Saturday, December 22 will be the last iteration of the not-always-above-ground food market thrown by Forage SF. Iso Rabins started the Underground Market in December 2009 as a place to bring home cooks and culinary entrepreneurs together to sell their food without all the usual red tape and permit costs, and the event inspired similar markets in cities like Amsterdam, Atlanta, and Los Angeles before the city shut it down last year. Now it's re-emerged with all the proper documentation, but Rabins has decided to move on to other projects after throwing this one last party.
In his mind, the market has just run its course -- the whole purpose was to give up-and-comers a place to showcase their stuff, and as Rabins explains in a lengthy, sweet letter on the Forage SF website, now that everything's legit, it's hard to see what's still "underground" about it. "Now it's just like a regular market -- which is not bad, but it's not the way the Underground Market was," he told us. "We are planning on opening another kind of food market next year, but haven't decided exactly what that means. There's definitely a need for this kind of event in the city, but I think the Underground Market had its time and now we need to move forward."
For Rabin and Forage SF, the future is mostly centered around Forage Kitchen, a new project he's developing that will offer a home for culinary entrepreneurs or just people interested in learning more about food. Forage Kitchen will have shared kitchen space, office space, prep help, "all the things you really need to start a business," Rabins says. The Kitchen will also have a maker membership for hobbyists who just want space for large-scale projects like jam-canning or pickling that can be hard to pull off in an S.F. apartment. Plus the space will offer classes on things like cheese-making and butchery, as well as events to bring the city's culinary community together.
Rabins is still looking for a space for the Kitchen, but in the meantime, you can show your support by showing up at the Underground Market. There will be about 50 vendors there -- 25 during the day portion, which will focus on packaged takehomeables like jams, chocolate, pickles, and other gifty items, and 25 during the night party where there will be street-style hot food, drinks, and music.
Rabins has invited several vendors that got their start at the market, like Rice Paper Scissors, the Grilled Cheese Guy, Homeroom, Mission Chinese, Frozen Custard, and Jablow's Meats. "It's really cool to see how far everybody's come," he says. "I think that people do look to San Francisco as a model for what's going on with food, and I feel lucky to be here because of that."
Last-Ever SF Underground Market
When: Saturday, December 22, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. (day market), 6 p.m.-2 a.m. (night market)
Where: SOMArts, 934 Brannan St
Cost: $5 at the door