Of chowder in sourdough bowls, cable cars + culinary bookstores.
San Francisco is full of culinary (and other) delights. From Boudin Bakery, the purported home of the famous San Francisco sourdough, to the gourmet markets held at the Ferry Building every day, there is enough to fill a foodie’s lifetime and more.
What to wear when you go to San Francisco? Flowers in your hair of course.
We came in from Berkeley to hit up my favourite places from last trip, and check out a couple we had missed. We wandered around the streets, checked out markets, had a picnic of coffee and pie along the waterfront, and went on an adventure trying to find a culinary bookstore.
Boudin Bakery on Fishermans Wharf is their flagship location, where the company has been baking bread since 1849. They still use the original starter to create all of their sourdough, and huge glass windows on the side of the warehouse allow the public to watch the bakers in action. There is also a Baker’s Hall where you can buy chowder in sourdough bowls, a Marketplace where you can buy gifts and baking items, and a full-service restaurant overlooking the bay that highlights classic Californian cuisine such as Dungeness crab and spinach dip, garlic fries, and sourdough pizzas made with their original starter.
On our way over to the Ferry Building Marketplace we spotted a string, running from one traffic light to another over a pedestrian walkway, with bunches of mistletoe hanging from it. How romantic! Unfortunately there were no suitable men around for me to kiss. I settled for taking photographs.
The Ferry Building Marketplace is absolute foodie heaven. Packed from end to end with San Francisco’s top food producers, bakers and coffee roasters, it is a one-stop shop to pick up everything from obscure mushrooms to banana cream pies at famous patisserie Miette.
It is hard to pick, but my favourite place in San Francisco isn’t a restaurant at all, it is Omnivore Books on Food. Tucked away on a quiet, residential part of Cesar Chavez in the Mission, it is surrounded by pastel-coloured San Franciscan terrace houses. We got off the subway at 16th and Mission, and proceeded to try and find our way to the store without the aid of our iPhone, as it had courteously decided to run out of battery on the way there. Ensue a bit of walking up and down streets multiple times as we worked out we were going the wrong way, we finally found ourselves on this gorgeous San Franciscan street..
The bookstore is warmly lit, the windows covered in christmas wreaths, and just inside the door is every cookbook, culinary biography, food essay, or piece of food writing you could think of (and many of them are signed). Signed copy of Michael Pollan’s An Omnivore’s Dilemma? They have 6 – and all at the same price as an unsigned copy.
There was too much. It was overwhelming. I finally settled on one book, one I have been meaning to purchase for a while: NOMA. It is such a beautiful book, and as the top restaurant in the world during my beginnings in food writing, it was a necessary part of my collection. And signed by René Redzepi himself? That was not an opportunity likely to come around again any time soon.
In the evening, we rode the cable car up to Fishermans Wharf to wander and find somewhere for dinner. There is something so childish and youthful about riding San Francisco cable cars – grown men will laugh as they hang off the side for the first time, looking slightly guilty and checking with the conductor over and over ‘Are you sure we are allowed to stand on the side?’. Zooming through San Francisco streets in the brisk air, the ding-ding of the tram reminiscent of home, and the promise of the busy, glittering playground of Fishermans Wharf at the other end.
We ended up at Chowders on Pier 39, with a huge tray of fresh seafood.
We walked all the way back down to the Embarcadero after dinner; the walk along the waterfront was beautiful at night.