The Foodie's Ferry Building
I step off the Muni at Embarcadero Station, and as I reach the top of the escalator I am immediately immersed in the sights, the smells, the excited hustle and bustle.
The crowd peruses the offerings at a vast array of event tents. Individuals carrying to-go cups brimming with steaming goodness from a favorite coffee spot walk by others standing in line for a mile-high sandwich or an irresistibly colorful scoop of ice cream.
I pass this scene and cross the street toward a sea of tables overflowing with fresh fruits, vegetables, pie, smoothies, pastries, juice, macarons — a seemingly endless option of food and drink.
Where is this delicious gathering of food and drink, you ask? I’m talking about the one and only Ferry Building.
Since I’ve got your attention, let me go on with a dozen of my favorite Ferry Building foodie attractions.
Three Babes Bakeshop (only at the Saturday market)
Delicious homemade pie made with local fresh ingredients by two sassy babes? I don’t think it could get any better.
Three Babes Bakeshop co-owners, Anna and Lenore, only use organically grown ingredients from sources that their families have known for years.
The result? Fruit pies with a fresh flavor that let the fillings, not the sugar, shine through. Expect to see combinations like pear lemon almond, blackberry hazelnut frangipane, salty honey walnut, and chocolate mint chess with mint whipped cream.
The flavors rotate weekly, but always get there early!
Roli Roti Gourmet Rotisserie (only at the Saturday Market)
Owner, Thomas Odermatt, grew up in Switzerland as the son of a master butcher who acquired his mother’s family rotisserie recipes.
His passion for freshly cooked, healthy street food led him to create Roli Roti, a rotisserie of roasted pork knuckle and free range chicken.
I recommend the specialty porchetta sandwich served with rosemary fingerling potatoes. Since its creation in 2006, the sandwich has become San Francisco’s darling. The delicate juxtaposition of crispy skin and tender, moist meat pairs beautifully with the flavors of toasted bread, onion and fennel jam.
Calling all meat lovers! The co-owners of Italian restaurant Incanto’s have had such success from their in-house salumi, they decided to start another venture focusing entirely on this artisan Italian cold cut predominantly made from pork.
Chris Cosentino and Mark Pastore make everything at Boccalone in small batches using pigs from local farms whenever possible. And all pigs are organic, certified humane, pasture-raised and antibiotic- and hormone-free.
You can get paninis and platter combinations of salami, prosciutto and Italian sausage. But the must-try menu item is the uniquely-made salumi cone, which is similar to an ice cream cone but instead wafts an aroma of savory cured meats.
Gaining culinary experience from the famed Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Cowgirl Creamery co-owners Sue Conley and Peggy Smith now sell so many different kinds of cheese it would take a lifetime to try them all.
And the Sidekick Cafe and Milk Bar right next door serves up the best panna cottas and grilled cheese sandwiches I have ever had.
Try the homemade arugula pesto and pickles or the raspberry preserves and ricotta — each offering a satisfying balance of sweet and savory.
The special of the day rotates frequently, so there is always a new and innovative sandwich to try. And make sure to save room for dessert! With just a hint of Earl Grey tea flavoring, the creamy panna cotta is perfect for satisfying that sweet tooth.
Fun fact: Miette means crumb in French, highlighting the delicate and small pastries offered at this inviting pink shop. Miette serves a wide variety of cakes, cookies, tarts, cupcakes, and French macarons.
Most famous for their gingerbread cupcake — voted best cupcake in America by the Food Network — the treat is made with dark stout beer and molasses, and topped with sweet cream cheese frosting.
But the French macaron won’t be outdone, holding its own with a light floral taste of rose geranium coupled with strawberry so fresh it may trick you into thinking you are biting into a newly picked berry.
All these sweet concoctions are made with ingredients from local and organic farms whenever possible.
Sightglass (only at the Saturday market)
Sightglass’s single origin coffees are sourced from Colombia, Central America, and the South Pacific and roasted in store.
Co-owners Justin and Jared Morrison also emphasize green coffee and small batch size, so every drink comes from meticulous preparation, and you can definitely taste the difference!
The iced cold vanilla brew avoids overwhelming sweetness or bitterness, with vanilla complementing coffee and milk rather than fighting for the spotlight.
The cafe mocha of dark chocolate sweetness is slightly on the more bitter side, as a rush of coffee hits your taste buds before the chocolate kicks in.
Craftsman and Wolves (only at the Saturday market)
With prior experience at such renowned restaurants as the Ritz Carlton, Chef William Werner expands his skills with innovative pastries at Craftsman and Wolves.
The deceptive “Rebel Within” may look like any other muffin, but hides within it a perfectly cooked soft boiled egg that, when sliced, blends its yellow yolk with a savory onion, sausage and cheese pastry.
Sweet treats, such as a coconut, coffee and yuzu stone — a mousse encased inside a harder shell — are just a few of the many exciting flavor combinations Chef Werner is serving up.
“I will only sell coffee less than 48 hours out of the roaster to my customers, so they may enjoy coffee at its peak of flavor. I will only use the finest, most delicious and responsibly sourced beans,” says Blue Bottle Coffee owner W. James Freeman.
This must be why Blue Bottle tastes so amazing.
Blue Bottle’s must try coffee is the unique, 12-hour New Orleans Cold Brew with roasted chicory and organic cane sugar.
Fun, wacky ice cream flavors are what Humphry Slocombe is all about — think brown butter, hibiscus beet sorbet, and Blue Bottle Vietnamese coffee.
But the true star is Secret Breakfast — caramelized corn flakes in bourbon ice cream. The over-the-top sweet concoction has a subtle bourbon flavor and unexpected crunchy texture, creating a stark, pleasant contrast. This month’s seasonal flavors include Eton mess, rhubarb sorbet and sour cherry yogurt.
Acme launched in 1983 with only sold four types of bread — today you can get whole wheat, rye, walnut levain, olive, herb slab with rosemary and olive oil, and more all made with ingredients from local organic vendors.
The herb slab is a glorified focaccia, with a burst of rosemary flavor in a fluffy and smooth olive oil infused bread that works perfectly with butter, almond butter, or even cream cheese.
Prices may be wee bit higher that grocery stores, but the quality and locally sourced ingredients is worth it.
You’ve heard of “farm to table” but what about “bay to bar”? That’s Hog Island Oyster Company’s philosophy.
They produce certified sustainable shellfish on 160 acres in Tomales Bay and then shuck and serve their oysters in their beautiful restaurant facing the expansive Bay Bridge. Breathtaking ocean views pair well with Hog Island Oyster’s fresh seafood-centric menu, which includes seven different raw oysters, grilled oysters, sea bass, clams, mussels and more.
I highly recommend the clam chowder with its clams — served in the shell so you know they are fresh — making up most of the soup ensuring each bite is full, tender and flavorful. For seafood lovers, heaven is Hog Island Oyster Company.
Executive Chef Charles Phan perfects his craft by bringing the world’s regional dishes of traditional ingredients and techniques to his test kitchen in the Mission District.
The resulting inspired dishes have made The Slanted Door one of the hottest restaurants in San Francisco.
And it’s no wonder with such fare as the cellophane noodles with Dungeness crab, and the organic chicken clay pot with caramel sauce, Thai chili and fresh ginger.
The cocktail menu is just as well crafted. Try the Singapore sling made of gin, Benedictine, cherry heering, Cointreau, fresh pineapple juice, angostura bitters and lime juice, or Indian summer with gin, organic grapefruit and lemon and elderflower.