It’s Fall here in Northern California. The weather is changing from warm sunny days to windy and sometimes cool and rainy days. Yesterday it was on the cooler side, but still nice enough to go on a day trip. I drove to Oakland which is about 25 minutes from my home in Walnut Creek California. I took a tour of Rockridge Market Hall on College Avenue. This venue is fun for any food lover, especially me. I walked from the Coffee bar with my 2 shot espresso and steamed milk over to the bakery to scan the goods. I’m usually a Peet’s kind of girl, but this will have to do.
This place was bustling with activity from the vendors scooping fresh hot baked chicken from the ovens, to the customers selecting which salad or side dish they wanted to buy. This place is like Heaven on earth to me. They have everything from the best cheese varieties in the world to special organic olive oils like Bondolio https://www.bondolio.com/ made in Winters California. (Bondolio gives tours and tastings on Sunday’s in December and if you have 10 people, I learned they will fire up the pizza oven on site.)
I was impressed by the knowledgeable staff like Wendy who took me for a tour of the marketplace. She introduced me to jars of honey from all over the world. There was one called “Miele” that was made in Tuscany and it was most beautiful and feminine painting of dainty flowers on the jar. I can only imagine how sweet and lovely it tastes. “Alemany of Spain” had an orange blossom honey made with orange peel that would be delicious in a cup of herbal tea, and a thyme honey that is wonderful in marinades. They had other varietals from New Zealand and even a special one grown in the USA in Savannah Georgia called “Verdant Kitchen” that was infused with ginger and bottled like a maple syrup with fancy packaging.
The Pasta Shop displayed the most beautiful cheeses like the pasteurized Taleggio from Italy, a speckled blue Stilton from England and not to be forgotten the Bay Blue variety from Pt. Reyes Farmstead in California which I have visited and so many more. I drooled over the perfectly half wrapped perfect sized baguette with aged cheddar melted inside. It tasted even better after the bakery slid it in the oven for a few minutes for me. I got excited when I saw the roasted hazelnuts and marcona almonds that were screaming to be purchased and served with a slab of Tomme de Gascogne from France. This cheese was semi soft and would spread easily on a crispy sesame seed cracker.
The Market Hall also sells canned Octopus in olive oil, stuffed calamari, canned sardines and mackerel fillets packed in wine and mild spices. They recommend serving these delicacies in a sandwich, in pasta, in mashed potatoes, or over tomato and saffron rice. I also spotted smoked salmon in a jar or can from Alaska. There were Italian anchovies packed in salt and spicy peppers or paste which would work well to flavor stews and sauces and give them an umami flavor.
The store was adorned in cookbooks galore. I fingered through Nick Haddow’s “Milk Made” a book about cheese. It has 71 recipes and is written about how to choose your cheese, serve it and eat it for the best dinner parties. Great gift set ideas for whoever hosts your Thanksgiving feast this year including “Jamnation” damn good jam, the very popular Leonardi’s Balsamico, or why not bring a beautifully purple checkered wrapped Fig and Chocolate Panettone. I wanted one of everything, no kidding.
I did break down and buy a bar of Oakland’s own Barlovento’s Dark Chocolate studded with dried cherries and ate half of it before the end of the day. In my mind this is the best end of meal kind of treat. It melted in my mouth and provided the best tart little bite after chewing the biggest dried cherry I’ve ever seen in my life. I call myself a pastry chef, but I am truly a candy maker loving what chocolate does with caramel, orange flavors and liqueurs.
Which brings me to finish off the visit by taking in the meat market and fish market and watching the chef grill whole trout and then top with an olive and pepper gremolata. It looked like the perfect dinner to serve to my husband who would be looking for something like this at the end of his long hard day. I purchased a package of oxtails that would become a hearty meal for my family this week. Of course they were selling huge turkeys that are ready to be brined and baked, but I am still waiting for my second fridge to be fixed so that will have to wait. A dehydrated bone for my doggie Baxter was my last expense, making sure he would be happy to see me come home from my adventure.
