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The produce in France is quite different from what we get in California. For example, organic (biologique in French) produce is relatively rare and expensive, and for some reason, white asparagus seems much more popular with the French than the green.

White asparagus at farmer's market on Boulevard de Strasbourg, Toulouse

White asparagus at farmer's market on Boulevard de Strasbourg, Toulouse

Toulouse, one of France’s smaller but vibrant cities has several farmer’s markets which are fun to visit when traveling. On Tuesdays, the city’s elegant main square, Place du Capitole, is the venue for a market that does offer organic produce. When I was there last year, a bakery demonstrated their artisanal breadmaking. Also on Tuesday mornings, a mile or so away on the Boulevard de Strasbourg where it passes Place Jeanne d’Arc, a smaller market lines one side of the block.

If you are staying at a hotel and have no cooking facilities to make a meal out of market produce, then stop for lunch at L’Os à Moëlle, at 14 Rue  Roquelaine, just around the corner from the Boulevard de Strasbourg market . At L’Os, you can create your own first course from the buffet cart, charmingly called the chariot. This salad buffet is laden with typical items like shredded carrots, beets, potato salad, hard-boiled eggs, cold seafood including pickled herring, and olives. For the main course, the chef offers regional specialties like cassoulet with confit of duck. You can’t go wrong if you pick the region’s famous red wine, Madiran, to sip with your meal.

Being the Saturday before Mother’s Day, today brings the traditional Fair Oaks Street Garage Sale in  San Francisco. Located one block east of Dolores Street, Fair Oaks is 5 blocks long, running from 21st to 26th Streets. This address is considered Noe Valley in spirit although technically part of the Mission District.

The annual Fair Oaks Street Garage Sale in front of Victorian homes

The annual Fair Oaks Street Garage Sale in front of Victorian homes

It is amazing that an entire neighborhood can get so organized to have this major block party and sale which serves as a fundraiser for the Jamestown Community Center, a nonprofit organization benefiting Mission neighborhood youth. Then again, they’ve been practicing for over 30 years. There seemed to be many vendors selling jewelry, clothes and junk who appeared to be professionals so  I am not sure that their proceeds go to the community center.

Vintage toy train accessories at annual Fair Oaks Street Garage Sale

Vintage toy train accessories at annual Fair Oaks Street Garage Sale

In any case, it is fun to just watch the activity or find a Mother’s Day gift. Food sold along the street include traditional fundraising goodies such as cupcakes, popcorn, carrot cake and cookies. Since this is San Francisco, not to mention the Mission district, tamales were also being hawked. Filled with moist chicken and a surprise—diced carrots—these were a delicious treat for $3.

The best treasures are perhaps to be found in other garage sales in the area capitalizing on the Fair Oaks traffic. At 25th and Dolores, outside a Victorian mansion, the offerings included antique wrought iron and a Thonet washstand.

May 2009
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