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tanabutler

Ferry Plaza Market, San Francisco

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I awaken every morning and say my prayers, bowing to the north, where the Ferry Plaza Market is.

Yesterday was my seventh visit: I drove 75 miles north to a meeting with a client. Then a friend took me to Hog Island Oyster Company for an early birthday lunch. We shared Kumamoto and Sweetwater oysters, along with a green salad tossed with Point Reyes blue cheese and vinaigrette. I followed his lead and had a glass of Sancerre.

We scored a window table overlooking the sparkling azure bay, and the weather was perfect, as it often is in April.

Dessert was a small bar of bittersweet Scharffen Berger chocolate, as we were too full for gelato. I stopped in the Village Market and bought a bag of Rancho Gordo Rio Zapé beans. It was so hard to choose from the varieties there: I wanted the Black Calypso ones just because they looked like baby Dalmatians. I chose Rio Zapé because they looked more familiar--I figured I'd know if I got them "right" more easily than more exotic beans.

I spent an hour or so by myself at the Marina, and was joined on my bench by four French women. They had been in the city for the whole week, and we talked about food. I recommended a visit to the Ferry Plaza market above all other destinations in the city. I feel it's distilled the best of what California has to offer, and in a magnificent setting. I hope I gave good advice.

Tomorrow morning, we're headed to Napa (hopefully to meet Rancho Gordo himself)...and after spending most the day there, we will head back to the Ferry Plaza Building. I'm sure I'll visit "the mothership" (as my daughter laughingly calls it): Sur La Table. I'm sure I'll come home with Scharffen Berger chocolate, and bread from the Acme Bread Company, and cheese from Cowgirl Creamery. Possibly a bottle of Gruner Veltliner from the Wine Merchant.

What else is a must-not-miss?

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Here's some exciting news: Chef Charles Phan, of The Slanted Door, has agreed to be the guest chef at an Outstanding in the Field farm dinner. The dinner will be in Santa Cruz at Dirty Girl Farm on June 27, 2004.

Congratulations! -- and a Happy Birthday is in order, is it not?


My fantasy? Easy -- the Simpsons versus the Flanders on Hell's Kitchen.

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I spent an hour or so by myself at the Marina, and was joined on my bench by four French women. They had been in the city for the whole week, and we talked about food. I recommended a visit to the Ferry Plaza market above all other destinations in the city. I feel it's distilled the best of what California has to offer, and in a magnificent setting. I hope I gave good advice.

Tomorrow morning, we're headed to Napa (hopefully to meet Rancho Gordo himself)...and after spending most the day there, we will head back to the Ferry Plaza Building. I'm sure I'll visit "the mothership" (as my daughter laughingly calls it): Sur La Table. I'm sure I'll come home with Scharffen Berger chocolate, and bread from the Acme Bread Company, and cheese from Cowgirl Creamery. Possibly a bottle of Gruner Veltliner from the Wine Merchant.

What else is a must-not-miss?

Tana, I think you gave those French women the best possible advice. That place is a treasure.

If you haven't been inside Culinaire, that culinary antique place near SLT, it's worth a peek. Some pretty interesting stuff to look at (though nothing I can afford, unfortunately).

I am a big fan of the McEvoy olive oil, and always keep it in stock. Also, Frog Hollow Farm makes some damn fine conserves, chutneys and marmalades. Be sure to check out the mushrooms at Far West Fungi and the gorgeous flowers at Oak Hill Farm. And the amazing selection at Golden Gate Meat.

Carolyn Tillie looooves the Recchiuti chocolates and, while I don't really care for chocolate myself, I have to admit they are beautiful little works of art, and the flavor combinations are very creative. In fact, I'm stopping in there tonight to pick up a last-minute birthday gift.

And a Very Happy Birthday to you, as well!

Cheers,

Squeat

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I spent an hour or so by myself at the Marina, and was joined on my bench by four French women. They had been in the city for the whole week, and we talked about food. I recommended a visit to the Ferry Plaza market above all other destinations in the city. I feel it's distilled the best of what California has to offer, and in a magnificent setting. I hope I gave good advice.

Tomorrow morning, we're headed to Napa (hopefully to meet Rancho Gordo himself)...and after spending most the day there, we will head back to the Ferry Plaza Building. I'm sure I'll visit "the mothership" (as my daughter laughingly calls it): Sur La Table. I'm sure I'll come home with Scharffen Berger chocolate, and bread from the Acme Bread Company, and cheese from Cowgirl Creamery. Possibly a bottle of Gruner Veltliner from the Wine Merchant.

What else is a must-not-miss?

Tana, I think you gave those French women the best possible advice. That place is a treasure.

If you haven't been inside Culinaire, that culinary antique place near SLT, it's worth a peek. Some pretty interesting stuff to look at (though nothing I can afford, unfortunately).

