Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA's work like this: The CSA member buys a share of the farm at the beginning of a growing season. In exchange, the farmer grows vegetables, herbs, and fruits. Every week, the produce is picked and delivered to local drop off sites, where members pick up their shares. Two Small Farms is a collaboration between High Ground Organics and Mariquita Farm in Watsonville and Hollister and is an amazing value (roughly $20/week and enough to feed 3-4 people or let's say 2 hungry largely veggie-eating vegans!) for super high-quality veggies and herbs (and some fruit). You don't get to choose what is in your box and you do have to select a pick-up location (days vary by city but there are plenty of locations to choose from) , but if you love the element of surprise and trying interesting and heirloom varieties, this is the place for you. As an added bonus, the farms often have U-pick events and the newsletters with recipes have the most entertaining, well-written and informative articles. Good stuff!
Draeger's Markets aren't my everyday grocery kind of place as they are spendy, however, when I am looking for a custom cake, schmancy mustard, olive or chutney, this place can't be beat. The Los Altos location is smaller and has more of a neighborhood feel but the downtown Menlo location has a better selection with a cheese department that will knock your socks off with its staggering array of choices. The Menlo location also offers cooking classes and has a Housewares Department that will delight even the most hardened of kitchen gadget collectors.
We are blessed with many a Farmer's Market here in the Bay Area. Some towns actually have several during the week in different locations. Personally, I like the year-round one California Ave. in Palo Alto from 9am-1pm, Sundays. There's a great mix of both prepared foods, flowers, handcrafted items and fresh produce. If you've never been to their Mountain View or Los Altos stores, check out Esther's German Bakery's booth here. If you haven't gorged yourself on pastries, head over to Oaxacan Kitchen's booth which offers up some delicious non-standard Mexican fare. They also have a restaurant down the street if you don't make it during market hours. Vegans and veggies are in for a treat here. Alive! has a booth here selling very fresh, tasty raw dishes. Hodo Soy is another fave. The Smoked Soy Loaf is killer. Like lots of the other vendors here, they are more than happy to let you sample yourself silly. For produce, my hands-down favorite vendor is Happy Boy Farms. High quality, fresh organics, great selection and prices as well as knowledgable, friendly staff. Insider tip: there are a lot of Looky Lou's here and a lot of strollers and bicycles at this particular market. Since it's on the main drag, there are a bunch of cafes on either side so you get a fair amount of hangers out. If that sort of thing annoys you, I suggest you get there at 9am sharp. Your chances of getting a parking spot and not getting aggro, increase exponentially.
My other choice of Farmer's Markets is the Mountain View one- same days and hours as the California Ave. market, down in the Caltrain parking lot off of West Evelyn. There are over 70 vendors here so they offer an amazing selection and I think there are prices tend to be a bit better (hint: peruse first, then buy on your second round to compare.) Stand-outs include the selections of Asian veggies, Acme bread and the pierogies. Take the train there if you can (or are able to steer a bike with 20 bags hanging from your handlebars) because parking is a hot commodity around here. This place can get very crowded. Alternatively, if you get there towards the end of the market hours, vendors can often offer deals so they don't have to pack their stuff back up.
Indian Grocery & Spice on Broadway in Redwood City is a little gem. The prices on spices and dried beans are fantastic. Those homemade samosas rock. Not only is there a selection of fairly priced frozen dinners and naans but some nice sweets. On a recent visit, I picked up a pound of fresh lychee for a steal. If you are a Bollywood fan, check out their movie rentals.
Sure, there are a ton of Whole Foods on the Peninsula and a bunch of smaller health food/vitamin shops around but Country Sun on California Ave. in Palo Alto is a real find. What it lacks in size it makes up for in its offerings. They have a stellar selection of organic, vegan and biodynamic wines as well as vegan cheeses and prepared sandwiches/to-go items. You can probably find your supplements elsewhere a bit cheaper but check their coupons first and you might snag a deal!
The Milk Pail is a bit of a madhouse. Billed as a "European-syle open air market" the parking is nearly non-existant and the market has about the narrowest of aisles you've ever seen. If you can deal with that, and/or are on a mission for cheese, then you will love The Milk Pail. They must carry at least 50 varieties of artisan French cheeses. They have a great little selection of well-priced bulk items, good breads, mostly conventionally grown produce (some organics) at good prices.
Sigona's Market has two locations: Redwood City and Palo Alto. The Palo Alto store is located in the Stanford Shopping Center which is convenient if you have other shopping to do. I tend to favor the grittier Redwood City location on Middlefield. They also have a good selection of cheeses, flowers, beers/wines and produce (especially berries!) but what I really love about this place is the selection of nuts and dried fruits. You will find a mind-blowing selection- from Lemon-Chili Cashews, and Marcona Almonds to dried Hachiya Persimmons and Sour Cherries (most of the dried fruits are sulfur-free as well). They also have a line of signature vinegars, dressings, oils, jams and sauces that are worth a try.
Don't be fooled by their website! DeMartini Orchard is more than a place to order a fruit basket from. They are a great little local market with a well-thought out selection of cheeses, fruits and veggies (some specialty foods as well). The prices are fair- better than many of the bigger supermarkets but the quality is excellent and they do often have some excellent deals. A great deal of their produce is locally grown as well. The atmosphere is relaxed and the staff is super nice and helpful- a total neighborhood kind of place.