Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Farmers' Markets May Be More Affordable, an Old Knife Sharpener

Posted By on Wed, May 11, 2011 at 7:36 AM

click to enlarge TalkPoints.jpg

Today's notes on national stories, local trends, random tastes, and other bycatch dredged up from the food media.

1. Are Farmers' Markets More Affordable? The venerable Barry Estabrook reports the results of a Vermont study that compared the prices of conventional and organic produce at farmers' markets against their counterparts at grocery stores. The findings: The conventional produce was often lower in price at the farmers' markets, and the organic produce was significantly so. These differences vary somewhat by region ― Estabrook cites two other studies that found slight reductions in price at farmers' markets.

The study makes sense when you consider that many grocery stores consider organic products a premium product, which they can maintain slightly higher margins. It would also be interesting to study whether grocery stores lose more of their produce in spoilage than farmers do, and have to charge accordingly. In my own experience, I buy most of my conventional produce at the Alemany farmers' market, where it's much cheaper (and fresher), but the organic stuff I buy at my local neighborhood farmers' markets seems to be about the same price as what I pay at Rainbow (and definitely cheaper than produce from Whole Foods). You?

click to enlarge Look how they gleam. - JONATHAN KAUFFMAN
  • Jonathan Kauffman
  • Look how they gleam.

2. Knives as Good as New. I have never woken up in time to get my knives into the sharpener at the Ferry Plaza farmers' market. And when I took my knives in to Bernal Cutlery last week to give it a try, owner Josh Donald said he was taking the rest of the month off from sharpening, since his wife was just about to have a baby. So I took my knives to the same place I've been using for 15 years: Columbus Cutlery (358 Columbus at Vallejo). The ancient woman who used to run the place retired eight years ago, but the current owner charges the same prices ― I paid $15 for three knives instead of $1 an inch, which would have cost me $26 ― and finishes the job in a couple of days.

I've had the same Wüsthofs since my cooking days, and since I no longer cook every day they serve me fine. Back when I needed to have my knives sharpened every month or two, I also appreciated Columbus Cutlery because they took enough off the blade to maintain a great edge, but they didn't butcher the knife the way the roving sharpener who serves many restaurants did (I have a 9-inch chef's knife that's now basically good for paring fruit). Columbus did shave down my utility knife (left) a little more than I would have liked, but the edge is beautiful ― the fruit I was slicing up last night felt like soft butter. Now I'm waiting for the inevitable blood sacrifice. A sharper edge is always a safer edge, it's true, but my just-sharpened knives always exact their revenge at least once for being so violently ground down.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.
Follow me at @JonKauffman.

  • Pin It

Tags: , , , ,

About The Author

Jonathan Kauffman


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.