I am a big fan of the McEvoy olive oil, and always keep it in stock. Also, Frog Hollow Farm makes some damn fine conserves, chutneys and marmalades. Be sure to check out the mushrooms at Far West Fungi and the gorgeous flowers at Oak Hill Farm. And the amazing selection at Golden Gate Meat.

Carolyn Tillie looooves the Recchiuti chocolates and, while I don't really care for chocolate myself, I have to admit they are beautiful little works of art, and the flavor combinations are very creative. In fact, I'm stopping in there tonight to pick up a last-minute birthday gift.

And a Very Happy Birthday to you, as well!

Cheers,

Squeat

Yes, it is my birthday. Thanks for the good wishes.

I have a bottle of the McEvoy olive oil from my first visit (the one I posted about long ago, suggesting getting Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk cheese, a baguette at Acme, some green jasmine tea at Peet's, and some Scharffen Berger chocolates, and watch the ferries go by). I like the wheatgrass flavor of it, but don't use it for cooking. (Too expensive for that!)

I've also bought Frog Hollow peach conserve and Meyer lemon marmalade. That marmalade is so good on toast with bacon and eggs. The eggs and the lemon make a good match that surprised me.

Hmmm, now I'm wondering if we should eat tomorrow at The Slanted Door. But oysters...the siren call of the sea. --sigh.-- Choices, choices.

I'll check out the antiques, Squeat. I hadn't done that before because I knew the prices would give me a nosebleed. :wink:

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Forgot to mention Miette Patisserie. They do some stunningly beautiful (and delicious) pastries.

Also, since this is its thread, I thought I'd include a link to the Ferry Building Marketplace, which also hosts the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market on Saturdays and Tuesdays year-round.

Cheers,

Squeat

After my visit, I can vouch for the Miette pastries. Husband didn't like his almond bun, but I had the pain au chocolate and the macaroons (one of each, natch), and they were really good. And being a sucker for pretty packaging (ooh, pink and brown and double faced satin ribbon...drool...), I was enchanted.

The Recchutti chocolates are awesome. I tried the anise and pink peppercorn...still not sure if I really liked it or really hated it...it's one of those things. But the sesame wafer is amazing, and so is the burnt caramel. Husband loved the tarragon grapefruit and the Ecuadorian varietal.

We got the basic Stonewall olive oil, because it was good, but not so expensive or so good that I would try to hoard it, only to have it go rancid on me (I've learned from experience, yes). I thought it was nice and smooth.

Ooh. Good call on the marmalade w/toast and eggs. Swwweeeeeet. I've got some Niman Ranch bacon for tomorrow morning, too.

I deliberatly did not go in the antiques place. No way.

And happy birthday!


Gourmet Anarchy

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After my visit, I can vouch for the Miette pastries. Husband didn't like his almond bun, but I had the pain au chocolate and the macaroons (one of each, natch), and they were really good. And being a sucker for pretty packaging (ooh, pink and brown and double faced satin ribbon...drool...), I was enchanted.

The Recchutti chocolates are awesome. I tried the anise and pink peppercorn...still not sure if I really liked it or really hated it...it's one of those things. But the sesame wafer is amazing, and so is the burnt caramel. Husband loved the tarragon grapefruit and the Ecuadorian varietal.

We got the basic Stonewall olive oil, because it was good, but not so expensive or so good that I would try to hoard it, only to have it go rancid on me (I've learned from experience, yes). I thought it was nice and smooth.

Ooh. Good call on the marmalade w/toast and eggs. Swwweeeeeet. I've got some Niman Ranch bacon for tomorrow morning, too.

I deliberatly did not go in the antiques place. No way.

And happy birthday!

Niman Ranch bacon is the best I've ever had. You should have a great breakfast. For some reason, I like scrambled eggs with the marmalade better than my usual over-medium fried eggs. Isn't that odd?

Thanks, JennotJenn.

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Bacon? (sniff) Did someone say, "bacon"?

For what it's worth, I've had the most delicious NM bacon ever when I prepared it by baking on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees. It was cooked perfectly evenly, and for scientic reasons I know not, was noticably meatier, sweeter and not quite as sharply salty. Downside is it takes maybe 20 minutes or more plus pre-heat time, as compared with pan-frying.

I'm going to have to research this. Now I'm curious.


My fantasy? Easy -- the Simpsons versus the Flanders on Hell's Kitchen.

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Bacon? (sniff) Did someone say, "bacon"?

For what it's worth, I've had the most delicious NM bacon ever when I prepared it by baking on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees. It was cooked perfectly evenly, and for scientic reasons I know not, was noticably meatier, sweeter and not quite as sharply salty. Downside is it takes maybe 20 minutes or more plus pre-heat time, as compared with pan-frying.

