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Critic Jesse Hirsch Pushes New Taste Market, In Disguise

Image partially from Flickr/New Taste Marketplace

New Taste Marketplace started in late 2010 as a monthly food market in Potrero Hill to benefit the Food Pantry. Over the past year and change, it's developed into quite the indie food mart, a sort of above ground, G-rated answer to Forage SF's sometimes-racy Underground Market. Since former New Taste director Elianna Friedman left to work at CUESA, the market's future has been uncertain. But Jesse Hirsch, restaurant critic for the SF Examiner, didn't want it to die. Hirsch will run a special holiday marketplace on Dec. 1, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Eater recently asked Hirsch why an upstanding food critic would want to do such a thing, and how on earth he'll preserve his sacred anonymity.

How did you get involved with the New Taste market? It started a few months ago when word got out that New Taste was shutting down. I emailed the Food Pantry director, Sara Miles, asking how I could help. I pictured writing a fluffy "Save New Taste" article or something. Sara had a different idea. She asked if I'd meet her at St. Gregory's church on a Friday, which happens to be the Food Pantry distribution day. There was a line around the block and inside a squadron of volunteers was hustling. They were handing out a ton of food, including fresh produce and whole grains; it warmed my crusty Grinch heart. In the midst of all this, Sara bluntly asked: "Would you like to try running New Taste?" There was pretty much no way I could refuse.

Do you have any experience doing something like this? Nope! I'm doing all sorts of things outside my experience: navigating city bureaucracy, recruiting volunteers, reaching out to DJs and nail painters and bookstore owners, designing promotional materials, giving interviews (ahem). It's a big transition to go from the abstract life of words to something hands-on, with concrete, measurable goals.

Are you having fun? So much fun. It's refreshing to take a break from criticizing and actually do something. For a change of pace, everybody who comes to New Taste can feel free to critique me. Maybe we should do a dunk tank.

What can we expect on Dec. 1? We've got over 30 food vendors, with a combination of take-home giftable items and food you can eat on-site. This one starts early, so we're going to feature breakfast food and good coffee in the morning.
There will be lunch options too, including three food trucks parked outside. We'll also have on-site knife sharpening, cookbooks, a vinyl DJ spinning old soul, lots of other good stuff.

Why do you like New Taste Marketplace? I always felt like it was the most appealing event of its kind. There's another food market in town that always felt too slick and crowded and overhyped. New Taste is great because it's got a bunch of top-notch vendors, but in a more relaxed, community-oriented format. It's like a church bake sale, with incredible food.

Who are your vendors? It's a mix of New Taste veterans and vendors I've met through my East Bay food writing (Oakland represent!). All our vendors will be listed on the official Facebook page.

You're an anonymous reviewer. How are you going to protect your identity at this public event? I'm going to wear a mask. It's totally ridiculous, and I don't want to talk about it.

· All New Taste Marketplace Coverage [~ ESF ~]

St. Gregorys' Episcopal Church

500 DeHaro Street, San Francisco, CA