Best Produce for the Money: Do the Alice Waters thing on a budget
Want to cook like the chefs of Chez Panisse but finding the chervil trop cher? That's probably because you're shopping at an overpriced venue for gourmet ingredients. Never fear. Bill Fujimoto knows what your recipe calls for, and he's willing to sell it at a very fair price. Fujimoto, Monterey Market's general manager, has been selling Mineola tangelos and Chioggia beets to Berkeley's epicureans for decades. Particularly at the height of a fruit or vegetable's season, the prices astound: perfect strawberries for less than a $1 a basket, asparagus for less than $2 a pound. The competition for good produce in the East Bay is thick, but Monterey Market wins out because it consistently provides a full range of high-end produce in season. Other gourmet produce stores may have a few nice gold-plated items, but they will always be missing that one ingredient you need. Chinese vegetable markets have great prices but the quality is often uneven, and they lack some of the vegetables and herbs essential to California cuisine. Another advantage of Monterey Market is its small size and out-of-the-way location. Its gridlock never reaches the truly intolerable level of that other famous produce outlet.