I'm going to have to research this. Now I'm curious.

I do bacon in the oven at 300 degrees, turning it once halfway through its 25-minute cycle. I don't like it terribly crispy, but brown and not wilty. And it's totally worth the time, since you can cook more on the sheet pan than you can in a pan on the stove!

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Happy birthday, Tana.

I had my first opportunity to visit the Ferry Plaza on a quick vist to downtown SF last month. I can't wait for a chance to go back and explore in depth.

It is a great addition to the city.

Pam

P.S. I have also really enjoyed your posts and the links you have provided to sites with your lovely photos, great work.


Pamela Fanstill aka "PamelaF"

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I awaken every morning and say my prayers, bowing to the north, where the Ferry Plaza Market is.

Amen.

And while we're at it, let's give thanks to ALL of the farmers at all of the farmer's markets in the Bay Area. It is hard for me to pick just one or two favorites, we have so many choices!

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Wow, this is quite the lovefest. I hate to spoil things, but I suppose someone has to be the party pooper... :sad:

Frankly, I have not really enjoyed my visits to the marketplace. I think my expectations of how it would ultimately turn out were much higher.

I hardly think it is worth getting up in the morning and bowing to (I save that ritual for the French Laundry). First, it has a real mall-like atmosphere, which is a bad start. Second, I can buy most of the retail offerings at my local supermarket. Lastly, and this is where I become most cynical, it all seems a little too slick and over-marketed. Most of those purveyors started off as small, family-run, artisan businesses, that now look a lot more corporate.

Now, this is not to say that the marketplace doesn't offer some quality products in its shops and couple decent restaurants. As well, the location is beautiful and I would send tourists there for a visit. However, as a local and after the first couple visits, I've lost interest. I think there are options just as good as Niman Ranch, Frog Hollow, and McEvoy Ranch, to name a few, at better prices elsewhere.

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rdaily, I see your point. Many of these vendors go to other markets that are much less crowded. The butcher in the Ferry Building is the same butcher who is in Oakland's Market Hall-which is ten minutes from my house. The one time I went there (and I really want to go back again and again) parking was a nightmare and the market was unpleasantly crowded-and this was in January. I can't imagine what it's like in summer. There are also many other vendors (our own Rancho Gordo among them) who sell great quality goods at other locations, so going there is not our only option. (My new favorite Farmer's Market is the Grand Lake Market on Saturdays-you can park right next to the stalls and therefore, are not limited to buying only what you can carry at one time!) That's why I started this thread a few weeks back.

I also agree with Tana. I'm grateful that such a place can and does exist. It's a beautiful reuse of an all-but-abandoned building. Plus you can eat oysters!!! More importantly, it showcases the incredible talent of our California farmers, and that can't ever be a bad thing. It wasn't that many years ago that the only choice for most farmers was to be at the mercy of middle men, and customers had no opportunity to ever meet the people who put food on their table so they could give them feedback. Who would have thought 20 years ago that farmers would get a prime piece of San Francisco real estate, and that it would become a tourist attraction? Thomas Keller couldn't do what he does without these farmers. At the Ferry Building, they are getting the credit they deserve.

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I'm also happy that exists, but I have to fight really hard to not be disappointed every time I step foot into it. I was really hoping it would be someplace like the Granville Island market, but instead I find it so upscale that, like a well-coiffed matron, it leaves me feeling admiration more than love. I wanted to find things there that I couldn't find anywhere else, but with few exceptions it's full of well-established businesses that carry goods I (as an East Bay denizen) pick up all the time at Rockridge's Market Hall or Berkeley Bowl or (gasp!) Whole Foods. It's almost like the Tiffany of foodstuffs---well-pedigreed but far from unique.

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I think we're talking about two diferent things. rdaily was referring to the everyday Market Hall, I think (though Niman Ranch doesn't have an outlet there) and others were talking about the 1.5 "farmers" markets per week outside.

I agree generally about the prices inside. I spent $9.00 for a takeout fish sandwich from San Francisco Fish Co. last week (WTF, it didn't even come with fries!). I'd except Acme breads; you can get a full pound loaf of great Ciabatta for $2, about the same price as a loaf of Safeway sliced white bread. And if you want "unique", at least there's Delica rf/1, while pricey and not my cup of tea, is Rock Field's only presence on this side of the Pacific.

As far as the "farmers" market goes, it's mostly just clutter, as far as I'm concerned. The requirements for having a presence there seem to be 1) knowing the secret handshake, and 2) being able to pay the stall rent.

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You are correct Gary. I was referring to the Marketplace inside the building and Niman Ranch is not inside. I was trying to make the point that certain purveyors have become large operations with big marketing machines despite the fact that they continue to be thought of as simple ranchers and farmers. (Does this make sense?)

