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Apr 23, 2008 11:58 AM

Ferry Building with the Stepdad - Report Back

We had a ball!

My stepdad was like a kid visiting Disneyland for the first time. Every step we took he would ooh and ah, want to visit another vendor, chat with another farmer, buy more stuff...

We arrived at 8 in the morning, and we didn't leave until close to noon. We could have stayed even later, but he needed to get back on the road and he had already blown over twice his budget (I promised not to tell mom how much he spent).


Andante Dairy: He's been raving to me about the cheese for weeks later. He bought 4 or 5 varieties and has loved them all. I was thrilled to snag a chunk of her famous butter (she's usually sold out by the time I arrive). Without question, best butter I've ever had. Rich, creamy, with a bite to the flavor. Perfect for coating a hunk of Acme bread and dipping in the yolk of a Marin Sun Farms egg. When I bought it, she said to me "that's a big piece of butter, and it will only last a week, are you sure you want that much?" It was gone by Wednesday.

Boulette's Larder: "This shop is dangerous, be careful!" Those were my words of warning as we walked in, he didn't heed them. He immediately went for a jar of 20 year balsamic vinegar, which has provided the perfect finish to some of his dishes. Next, he says to one of the helpful employees "My wife asked me to bring home some fancy salt, do you have any?" She smiles and gestures to a shelf containing about fifty varieties of salt. He is stunned, speechless, overwhelmed. She finally talks him into some rosemary salt, which he has really enjoyed. He also picked up some salt cured capers (on my insistence), some acacia honey (better than anything from Marshall's, in his judgment) and some imported Italian pasta which he adored. As we were walking out, he said to me "it's a good thing we don't have one of these in LA or I wouldn't be retiring next year."

Cap'n Mike's Smoked Fish: My stepdad adores smoked fish, and he acknowledged that this was tops (though he has a preference for Lazlo's smoked salmon in oldtown Sacramento - something we'll just have to agree to disagree on). Didn't stop him from buying salmon candy, lox, and smoked king salmon.

Cowgirl Creamery: Despite the enormous amount of cheese he got from Andante, I couldn't let him pick up smoked salmon without some of Cowgirl's fresh cream cheese. He loved the stuff - it's got such an unusual bite. As we walked there, I was trying to sell him on the paneer. He was skeptical: "I've been to high end Indian restaurants in London, I've had great paneer, blah blah blah." One bite, and he let out this guttural moan of pleasure. He bought a pound and turned it into a quiche. He and my mother are still raving about it.

Frog Hollow: When I talked to my mother the next day, her first reaction was "did you have to take him to that pastry shop? I mean, he brought back like forty pieces of pastry. It's all delicious, but you know I'm trying to lose wait for your wedding." Sorry, mom.

June Taylor Jams: He had already tried these gorgeous jams because I gave out jars as a Christmas gift a couple of years ago, but he was thrilled to have the chance to sample her selection and buy his favorites. I'm told these are being kept sealed until after the wedding, for fear of my mother leaving him ;)

Recchiuti Chocolates: We hit up Recchiuti towards the end of our visit, so he was a bit more reserved in his purchasing there. I think he regretted this. He told me it was comparable to the high end chocolates he bought in Paris. I've promised to bring him a large box before I see him next. I went with my standard order: $10 of fleur de sels, which are always a huge treat. Really, perfect texture for someone who loves a good chew.

Primavera: After a few hours of shopping, we're famished. But he doesn't even flinch when he sees forty people waiting in line. "This must be good." "Oh yeah, it's better than good." He got the chilaquiles and jamaica aqua fresca, I got the pork tamale and strawberry lemonade. The food at Primavera blows me away time and time again. The combination of premium ingredients, cooked to order preparations, and authentic, well layered favors is truly unbelievable. My pork was so tender, with just the right amount of fattiness. And those aqua frescas: ay yos mio! He said "my friends and I used to joke that you couldn't get good Mexican food north of Santa Barbara, wait until they hear about this."

Of course, these are just a few of the highlights of our trip. I really could go on and on and on, but it's lunchtime.

One last thing: a note on Della Fattoria's croissant. These were a bit built up in my mind, because they've been sold out every single time I get there. You know, they're good, but I still believe that the best croissants to be had are from the man in lederhosen at Oktoberfest bakery. Truly, Oktoberfest's croissants are better than DF, Tartine, LA Farine, Massa. I've never encountered such a perfect croissant outside of France.

Also, I really enjoyed arriving at the FB at 8am. It was busy, but not crowded. The vendors still had an excellent selection. The weather was beautiful, and not too hot. It was a great time to go. I'll probably never wake up at 7 on a Saturday again, but I'm glad I did it just this once. I also recommend an early arrival to any visitors who will just be visiting once.

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  1. The apple truly doesn't fall far from the tree!

    Nice report - thanks.

    6 Replies
    1. re: foodeye

      Thanks for the super report, Morton. It sounds like your stepdad had a great time, and so did you. I was jealous of your description of Boulette's Larder -- it was closed for a private party when we went this past Saturday. And I have to agree about the getting to the market early; we arrived at 8:30 (2 hrs earlier than in Nov) and the difference was amazing. I only waited five minutes to get (not order, but actually get) my order of chilaquiles at Primavera :-).

