SF Ferry Building and its Farmers Market

Quite a while ago (Saturday, February 25th 2006), I finally got around to exploring the Ferry Building in San Francisco. I'd been told to go on a saturday, so I could also see one of the best farmers markets in northern California. I hadn't originally intended to write this up under the premise that I'd make it back a few more times within a month or two of my first visit and would document all my explorations at once. But it's now months later and I haven't managed to make it back (too much skiing, cooking classes, and film festivals) so I decided I should write what I remember before I forget everything.

Taking the BART over, I walked down Market Street toward the ferry building. First I stumbled upon a small set of booths (two dozen?) selling arts and crafts. While some were the traditional tourist targeted rubbish, a few had interesting items. One guy made three-dimensional portraits out of a long piece of wire (a la Calder). (I didn't take a picture of these because the lack of dimensionality would take the life out of the pieces.) Another booth sold candles with beautiful swirling color patterns. A third had a set of stunning clay dishes and pottery. They didn't allow me to take pictures! (Maybe they think they're that good. Maybe they're right.) I also liked a stand selling double-helix bracelets, and another selling funky t-shirts with an artsy sketch of a lizard or a dragonfly on them.

But I wasn't there for the crafts. I crossed the street to explore the double-sided line of farmers market booths arrayed in front of the ferry building. Being the winter, many fruits were missing (out of season) so pickings were slim -- mostly winter vegetables and apples and oranges of various types. Still, I managed to find one booth selling beautiful organic strawberries -I don't know how they grew them during the winter- and I couldn't pass them up.

At the time, I thought the market was cute but really not impressive in the least. So I went inside the Ferry Building to explore the eateries and retail food purveyors. The inside is a fun place for a gourmet. I'm not going to describe it in much detail because so many other people have written about it. The best piece I've seen goes into great depth about the ferry building. But even the New York Times has written about the ferry building

In short, it's an amazing place to browse and snack. It has one store devoted to caviars and a brief menu from which one can order dishes designed to highlight them. It also has another store that just sells mushrooms -- so many kinds I've never seen before! It has one of the few retail Acme Bakeries, expertly baking dozens of different kinds of bread, and adjacent to the bakery is a Cowgirl Creamery, selling countless cheeses. There's also wine tasting, a few oyster bars, and a high-end chocolate outlet (Scharffen-Berger), to name a few.

During my marketplace wandering, I stopped by Out of the Door, a Vietnamese inspired take-out joint affiliated with the Slanted Door, and grabbed a chicken banh mi sandwich and ate it sitting behind the ferry building, comfortable in the sun and happily gazing off into the bay. As for the sandwich, it was okay, but certainly not as good as my semi-local (El Cerrito) authentic amazingly cheap lunch place. I also snacked on an oyster and grabbed some chocolate bars of assorted types to taste test later.

Near the end of my ferry building wandering, I found the rest of the farmers market! I'd only seen about a tenth of it. The other ninety percent was on a pier in the back of one side of the ferry building. Lots of booths with all sorts of vegetables, meats, fish, fruits, nuts, dried foods, and more, and some stands serving cooked meals. Now this was impressive! I spent a good portion of my time wandering through here attempting to identify all the vegetables I saw and frequently failing: so many unusual and hard to find items. Next time I visit during the market, I'll head to the back first. And also consider eating from a stand there, because some of those seemed really popular.

Two memorable sights during my journey that I've never previously witnessed:
* At the gourmet olive oil shop, a girl wearing an shirt that said "Extra Virgin."
* Elsewhere in the market, a girl wearing an "I Love Nerds" t-shirt.

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