I think Hest88 explained it better than I did, by just saying it is too upscale. It feels like walking through an expensive art gallery. Its not that I don't like shelling out money for good food, but I like to be practical and that is not really the place for it. I would have much preferred a large everyday farmers market with butchers, bakers, and fishmongers.

I believe you may be right Gary about the outside farmers market and the "secret handshake". From what I understand is that the market is a very political and those that run it, rule with an iron fist.

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I think Hest88 explained it better than I did, by just saying it is too upscale. It feels like walking through an expensive art gallery.

It's what's known in planning jargon as "highest and best use." It's given our beloved city a new class of well-heeled tourists, namely "culinary tourists." They want "artisanal", "organic", "heirloom," and the like. Names of "farms" you'll recognize on the menu at Per Se.

If you've followed the news, Chris Martin of the Cannery is jumping on the same bandwagon. It could be worse. Maybe the Crab Shack will give way to a "Bouchon sur la Baie", or a "Wolfgang Puck Expresse".

Cool, huh?

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I hadn't heard about the Cannery as I try and avoid the really touristy areas. I guess that the building owners want to see all of the spaces leased, and if that is what the tourists and customer base is wanting, more power to them I suppose.

What I really wanted to see was something like Pikes Place in Seattle, only smaller. That looks like culinarian's dream...

I must also agree with Marie-Louise, that renovating the Ferry Building was terrific, considering the shape it was in. As well, they could have done WORSE things than leasing it out to a bunch of food purveyors (there aren't any farmers in the Marketplace per se). :wink:

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there aren't any farmers in the Marketplace per se). :wink:

Won't Al Courchesne be surprised to hear that? I saw him there on my third visit, working at the Frog Hollow Farm store. In his overalls.

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Each time I was there, Frog Hollow Farms retail store was selling coffee drinks and croissants with their nationally distributed line of jams.

I was making the point to Marie-Louise that the Marketplace was not renovated for "the farmers". It is a developed piece of real estate filled with RETAILERS not farmers. I'm not sure what criteria they used in filling the spaces, but I would venture to guess it required a whole ton of cash up front to get in - much more than your average farmer can haul in. Unless, of course, you are in the bay area and endorsed by Alice Waters.

Most of the farmers I know of don't wear overalls or ask to be called "Farmer Al".

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I hadn't heard about the Cannery as I try and avoid the really touristy areas. I guess that the building owners want to see all of the spaces leased, and if that is what the tourists and customer base is wanting, more power to them I suppose. 

This from a January GraceAnn Walden column:

"Chris Martin, managing partner of the Cannery shopping complex (2801 Leavenworth, at Beach), has big plans for 2004, including a farmers' market in the plaza each Friday and one weekend day a month. He says there will be custom-built stalls, about 25 hand-picked organic farmers, some flower growers, fresh fish and -- holy parking goddess -- validated parking in the Cannery garages. Martin also says that several new restaurants will open in the Cannery next year. The details have yet to be worked out, but Scoop readers will be the first to know."

I love the phrase "hand picked" organic farmers. By whose gnarly hand? My guest is that he's aspiring for FPFM west. I think the more interesting part is the "several new restaurants", though. That's where the "wait and see" is most operative.

Scoop, 1/07/04

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I've been thinking about this thread for a few days. I'm thinking out loud and hoping not to offend but it seems like some of us need our ag providers to be suffering and struggling and not thriving. It strikes me as just as much an aesthetic issue as the "slickness" of the ferry building.

I like that the building is well-designed and in "good taste". I just wish they would have left and restored the Covarubbias murals from the world's fair that were maps of the world with the Pacific ocean as the center.

For me the essential problem with something like the ferry building, the stores within and the farmers markets held there, and their success, is now that you have this glorious tribute to good food, how do you continue to encourage established farmers to switch over to sustainable ag or encourage a young generation of farmers to take up a pitch fork? It's impossible to get in.

Edite to add: I know LOTS of farmers who wear overalls, maybe not in town but they are very handy. As for names, I prefer to be called "Snakehips" to "Farmer Gordo", but that's just me.


Edited by rancho_gordo (log)

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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A little OT here, but if you are at the Farmer's Market in SF and want to skip the expensive touristy cooking antiques place, try a little place called "Cookin" at 339 Divisidero Street.

The prices aren't rock bottom, but the selection is wide and I've always felt that I've gotten good value there.


Stephanie Kay

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Soemhow I missed it when it came out, but thanks to Marlena Spieler's SF Chronicle Digest here's the list for current (and upcoming) Farmers' markets in San Francisco and North Bay Counties, including scheduled days and hours:

SF & North Bay Farmers' Markets

Chestnut & Steiner on Tuesday evening? Maybe that's the "Now" replacement for Wednesday nights at the Marina Safeway......

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