If you have a functioning taste bud anywhere in your body, a trip through San Francisco's Ferry Building Marketplace is like ascending to heaven. Better, because you don't have to die to get there.
The 121-year-old waterfront building with its replica of the 12th Century Giralda bell tower of Seville, Spain, made its debut as a gourmet mecca in 2003. Within its 65,000 square feet of market space is everything good you can put into your mouth: fresh, naturally raised meat and poultry; artisan cheeses; hand-made salumi; incredible chocolates; fabulous pastries; garden-fresh fruits and vegetables; some of the best breads in the country; truffles and wild mushrooms, both fresh and preserved; an eclectic roster of foreign and domestic wines; plus restaurants ranging from pan-Asian take-out to nouveau taqueria to killer burgers.
Oh, and there's a weekend farmers' market in the plaza next door that
makes your typical South Florida farmers' market seem like a collection
of rejects from the Sysco truck. Basically, if there's anything
delicious you can't find there, it probably doesn't exist on this
It's an easy place to spend the better part of the day
(and way past your Mastercard limit), which I did over the Christmas
holiday. If you don't have access to a kitchen it means the fresh
meats, seafood and veggies are probably out, but there's lots more to
choose from. Here are a few personal faves.
Stop by Far West Fungi and pick up a jar or two of the awesome La
Rusticella truffle paté or a bag of dried porcini, morel or matsutake
mushrooms. If you're really feeling flush, in season they have fresh
white and/or black truffles. Maybe you're heading up to the Wine
Country for some tasting and a picnic or just want to bring some
seriously good eats home. First stop is Acme bread, where the baguettes
and everything else are considered the best leavened substances to be
found, even in bread-crazy San Francisco. So grab a couple baguettes
and wander over to Cowgirl Creamery, which not only makes its own
artisan cheeses (try the Red Hawk triple cream and Cypress Grove's
luscious Humboldt Fog goat cheese) but stocks artisan cheeses from
around the world.
For "tasty salted pig parts" there's
Boccalone Salumeria, the home of porcine goodness from Chris Cosentino
(you've seen him on the Food Network) and Mark Pastore of Incanto
restaurant. Check out the excellent prosciutto, way-fab truffled
mortadella and brown sugar and fennel-cured salami. For dessert,
there's nothing better than the obscenely delectable truffles from
Michael Recchiuti. It's almost impossible to single out a favorite but
I can't leave his tiny shop without a handful of the exquisite cardamom
nougat, tarragon-grapefruit and burnt caramel truffles.
Wash them all down with wines from Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant, whose
motto is, "We spit so you don't have to." Their wine bar is also my
favorite place to have lunch in the market, with ever-changing arrays
of meat and cheese platters accessorized with marinated veggies and
those great Acme baguettes. You can also choose from among several
flights of interesting and little-known wines, chosen to pair up
smartly with whatever is on the menu. On your way out, pick up a
souvenir: a t-shirt from Prather Ranch Meat Co. that reads, "Praise the
Lard." And pass the bacon.