It was a rainy Saturday in San Francisco. I had been there for several days introducing my 20 year old granddaughter to the foggy city, a possible future home for her. It was fun traveling the city together, but on this day she was meeting her roommate, and I was "free."
"Do you mind that she is leaving you alone?" my partner on the East Coast asked.
"Mind?" I answered. " I think it's glorious!"
This city of blank possibilities lay before me with its bridges, waterfront, sea lions, multi-cultures, zoos, parks, theaters, jazz halls and museums. On Saturday I was free to explore anywhere I wanted, on my own time, at my own pace.
"What'll you do?" my partner asked.
"What'll I do? Well, last night while eating dinner at an outside cafe, La Mediterranee, the gentleman next to us suggested that we visit the Saturday morning market at the Ferry Building. I think I will start there," I answered.
Winding my way up and down the hills of San Francisco on foot and public transportation, I arrived at the San Francisco Ferry Building. Located along the palm tree-lined Embarcadero at the foot of Market Street (how convenient), this 1912 building with its soaring clock tower is a landmark for visitors to the waterfront. Crossing the trolley tracks to the building, I gazed upon a sight that made my foodie heart soar: tents, hundreds of them, circling the enormous building in rows two-to-three deep, each tent displaying one vendor's wares. There were food items to sample, marvel at, ask about, learn about, taste and buy - a sea of food next to the sea. Oh busboy, this was heaven and I was hungry.
Overwhelmed at the possibilities, I decided to walk around the complex first to get the lay of the land, so to speak. I found organic farms vendors, wine tasting, flavored sauerkraut, coffee-flavored peanut brittle, fresh flowers, honey, imported spices, spices picked fresh that morning, fresh oysters, dried salmon and organic produce. I bought, for a mere $4.25, a cup of gourmet coffee, dripped one cup at a time per your blend request.
The Ferry Market building contains some 50 permanent food stores and restaurants. They are open everyday and include Golden Gate Meat Company, Frog Hollow Farm, La Cocina, Delica, Pressed Juicery and Sur La Table, to give you an idea. If you want it, it is there.
The Saturday-only farmers market tents are located outside the building. The market is widely acclaimed for both the quality and diversity of its fresh farm products and artisan and prepared foods. It is renowned throughout the country as one of the top farmers markets to visit. Many tents offered samples of hard goat cheese, corn meal gluten free corn meal pizza, blood oranges, salad greens, wine and more.
On any day, especially Saturdays, any of San Francisco's best-known chefs can be seen at the market. I looked around, but not one of the 25,000 other customers looked famous to me.
So, on my maiden trip around, I tasted much but only bought a few items. I purchased a doughnut-muffin, baked not fried, and recommended by a little old lady who followed me around. I feasted on a little bag of truffle popcorn. I purchased fresh lavender in a little white sachet.
Last week I was unable to find lavender for scones I was making to celebrate the return of "Downton Abbey" to PBS. This week I will be prepared. I purchased some chickweed, fresh greens that are a cross between spinach and watercress. I joined the long line at the Cowgirl Creamery waiting for the brie-style Mt. Tam cheese. I waited and waited, and happily paid the $22 a pound for this piece of heaven.
Several hours later I was pretty hungry, either because I really was, or because I had missed a real breakfast and lunch and it was almost dinner time, or I was just hungry because my eyes were blasting information to my stomach.
I thought back to the market about what I really wanted to eat. I settled at the Hayes Street Grill tent and ordered the three-egg scramble on the toasted po' boy roll with fresh parsley, grated cheddar and a rasher of bacon. I picked the sandwich that was too big to eat as a sandwich. Should I feel guilty that I didn't choose one of the many beautiful, healthful, fresh, organic, artisan foods?
I carried my treasure to what looked like a vacant table, sat down and cut a big bite. While savoring the salty softness of the eggs, someone tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Excuse me ma'am, but this table is reserved for the Vegan Organic Cafe."
I had a wonderful day.
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