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Hillcrest Farmers Market, San Diego

Hillcrest farmers market ©DPaul Brown

A cursory glance through the rambling list of sites in the right sidebar of this site will quickly inform you that I have a very small universe. I have a special focus on fellow Bay Area food bloggers; beyond that, I regularly monitor a handful of others around the world. But by and large, of the bloggers outside my own backyard, I am not terribly concerned with their geography.

The exception to that rule is San Diego. I began paying closer attention to food bloggers there because it's where my mother lives, and hence a place we visit with relative frequency. I became entranced with the vibrancy of the blogger community there. And on a visit down there last week, I reached out to a handful of my favorites (many of whom I had met personally before) to arrange a get-together.

Lucky me, all were available, and a plan was forged, beginning with a pass through the Hillcrest Farmers Market with Alice and Caron, after which we would connect with Kathy, Nicole and Susan for brunch at Farmhouse Café.

Artichokes ©DPaul Brown

When last I visited the farmers market, two-plus years nigh, I was dazzled by the strange and exotic things I saw — cherimoya! passion fruit! tomatoes in March! This time around, the market felt more familiar, with produce similar to what we're seeing up in NorCal — although, our artichokes are far more diminutive!

Carrots and onions &copyDPaul Brown

Caron explained some other markets around town: The new Little Italy Mercato that is gaining popularity quickly, and the funky City Heights market, reflective of the neighborhood's remarkable ethnic diversity.

Hillcrest market is not huge, not as large as our main markets, and is more of a blend of produce, craft and prepared food booths. With brunch on our agenda, I didn't want to fill up, though it was difficult to resist the wafting aromas. One thing we could not resist, and in fact were expressly told to have, were at a booth that simply called them "coconut pancakes."

Kanom krok ©DPaul Brown

These Thai treats, kanom krok, are not so much pancakes as croquets of coconut milk and sugar. The batter is poured, sizzling and spattering, into the custom pan shown above, and the resulting dome-shaped goodies are turned out in mere seconds.

Kanom krok ©DPaul Brown

They're delicious, custardy and gently sweet … and volcanically hot. At five for a dollar, they made a lovely pre-brunch nibble. 

Alice also sent us away with a couple truffles apiece from Guanni Chocolates. The Peruvian chocolatier infuses her confections with unique flavors from her homeland. I swooned for the Cusco, with "Aji Amarillo (yellow hot pepper), candied citrus peels and muña (Andean herb)." I'm a big fan of chile pepper in chocolate, but this really took it to a new level. And the Pisco with currants was not too shabby either. 

San Diego's a great city by any metric, but the evolution of its markets and the expression of the bloggers who frequent them puts it on a pedestal.

Related:

Don't forget to visit my San Diego friends:

Susan of Food Blogga
Kathy of Panini Happy
Nicole of Pinch My Salt
Alice of Alice Q Foodie
Caron of San Diego Food Stuff

And don't forget my mom, Sandi of A Little to the Left!

  • Mom

    Loved meeting your San Diego food blogger friends. What a delightful group of women! And the coconut pancakes were delicious. That day was a great way to top off your visit to San Diego.

  • alison

    now i’ve got to go visit – it’s been years since i’ve been to san diego! great post sean.

  • Sounds like you had a fabulous time! I’m embarrassed to say I still haven’t been to the Hillcrest market…I end up at either Pacific Beach on Sat. mornings (small with lots of cut flowers) or La Jolla on Sun. mornings (larger with great produce, prepared foods, and lots of other merchandise). Coconut pancakes do sound lovely ; )

  • Awww thanks! It was a lot of fun – glad you came down!

  • Ooh, I’d love to try the kanom krok, but I wonder if part of it stems from my love for takoyaki– the pan looks exactly the same! Looks like you had a fantastic time 🙂
    My mom loves cherimoya, but I don’t like the taste– surprised someone is offering it in the States!

  • Mom — so glad you were able to meet everyone! And I’m always amazed at the array of things to do in SD.
    Alison — yes! go!
    kellypea — I aim to hit up other markets on future visits. It’s always fun to see how they’re different. Will check out La Jolla one time for sure!
    Alice — it was so great to see you again.
    Manggy — we’ve actually even seen cherimoya up here, but not local. I rather like it, but then I have a broad palate.

  • I want those coconut bombs!
    Oh. Well, maybe I can get some. My parents live in Escondido.

  • I have relatives in SD, too, so I sent this blog post to them. CA Rare Fruit Growers has folks interested in growing cherimoya and most of them that actually *can* are down in the SD area. Same with those growing mangos.
    You can get kanom krok at the Thai Temple Sunday Brunch in Berkeley. I blew my low-glycemic diet for that way back when…

  • Barry

    Just got here via Tastespotting. I loooove the Hillcrest farmers market if for no other reason than the prepared foods. Truly better than anything here in San Jose. The variety and quality is awesome. Squash blossom quesadillas to gyros to Indian samosas…it’s all good. Try the shaved corn next time and wash it down with some cucumber/kiwi/lemonade, it’s a guilty pleasure. How did you like the Farmhouse? I’ve only had dinner there but if was awesome.

  • Yay! I’m so excited to see the Hillcrest farmers’ market featured here. It’s one of my favorite markets in San Diego– always bustling and friendly. Aren’t those artichokes gorgeous? No matter how many times I see them, I still get giddy with delight. I’m so happy we were all able to get together last week, Sean. Cheers!

  • San Diego really does have a bunch of great markets, I’m hoping to check out the one in City Heights soon. I’m so glad we were all able to get together for brunch, I had a great time!

  • How cool! My mom lived in San Diego (until she passed away), too! And, I lived in Encinitas/Cardiff by the Sea for a few years as a tween. It is like my second home town.
    I love the Hillcrest and have a few cousins who live there, so I get to visit frequently, as well. Your culinary meet up and tour sounds like a blast! I am glad you got to meet up with some hip fellow bloggers.
    I have never tried kanom krok, but it looks wonderful. Thank you for sharing!!
    Cheers,
    ~ Paula