San Francisco Ferry Treats

The last time I set foot in San Francisco, the Philadelphia Phillies played against the Toronto Blue Jays in the World Series (The Phils lost.). That was 1993.

San Francisco waterfront
The view from outside the San Francisco Ferry Marketplace. (Kim O'Donnel)

On the heels of my Gilroy garlic experience, I have spent the past three days here -- wandering, getting reacquainted with familiar landmarks and exploring new and/or transformed neighborhoods. I didn't have much of an agenda, with one exception: I wanted to stroll through the much talked-about Ferry Building Marketplace, a newly renovated Beaux Arts building that has morphed into foodie paradise.

An architecturally-rich property that overlooks the San Francisco Bay, the Ferry Building was the original home to the Port of San Francisco in the late 1800s. Over the course of a century, the building has survived the highway, earthquakes and massive changes in transportation. Since 2003, it's latest role has been as a marketplace. It's now home to 30-some culinary points of interest, including restaurants, specialty shops, a twice-weekly farmer's market, bakeries, confectioneries and cafes. You'll notice the attention given to local ingredients and artisan foods.

Depending on your mood, wallet size and appetite, there are tons of choices. A few that won my heart include: Recchiuti Confections, the most exquisite hand-crafted chocolates from Michael Recchiuti, a Philly home boy who wanted to become a chocolatier. I can't believe he's been in business for only nine years; the level of detail, the voluptuous mouth feel and the pristine quality of his ingredients give the impression he's been doing this work all his life. Think cardamom nougat, fleur de sel caramel and lavender vanilla in your box of chocolates. Just thinking of the stuff is giving me a buzz!

If chocolate isn't your bag (and that's okay, she says with trepidation), head over to Miette Patisserie, which sells primarily macaroons. Discard that notion of the box of coconut patties from Florida; these little lovelies are Parisian style, looking like doll-house hamburgers in adorable shades of pale pink and yellow.

To shake off that sugar buzz, we needed a proper lunch. We couldn't decide, as the choices included Slanted Door, the famed Vietmamese restaurant, a caviar-champagne combo at Tsar Nicoulai caviar café and Boulette's Larder, a unique pantry-kitchen serving up unique and artisan foods by day and a prix-fixe menu of seasonal and local goodies by night. We landed at Hog Island Oyster Company, named after its oyster farm in nearby Tomales Bay. We shared a variety plate of oysters, all possessing unique personalities, plus one of the most luscious grilled cheese sandwiches in recent memory, featuring cheese from fellow vendor Cowgirl Creamery (which recently opened a Washington location).

It was a perfect Sunday afternoon, and even better that the weather allowed for a hearty, post-prandial stroll through the streets of my new-old friend.

By Kim ODonnel |  August 2, 2006; 1:52 AM ET Travel
Previous: Gilroy, Where Has Your Garlic Gone? | Next: S.F. Neighborhood Nibbles

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Next time you are at the Ferry Building where to eat is a no-brainer: Slanted Door-if you can get a table.

Posted by: s. shepard | August 2, 2006 11:51 AM

Kim, Sorry in advance for the long post but I love San Francisco and the Ferry Building. Last year I visited SF for the first time and I stayed at the recently opened Hotel Vitale (beautiful hotel across the street from the Ferry Building) and got to spend part of my non work hours at the Farmers market at the Ferry building and wander the Ferry Building itself.
At the Ferry Building I loved Taylors Refresher, and Rechiutti chocolates, Acme Bread, Cowgirl Creamery, Scharffenberger chocolates!

I also want to recommend a couple of places for you to try if you have time:

XOX Truffles in North Beach for earl grey truffles and French roast truffles. I bought 20 a piece and they came packaged in little take out Chinese containers one for each flavor. I love the tiny pieces and how each one is so rich you just need one to get a good hit of chocolate.

Tadich Grill : I loved the whole thing! Definitely one of the high points of my trip. I went at 11:30 by myself and sat at the long counter. I loved all the servers in long white coats and aprons. It was an overcast cool, threatening rain day which made it perfect for cioppino. Absolutely the best dish I had my whole trip. Filled with huge pieces of fish, shrimp, mussels, clams, scallops and a great broth. It just made me feel good. It was perfect.

After that, I took a tour of Anchor Steam brewery. Cute tour and fun to sample the beers. I ended up buying a couple of pint classes to bring home for my husband and some coasters.

I really loved the Ferry Farmers Market (there on Saturdays)! First stop Blue Bottle coffee- Good drip coffee. I enjoyed it. Also bought a half -pound of the Hayes Valley Espresso fresh roasted beans. We have been having the coffee at home now that I have returned and I really like it. This ended up being one of the gifts for my husband and he loves it because it so strong without tasting burnt.

Nick Sciabica and Sons for olive oil. Loved talking to the producer who said that his family has been making olive oil for generations. While I was there a customer came and bought up huge bottles of their vintage reserve. I ended up with several sampler packs so I could try the different flavors.

Capn Mike's Holy Smoke for smoked salmon and salmon jerky. It looked delicious and I was able to store it in the Hotel's refrigerator until I went home.

Marshall's farm for honey. I bought the SF Bay area Beekeeper's Blend and some honey sticks. The honey sticks are 22 fruit flavored honeys in a straw. Flavors include Cherry, Raspberry, Cinnamon, Strawberry, Orange, Peach, Lemon, Banana, Lime, Apple, Blueberry, Peppermint, Grape, Root Beer, Chocolate, Watermelon, Licorice, Pina Colada & Natural. My kids really like them so far.

Frog Hollow Farm for peach chutney. It looked and tasted wonderful and had a great smoky taste with a little kick of ginger and chile.

I bought chile jam from Tierra Vegetables and a Mole mix. I love very spicy things and was intrigued by the different combinations of peppers and jam. Since my husband is not such a big fan I grabbed the C.Chinense version for me -A blend of the habanero type chiles. And the Farm Blend version milder with red and green chiles for him. I have since tried the c. Chinense and I can report that although very spicy the flavors blend well together and really make a sandwich!

I also got a wonderful huge asian pear from one of the stands right across from Sur la Table. It was amazing! It tasted great and I have never seen anything so huge.
I also grabbed a doughnut muffin from the Downtown bakery and a squash turnover from the bakery stand set up right inside the door at Frog Hollow Farm and took both back to my hotel room to enjoy with a big cup of Peet's Americano. It had been several hours --I needed another caffeine boost.

Have fun!

Posted by: montgomery village mom | August 2, 2006 2:22 PM

Someone asked me recently- what is my favorite place that I've ever visited. I answered - the Ferry building in San Francisco on a saturday morning. I love food and was just blown away by the sheer amount and amazing quality the farmers (and other providers) managed to bring in one location. I must have eaten 6 peaches in samples alone. I can't wait to go back.. on second though maybe I need to move to san francisco so I can go there every week.

Posted by: Ali | August 2, 2006 2:39 PM

If you really want good chocolate, head over to Joseph Schmidt's in the Castro. Now that's a real San Francisco treat.

Posted by: displaced Californian | August 3, 2006 5:09 PM

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