Last weekend I visted one of my favorite haunts – the farmers market at the San Francisco Ferry Building. It is without a doubt the “Mack Daddy” of farmers markets in the Bay Area if not the country. This farmers market is operated by CUESA, the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture. Not only does it have the ‘best of the best’ of local farmers and food purveyors, it is right next to the Ferry Building, which houses the permanent “A” list of local favorites, restaurants, and food related shops. It truly is ground zero for foodies and it’s all located along the beautiful San Francisco Bay waterfront. The shops in the Ferry Building are open every day, but the farmers market is only there on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10AM-2PM as well as and Saturdays from 8AM-2PM. If you have been here before I don’t need to tell you what a great food destination this is. If you haven’t, I have a few tips to pass on and share a few of my favorite things to do at this remarkable venue.
My first bit of advice when visiting the market is to arrive early. I usually go on Saturdays, and it gets pretty crowded by late morning. Before you go you should check out the CUESA website here. It has all the information you need to make the most of your visit, including how to get there and where to park. There are garages and lots nearby, but most of them fill up fast. If you are planning on metered street parking, you will need vast amounts of quarters. Vast! You can also get here easily on BART or MUNI. Don’t forget to bring some “schlepper bags” to carry home your goodies. Before you begin, you may want to check out the information booth on Embarcadero just to the right of the Ferry Building; I start there and head south where “Blue Bottle Coffee” is waiting for me along with my first line of the day. If you arrive hungry, there are some great places to get a plate of food along the south side of the building including my all-time favorite, the “Roli Roti” truck.
There is one particular reason I go on Saturdays; it is the only day the Roli Roti truck is here. The Roli Roti truck makes what I consider to be the best and most delicious sandwich on earth. They operate a few trucks that sell the delicious roasted chicken and potatoes that you see at other markets and locations around the bay, but this is one of the locations for the porchetta truck. It is no wonder that this sandwich has made it to the top of so many lists, including “The Top 100 Things to Do in San Francisco Before You Die” list. Porchetta, for those that don’t know, consists of a boneless whole pork loin, stuffed with herbs, surrounded by pork belly, rolled and roasted. It comes off the rotisserie brown and crispy on the outside, and juicy and succulent on the inside. As they slice the porchetta, there are fresh Acme Bread rolls handy to sop up any juice that might try to escape. Added to the porchetta, is a dollop of sweet carmelized onions, salt, and arugula. It is both simple and sublime. There is nothing to distract from the tasty pork. You get succulent pork complimented by the sweetness from the onions, then for added pleasure you have the crunch of the salty crispy skin and the freshness of the arugula. It is just perfect. There is usually a line, but it moves pretty fast plus you get to enjoy the aroma of the roasting pork as you wait. To find out more about the Roli Roti truck and get the schedule of where to find them, you can check out their web site here.
For me, the best thing about visiting the farmers market is finding a great variety of the less common fruits and vegetables that you just don’t find in a supermarket. All the produce is local, fresh, and picked at the peak of the season. This market is a “California Certified” farmers market which means that all the farmers are certified as producers in the counties in which they grow. That doesn’t mean that they are all certified organic (although it seems like most of them are), but it does mean that they are the ones growing what they sell. That’s nice to know and it gives you confidence that the farmers stand behind their product! OK, let’s move on. When I go on Saturdays I usually don’t bring a shopping list. I like to see what looks fresh and appealing, and then find my inspiration from there. That is really easy to do here! In addition to the great produce, you can find the various meats, poultry and seafood, as well as some great cheeses, flowers, baked goods, and preserves. It seems like all my favorites are here; I guess that is why it’s my favorite market. You may not want to load up on groceries right away if I you are planning on going inside, because there is a lot more to see, buy and eat inside the Ferry Building.
The Ferry Building
The San Francisco Ferry Building was built in 1898, and up until the 1930’s was the only way to get into the city from across the Bay unless you came up the peninsula. After the bridges were built, ferryboats fell out of favor and the building became more and more obsolete as time passed. The completion of the Embarcadero freeway in 1957 blocked the view of the Ferry Building, making it even more obscure. In 1989 the Loma Prieta earthquake struck causing the buckling of a portion of the freeway. The freeway was eventually and the historic view of this architectural gem from all along Market Street was once again restored. This, along with the waterfront revitalization that followed, finds the Ferry Building back in all its glory, including ferry service and the repurposing of the interior to a bustling upscale marketplace. Everything you could possibly need to prepare a great meal can be found here. The list of shops reads like a “who’s who” of local and best loved purveyors. I can’t visit here without stopping into “Boccalone Salumeria”, “Cowgirl Creamery”, “Far West Fungi”, and “Scharffen Berger Chocolate” (to name a few). It also has several cafes and small eateries plus a few great restaurants, including another favorite of mine, “The Slanted Door”. There is also a “Sur La Table” if you need to pick up a new pot or utensil to cook up your day’s finds. You can find the full list on the Ferry Building website here. Well, that is enough for me for one day. I am off to create something inspired and delicious from the wonderful purchases I made. Tonight’s dinner going to be a roasted chicken from Roli Roti, fresh mushroom and “Point Reyes Blue Cheese” risotto, heirloom tomato bruschetta, and steamed mixed baby vegetables. Time to get to work.
See you at the market!