Surf Market in Gualala

Surf  Market in  Gualala

by Holly Madrigal

It took all of two days to turn me into a Chile Crunch convert. I had heard tell of this condiment from friends in the tiny southernmost coastal Mendocino town of Gualala. A lightly spiced chile oil infused with garlic and onions, the creators manage to make the garlic both crispy and crunchy. One taste was all it took to convince me to buy a small jar of the stuff. I promptly drizzled it over that evening’s tacos, followed by an Easter morning where we poured it over scrambled eggs and used it as a dip for breadsticks. Just like that, I was hooked!

Surf Market holds an oversized collection of delicious offerings like this. The BBQ stands out front of the store and serves up a mouthwatering selection of ribs, rotisserie chickens, and prime rib, as well as fresh corn on the cob slathered in—you guessed it—Chile Crunch (plus parmesan cheese, butter, and fresh squeezed lime).
Caroline Ducato’s eyes twinkle when she describes all the wonderful products, foods, and farms that they work with at Surf Market. As Marketing Director and a Specialty Food buyer, she goes out of her way to provide a venue for local products. This support of local farms and purveyors is baked into their ethos. The shelves are filled with bright, eye-catching “Made Local“ stickers. Stories of the craftspeople that make these items and grow this food are placed strategically around the store.

Discovering great local foods and providing the stage for them to shine is a role that Surf Market excels at. Farmers Markets, though a more immediate connection with the farmer, are not always convenient for shoppers. Surf Market, with its regular hours and refrigeration, provides additional access to really great food. For example, Allan Hogle lives up on the ridge with his wife, Astrid, where they grow a full complement of micro greens, radish greens, sunflower sprouts, and more. At the summer Farmers Market, Astrid makes thin German waffles to order—“no maple syrup,“ Allan laughs, “just fresh fruit and cream tops these waffles.“ Not to be left out, their son, Michael, is now working at the Surf Market BBQ out front.

In case you want more decadence, Pazzo Marco Creamery is the Gualala-based creation of Marco Moramarco and Paul Vierra. The pair are passionate about gelato and cheese. Surf Market is the only retail location outside of the Gualala Farmers Market or their mobile gelato cart where you can taste this dairy divinity. The five handcrafted seasonal gelato flavors in the cold case tantalize the mind: Toasted Almond Chai, Huckleberry Chevre, Bergamot Orange, Meyer Lemon, and Mixed Berry Sorbetto. I dare you to try and make it home before popping the top off the gelato carton for a taste. Or you could pick up a wedge of Pazzo Marco’s award winning cheese. The Monsieur Phillipe, made in the style of a Manchego, is a personal favorite. They use milk from organic jersey cows from Stornetta Dairy in Manchester. Pazzo Marco is committed to working with local restaurants and businesses, like Surf Market, that mirror their appreciation for good wholesome food.

Surf Market is always bustling with activitiy. They tend to be a bit of an outpost for Sea Ranch, Irish Beach, and Gualala. When I stopped by recently, Deborah Schatan of Edible Complexe was providing tastings of her mahjoon, a savory Moroccan condiment with ground pistachios, figs, and cashews, combined with middle eastern spices and aromatics. Wild strawberry, sour cherry, as well as traditional fig and date mahjoon were also on hand. The Blenheim apricot flavor uses a fruit which is on the Slow Food list of endangered foods. By supporting the farmers growing these apricots, Deborah contributes to its conservation, and it provides the mahjoon with a deep, tart, rich apricot flavor. Deborah recommends mixing the mahjoon into softened butter, wrapping and chilling the concoction in the fridge, then slicing it into rounds to top fish before cooking. Or it can be spread over a layer of local fresh cheese and encased in crust for a savory tartlet.

Surf Market offers an impressive array of these home grown, unique items for their customers. When you bite into a loaf of Pelican Bread, it tastes like what bread was always meant to be—full of whole grains but still soft and chewy. James McKenna makes all his bread fresh the day he sells it, and it sells out fast. Based out of Point Arena, you can pick up loaves at Surf Market when available. Hand-ground rye from the Mendocino Grain Project, a freshly ground spelt loaf, an olive rosemary round, or even coastal sourdough may be on offer. When you grab one of these breads and it is still warm to the touch, you know that you are making good life choices.

Of course, not all of the products carried at Surf Market are local (did I see smoked chocolate chips and Kentucky bourbon syrup one aisle over?), but developing these local relationships both enhances the offerings at the store and leads to lasting community friendships. Now, where did I put that jar of Chile Crunch?

Surf Market
139250 Highway 1, Gualala | (707) 884-4184 |
Open daily 7:30am–8pm

Holly Madrigal is a Mendocino County maven who loves to share the delights of our region. She’s fortunate to enjoy meaningful work with the Leadership Mendocino program and takes great joy in publishing this magazine.