Urban Foraging: A trip through the Ferry Building, San Francisco


Pink Oyster Mushrooms @ Far West Fungi, San Francisco Ferry Building.

I had a fantastic dinner at Boulevard last night, which is what I’ve come to expect from this perennial San Francisco favorite. The foie gras appetizer, in particular, was extremely well-executed, with components such as vanilla sour cherries, root beer jelly, and candied nuts. Without a doubt, this dish is going to remain in my memory for quite some time. Everything on the plate worked in terrific harmony, great flavors and textures, and the foie gras itself was a generous portion, pan-seared to a perfect shade of mahogany. But I have already digressed.

Before my dinner revelation at Boulevard, I arrived in San Francisco in the early afternoon with some time to kill. Since the Ferry Building is just a couple blocks away from the restaurant, I decided to find some all-day parking and spend a few hours foraging through the Marketplace stalls. I must admit, there’s something about having so much great food under one roof that almost smacks of cheating. I’m typically out in the trenches, searching for some hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Chinatown or the Tenderloin. At the Ferry Building, great foods lurk at every turn.

• I started the afternoon with a muffaletta sandwich at Boccalone, which is presented as a panini, rather than the giant wedge sandwich that originated at the Central Grocery in the New Orleans French Quarter. Of course, I wasn’t expecting authenticity this far west. Boccalone’s sandwiches are clearly billed as paninis, and the “muffaletta” name is in reference to the wide variety of cured Italian meats that adorn the sandwich (along with its olive spread). The Boccalone muffaleta was a good sandwich, although the meats in the center remained cool, somehow resisting the heat of the panini press.

• Next was a gingerbread cupcake at Miette, which was delicious, and for me, much better than the über-sweet, diabetic creations offered at Kara’s Cupcakes. Miette has a wonderful gingerbead recipe — probably as moist as any cake recipe out there — which presents a great vehicle for their vanilla cream cheese frosting. I thought about ordering a chocolate eclair as well, but decided to postpone that treat for another time (I also contemplated the quarter-pound hot dog at Prathers, but was afraid of being too full for dinner).

• I ended the afternoon with gelato at Ciao Bella, since there’s always room for ice cream (or its cousins). I ordered a two-scoop waffle cone, ultimately settling upon the combination of green tea and Tahitian vanilla. Choosing gelato flavors at Ciao Bella can be a challenge because everything looks so vibrant and delicious. The cherry-sake gelato, in particular, may just be the reddest food that I have ever seen. The color is unreal. If I hadn’t been wearing a nice dress shirt, I probably would’ve ordered it.

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