Saturday from 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Sunday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Reservations accepted for parties of six or more. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: easy. Noise level: moderate.
Alemany Flea Market, 100 Alemany (at Crescent), 647- 9423. Open Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: difficult. Muni: 9X, 23, 24, 67. Noise level: low.
Berkeley Flea Market, Ashby & Martin Luther King Jr., Berkeley, (510) 644-0744. Open Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: moderately difficult. Noise level: low.
Thai Buddhist Temple, 1911 Russell (at Martin Luther King Jr.), Berkeley, (510) 849-3419. Open Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: moderately difficult. Noise level: moderate.
My big score that day was at the Panorama Baking Co. stand, where a large sign advertising "Brasilian pasteis" was surrounded by a knot of expatriates conversing in musical Portuguese and clutching steaming pastries. I bought one each of the three varieties on offer, and all were truly divine, the fragile fried pastry enclosing ground beef punched up with green olives, shredded chicken, or (my favorite) mild, soft, pully cheese. (Joyce is amazed that I missed the lady who plays a saw while her foot-pedal-operated cat marionette dances. That wouldn't necessarily draw me back. But the pasteis would.)
Divine would be the word, too, for the extraordinary meal I stumbled upon while parking near the Berkeley Flea Market (www.berkeleyfleamarket.com), which colonizes the northern corner of the Ashby BART parking lot on both Saturday and Sunday. This is the justly famed Sunday Thai brunch at Wat Mongkolratanaram, aka the Thai Buddhist Temple. My friend Peter had invited me to join him there a couple of times, curiously always on the first Sunday of the month, when I was Alameda-bound. But after visiting the Berkeley Flea -- an odd amalgam of goods new and old, with a definite Afrocentric presence (there are stands devoted to black literature, black videos, and black music, and many selling African crafts, including beautiful striped woven carryalls perfect for toting fruits and vegetables home from the produce stands) -- I was drawn to the Royal Thai brunch. There you exchange money for tokens ($1 each), and then, in a system that seems complicated but works well, exchange the tokens for fabulous fresh Thai dishes: papaya salad, fried chicken and sticky rice, and delicious little grilled patties of coconut milk, green onions, flour, and sugar (khanom krug) or coconut flakes, coconut milk, taro root, and sugar (khanom babin). There were wonderful-looking whole grilled fish, too big for me to order on my own. Extremely well-fed people were beaming over their well-filled plates, sitting everywhere -- at the big communal tables lined up in the courtyard, or smaller ones set under potted trees between the temple and the Thai cultural center next door, or perched by a tent where Thai ceremonial dancers were performing. It was a blissful meal, a serendipitous gastronomic event that improved the day. As did the unexpectedly good shrimp salad sandwich and the freshly made pasteis on my previous junking expeditions, when not knowing what will turn up is the reason we go out.