This is not your traditional meat-and-potatoes food court. Nicaraguan cooking, specialty pastries from Brittany, Cajun-style cured meats, artisan sausages, urban honey—these are just examples of what you can find at the San Francisco Underground Market, a treasure trove of home- and backyard-made gourmet eats that your kids will love. If visiting farmers’ markets and tasting different foods is already a family tradition, you’ll love the edible discoveries and locavore spirit of the place. This showcase of budding culinary talents is the only market in the city where you can meet gourmet cooks and would-be (or real) chefs, sample and buy their products. It is also the only one where you will find pickled produce coming from the cook’s neighbor’s yard.

Organized by forage SF, a wild foods community that organizes seaweed walks and wild kitchen dinners, the market has grown from a small apartment affair in December 2009 to a vastly popular event set in art galleries and warehouses where lines wrap around the block past the morning hours.

The reason why kids love that market is that they can graze there— rather than waiting to get home to cook and enjoy the tasty treats. They (and you) can also discover things they would never eat elsewhere. From home-brewed ginger beer to artisan chocolate, wild plants pesto or insect popcorn (meal worm popcorn, to be exact), the food selection is incredibly eclectic and changes every month. To please amateurs of well-executed classics, the market also offers more traditional foods such as giant chocolate chip cookies, incredibly good artisan bread, artisan sausages, cake lollipops, Vietnamese glass noodles or hot tamales.

Since the market is getting more popular every time, you may want to follow these simple guidelines to better enjoy the experience:

– Sign up to be a member of forage SF online before the event: it’s free and if you don’t, you won’t be able to get in. Sign up here.

– Arrive early and enjoy the food stalls at your own pace. The market is usually organized in two time slots: day time (11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.) and night time (6:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m.). The evening gets very crowded but the morning and early afternoon are the best time to come with children.

– Babies in carriers will be easier to manage than strollers when the place gets busy.

– Bring cash and checks: few vendors accept credit cards.

– Bring a big tote bag: it’s hard to resist the temptation of something you just tasted and enjoyed.

– Talk to the vendors: these people all share a passion for cooking and will happily talk to you about their ideas and inspirations.

– Become member of a new kind of CSA:  bacon, bread – ask the vendors for details.

Details of the next San Francisco Underground Market

March 26, 2011

11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.: Take-homeables and gifts

6:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m.: Hot food, Music

Location: Public Works, 161 Erie St, San Francisco

Admission: $5, $10 after 11:00 p.m.