      1. re: grayelf

        Hey, grayelf! We're all waiting eagerly for your trip report!

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          You are kind, and it is coming. Frighteningly I'm on page 3 and only at the end of Friday in a 4.25 day trip report. Darn job keeps getting in the way. Must... edit... Stay tuned.

          1. re: grayelf

            Sounds fab! You probably should break it into separate posts by day, though, to make it more user friendly. You can always chain them by including a link to the previous post.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Or it could be a short initial post with a series of comments, one per day. I find those trip reports easier to read through, since the comments that you've already read collapse, and people can comment in response to the specific meals that they have input on/questions about.

              Back on topic, you hit all of my favorites at the Ferry Building (especially those fleur de sels at Recchiuti!). Though I have to disagree about the Octoberfest croissants at the Berkeley FM -- I got one because of all of the raves here, and it's probably my least favorite croissant that I've had from a real bakery; it had a weirdly sweet flavor to it, and I think that I didn't finish it. In contrast, I loved the croissants at Bay Bread.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Good idea, 'cause it's 7 pages now :-). Will post at least part tomorrow for sure, once I've slimmed it down a bit.

      2. Great report! I have class on Saturday and now have a pre-class itinerary. What do you think I can get through in 1.5 hours?
        Hmmm, I wonder if my teacher will mind an ice chest in the class room?


        5 Replies
        1. re: Cecelia

          You can get a lot done in 90 minutes. We were really taking our time.

          One thing to ask yourself is, do you ever get out to the FB during the week? If so, keep in mind that some of these vendors (Cowgirl, Boulette's, Recchiutti) have permanent stands inside the building.

          Also, some of these items can be found elsewhere. For example, Cowgirl cheese and June Taylor jam is sold all over the Bay Area, Fatted Calf can be found at the Berk FM and their Napa store.

          That said, this would be my 90 minute itinerary:

          -Primavera for breakfast (hit it early when the line is short)
          -Andante Dairy
          -Cap'n Mikes for lox
          -Marin Sun Farms for eggs and lamb
          -Fatted Calf for charcut

          1. re: Morton the Mousse

            Leave it to you to find something I didn't know about. Looking forward to that Andante butter. I wonder why it goes bad.

            Bear Flag butter from Vella cheese remains my favorite butter, but it once went moldy after a few weeks. I always wondered why that happened. I wonder if something similar happens with Andante or if it just is a change of taste.

            Just some thoughts. While June Taylor jam is sold all over, it is like Marshall's honey in that tasting is only done at the farmers markets and you won't get the variety elsewhere. Cap'n Mike also hits a lot of farmers markets ... even the one in Hercules, of all places. I hope you get to the Oakland farmers market before leaving to give Redriver smoked fish a try.

            Also hope you give Taco Grill in Oakland a try before taking off. They use Niman Ranch meat and if going that route are perhaps closer to actual Mexican food. I like Primavera for some things also, but it is Mexican food filtered through California sensibiliies ... nothing wrong with that and they do it better than most of that genre.

            Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
            One Ferry Building, 200 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA

            1. re: rworange

              Did I mention that Andante's butter is hand churned? I don't know how often she has it, but I noticed that it was sold out by 9.

              1. re: Morton the Mousse

                Holy cow, Morton ... no, really ... holy cow.

                Ubuntu is serving Andante butter for an additional charge. I didn't realize there was two types ... sweet and salted.

                So I think it is just two cubes of the same butter and the first butter I try is the sweet. Beautiful color ... lovely texture ... but ... eh ... while it was nice I was thinking I was glad I saved myself a trip to Ferry Plaza.

                Then I try the salted butter ... and honestly it is the best butter I've tried in my life. It turns out that not only does she churn the butter herself, she harvests the sea salt personally.

                The marriage of that sweet butter with the salt ... with a few crunchy salt crystals ... what a great, great, great butter.

            2. re: Morton the Mousse

              Thank you both very much, MtM and rworange. I have somethings to look forward to next Saturday prior to an entire day of classroom imprisonment.


          2. Congratulations on your wedding.
            You're not going to post a general invitation, are you? It sounds like the food would be good.

            1 Reply
            1. re: wearybashful

              Any chowhounds who crashed the wedding would be immediately identifiable when they addressed the wedding couple as "Morton" and "Mrs. Mousse"!

            2. great to read the details, m. Neat that your stepdad was so excited ; it must be so satisfying to know your efforts were such a hit!
              I was surprised not to read about the Tofu people. Did he not sample/like their products?Or maybe he was burnt out by then.....
              Next time I hope you pick up some lemon quark from the French cheese woman. I brought it back to Boston and savored every toasted Boulangerie croissant spread with it!

              1. Were you referring to the pretzel croissant? They are amazingly tasty, but not if you have a craving for a good, traditional croissant (as is illustrated by JasmineG's post). I still vote for Bay Bread as the best traditional croissant around.

                Your report was wonderful... I thought of how fun it must be to have a step-father who could enjoy that experience with you.

                Congrats on the wedding. I'm going to miss your reports, suggestions when you're back east. Good luck!