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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Grand Fare Market: The Ram is Ascendant

Posted By on Tue, Oct 20, 2015 at 8:00 AM

click to enlarge Deli Counter - SCOTT CARROLL
  • Scott Carroll
  • Deli Counter

Grand Fare Markets presiding image is that of a ram, with horns flowing like Rapunzel’s golden tendrils. It’s stamped on the menus, affixed on the large picture window facing out to Grand Avenue, and hangs on the sign above the entrance. The artist Freya Prowe settled upon the image with her husband and Grand Fare’s owner Doug Washington. There were other iterations — ox and hog — but the ram offered up the quality of enchantment, a talisman to summon just the right amount of luck for the successful launch of a new business.

click to enlarge Floral Entrance - SCOTT CARROLL
  • Scott Carroll
  • Floral Entrance

Open two weeks now, Grand Fare has created an atmosphere for itself. Strings of garden lights canopy the sandy-floored outdoor seating area. Walking in from the busy street, it’s like walking through a portal to a foreign market of abundant riches. There are weird and wonderful flowers poised to seduce passersby as they enter the market hall.

Once inside, the first stop is the raw bar with a daily selection of oysters (half-dozen $18; one dozen $36). Why not pair it with a glass of French Sparking Val de Mer ($13)? But prepare yourself: This is but the beginning of an ever-increasing tab. In the center of the room, you place your order for cold and hot sides, meats, salads and sandwiches. When was the last time you had okra that wasn’t deliciously transformed into Indian bhindi? Here’s your chance to try it fried with a green goddess dressing ($7). A server passed by with a compliment, “Good choice.” Yes. Yes, it was.

click to enlarge The Lights above the garden - SCOTT CARROLL
  • Scott Carroll
  • The Lights above the garden

Of the sampled sandwiches, Leg of Lamb ($13), Albacore Tuna ($13) and Avocado and Sprouts ($12), the standout was the lamb. With a case of charcuterie on display, this place is a carnivore’s dream. Though the Little Gem Lettuces ($10) dressed in buttermilk are perfect and fine enough for anyone who loves a light repast of salad.

Baked goods live in the corner of the hall that face strollers along the avenue. The loaf of bread whose shape and color tempted the most was made by Josey Baker ($7.50). A slice of apple gallette ($4) was nice and forgettable, while a cut of poundcake ($6) won the award for moist delicious. 

Once the round inside is complete, you circle back outside to the garden’s two separate and equal areas to sit. The main patch is for diners to be waited upon. The menu doesn’t appear to differ for them, but instead of paying at the counter inside and carrying the goods away in a basket, a balletic corps of wait staff glide in and out of the kitchen with plates of Moroccan Meatballs ($15) or Duck Confit ($19). For the crowd of self-servers, the rectangle against the wall has plenty of shared table space to spread out their purchases for a sudden urban picnic. 

click to enlarge Spartan Trailer - SCOTT CARROLL
  • Scott Carroll
  • Spartan Trailer

But what about coffee and ice cream? The 1940s Spartan trailer, refurbished and shining in the perfect hue of royal blue, has it all: Linea coffee, house-made pastries and Humphry Slocombe ice cream. For a brand new establishment, Washington has clearly created a space that not only welcomes but encourages the idea of a European linger. It’s easy to find yourself there at sunset, eating and drinking until the late stars appear, your wallet thinning in the bright evening air.

Grand Fare Market, 3265 Grand Ave., Oakland, 510-899-9610
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