Market Hall had so many other areas of interest like the wine section, the fresh flower stand, and the dried pasta section. In the pasta area, I browsed some I had never heard of like Rustichella d’Abruzzo’s Torchio, Orecchiette, Rigatoncini, and refrigerated pastas. Chestnut flour was new and interesting. I had to ask what a chef might use that for. Wendy wasn’t sure exactly, but guessed one could make a pasta or special bread with it. And if you are wondering if they sell fresh home-made soup, well then you won’t be disappointed. I discovered clam chowder, vegetable beef, chicken noodle, and many more made daily. How does one decide? This place was phenomenal. I thought I was in the best culinary dream of my life.
I haven’t even spoken of the bakery counter which holds fresh pizzas, focaccia’s, the most desired loafs of bread like Multigrain Batard, Levain, Whole Grain Sourdough, Sicilian Green Olive and Cranberry Walnut, just to name a few. I wanted one of everything. My family LOVES hot bread. Doesn’t everyone?
Let me just say that I will be back to Market Hall in Oakland, California. Not only to deliver Wendy a jar of my very own home made apricot jam that I make every June. I go to Wolfe Ranch’s in Brentwood http://www.peterwolfe.com/ and buy their very ripe and juicy apricots found only an hour from Walnut Creek. Here’s a link to my older blog with the recipe http://letsmakemudpies.blogspot.com/2014/07/blenheim-apricot-preserves-make-summer.html.
This marketplace is a fun excursion to take your mom or best friend to. I only wish I lived closer so that I could walk there and find the best breakfast pastry, specialty coffee, lunch and dinner all in one trip. You must go. Here’s the link if you want to check it out: http://www.rockridgemarkethall.com/
Here is a recipe for a nice hearty meal on a cold autumn day.
3 1lbs. Chuck Beef cut into 2×1 ½ in pieces removing fat
1 ½ C Red Wine (I prefer Cabernet Sauvignon)
2 C Chicken broth ( boil bones for 1 hr w garlic, onion, carrot, celery, lemon after baking chicken and then remove meat from bones. Save chicken meat for another meal)
1 C. tomato puree
1 shallot minced
3 cloves garlic sliced
4 T bacon fat (I save the fat after baking bacon on trays and keep in fridge in a sealed jar)
4 T Unsalted Butter
4 T flour combined w 1 t Kosher salt and ½ t ground pepper
4 sprigs of parsley from garden chopped fine
3 sprigs of fresh thyme from garden. Remove leaves and discard stem
1 C. Beef bouillon or beef stock
1 C pearl onions (Buy in frozen vegie section in store)
1 ½ C quartered fresh button mushrooms
1/4 cup cherry preserves
2 T Brandy
1 T Worcestershire
1 T Mushroom Soy Sauce
1 C fresh or frozen peas
6 med white or red potatoes left whole
Marinate beef in red wine for a few hours or overnight if possible. Remove beef onto a dry towel or paper towel and dry. Put flour salt and pepper mixture into a large bowl and add the pieces of beef. Coat on all sides and fry in small batches in a Le Creuset or heavy pan in butter and bacon fat. As they are brown, turn occasionally to brown on all sides. Remove and place onto a sheet pan lined w foil. When all are brown, place sheet pan in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile sauté mushrooms in butter and bacon fat. Add frozen pearl onions and add wine that meat was marinating in and cook down adding a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Cut up carrots in chunks, put on a sheet pan w olive oil salt and pepper and roast for 15 min.
After baking for 15 min, add beef into mushroom and onion mixture. Add shallots, garlic, tomato puree, chicken broth, beef broth, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, Worcestershire, mushroom soy sauce, cherry preserves, any leftover red wine and roasted carrots. Cook on med high heat on stove until boiling, then transfer to oven making sure to cover lid w foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 ½ hrs. Then add fresh peas and bake uncovered another 30 min.
Peel 6 white potatoes and boil on med high heat covered in H20 for 30 min until soft.
When serving, place 2 potatoes in a bowl. Add beef stew to cover potatoes.
Revised recipe originally found in James Beard’s American Cookery. Also used ideas found on Julia Child’s recipe.
Recipes may not be republished without prior consent.