Wednesday, February 3, 2010

SF Ferry Bldg: Protestors, Walking Sausages and oh yeah, Lots of Artisan Treats

One of my favorite places to visit in San Francisco is the Ferry Building.

Sure, I love the bustling outside Farmers' Market but I really enjoy browsing the food merchants inside.

Lately there have been various news reports about possible cracks in the foodie fabric of the Ferry Building as some long time tenants are priced out and are moving out -- despite the well-publicized original philosophy of the Ferry Building property managers to nurture local food vendors and give them an affordable place to do business.

I felt the need to reassure myself that the beloved Ferry Building was still a vibrant place to visit despite the turmoil.

So, one very rainy day last week I headed to the Ferry Building to get my fix of sweets and to see what was new. There always seems to be new products to check out at the existing tenants venues or a temporary kiosk with an enthusiastic staffer giving out product samples.

And I love talking to the merchants about how they got into their chosen ventures.

Little did I know all the obstacles I would encounter in my journey from car to foodie destination.

First of course there was the rain -- buckets of it. Once I put my head down and headed into the wind and rain, I realized that the roads, sidewalks and just about every available space to walk was taken up by a very loud and aggressive crowd.

Seems it was the anniversary of Roe versus Wade that I had waded into.

As I made my way through the crowd I couldn't help wondering why some people think that screaming into another person's face would make that person change their views. One of life's many mysteries I guess.

I also had to side step the man in the Aidells sausage costume protesting (very politely) the controversial decision by Cuesa, the group who runs the Farmers' Market, to refuse to allow the Aidells Sausage Company to continue to sell their meat goodies at the market. Some believe the banishment is because Aidells has gotten a bit too successful and are no longer considered a local vendor but instead is a national brand. Check out this link for more information on that debate.

All this controversy made me long for sweets -- I might have to have several macarons or a bomboloni (or two) to calm down.

The first vendor I encountered when I finally emerged from the outside elements was a small kiosk manned by the Mariposa Bakery Company, a local baker of artisan crafted, gluten-free goodies.

Their brownies, breads and cinnamon rolls were flying off the shelves.

I chatted with owner Patti Crane who happened to be hovering nearby that day. She was excited about her new spot at the Ferry Building.

Mariposa was also playing host that day to a book signing event: Jackie Mallorca, author of Gluten-Free Italian, was patiently signing books and answering lots of questions about gluten-free cooking.

Gluten free baking has become a hot topic among bakers these days. It is really a challenge to develop baked goods that have the same consistency in crumb and flavor as gluten-based products.

Just try some of the gluten-free products made by non-artisan bakers available in your local grocery store. Actually, you don't need to taste them -- just pick up a gluten free loaf of bread or a cinnamon roll -- they weigh a ton.

It is really hard to obtain that melt in your mouth quality or light as a feather consistency that is the goal of most bakers.

But more on this timely topic in another post.

On February 9 the Bakers Dozen organization will be hosting a luncheon to discuss gluten-free baking at our next meeting at the Foreign Cinema Restaurant in San Francisco. Both Jackie Mallorca and nutritionist Bonnie Presti will be on hand to answer all our questions.

I will be covering the meeting for the Bakers Dozen and will post a summary of the meeting on this blog as well as on the Bakers Dozen members site.

As I've mentioned in a prior post, I always head first to the merchant selling bomboloni -- doughnuts to us non-Italians -- before they sell out.

I Preferiti di Boriana offer many products from Tuscany -- wines, cheeses, etc. but I go for the bomboloni. As I made my usual selection of one raspberry and one custard bomboloni, I noticed a pastry that I hadn't seen on previous visits.

Sfogliatelle. As I inquired about what this was, the people in line behind me offered their own rapturous reviews of this little pastry.

Sfogliatelle means many layers or leaves. This shell shaped pastry is made from phyllo dough and is filled with orange flavored ricotta filling. I thought they looked like miniature lobster tails.

I chose one of the small sfogliatelle amid choruses of "you will be sorry you didn't get the big one" ringing in my ears.

As I strolled down the main hallway munching on my Italian pastries, I met a representative of the California Coffee Cake Company handing out samples from their small kiosk.

Founder and pastry chef Nancy Lee Hawkins has turned her passion for coffee cake into a thriving business. Her employee was frantically trying to keep up with the demand for the walnut spice coffee cake samples from the coffee cake deprived crowds. Nancy sells her cakes and mini loaves at Ferry Building market place vendor Village Market as well as at other local markets. She recently opened her first retail location nearby at the Westfield San Francisco Centre.

The next new vendor I encountered manning his small table was Bruce from CJs Stix. This company makes pretzel sticks dipped in chocolate and rolled in English toffee. Bruce was handing out samples of the company's latest product extension -- bite sized pretzel nuggets. CJs Stix are sold at the Ferry Building merchant Farm Fresh to You as well as at other markets throughout the U.S.

Bruce is a charming and energetic spokesperson for the company, which happens to be a true family business. Owner Cheryl Jagoda ha enlisted her dad Bruce, plus her mom and husband to create another San Francisco success story.

It was fun to meet the new merchants and to see the vitality and creativity of some of San Francisco's best food entrepreneurs.

But no visit to the Ferry Building would be complete without a stop at one of the first tenants, Miette Patisserie.

I've taken a baking class from owner Meg Ray and I admire both her business and baking prowess. Today I bypassed my usual choices of shortbread and cupcakes and went right for the French macarons.

As they are in many bakeries, the macarons are displayed in tall glass candy jars. And they were a spot of bright color on this rainy day.

I chose two basic flavors -- chocolate and vanilla. I'm taking a class in March from Helen Dujardin -- macaron goddess and writer of the baking blog Tartelette -- on how to make macarons and in the name of research, I've been sampling as many macarons as I can.

As I left the Ferry Building the sun was trying to throw some sunshine over this beautiful city. I felt a bit sunnier myself as I was now reassured that the spirit of independent food merchants remains strong at the Ferry Building.

1 comment:

  1. Ok, I'm dying to know which flavors you sampled at Miette and how you liked them!