The Ferry Building is an institution in San Francisco, and together with the CUESA farmer’s markets, it has come to symbolize the Bay Area’s farm-to-table food culture. More personally, it has become one of the hubs of my life here in San Francisco. My weekly visits to the Saturday farmer’s market are always a highlight, and a reminder of the amazing bread basket we live in. Of course, when it comes to fresh food the seasons always dictate, so it’s good to stay on top of things. With that in mind, I present the second edition of 10 Things to Eat at the Ferry Building, Right Now.

Edible Schoolyard Levain – Acme Bread Company

The Acme Bread Company has long been a standard bearer for San Francisco bakeries, and it’s hard to imagine the Ferry Building without them at its center. In many ways they are the heart of the place, and the smell of their bread ovens sets the tone inside. And they are dedicated to their customers: they’ll be open on Thanksgiving (with a limited selection) from 8:00 until noon.

These guys have over 100 products, and it’s hard to play favorites, but I reserve particularly high praise for the Edible Schoolyard Levain. Named for Alice Waters’ groundbreaking food education program (founder Steve Sullivan started out making bread for Chez Panisse), it’s a dense, flavorful loaf made from whole-wheat flour and rye pumpernickel flour, plus a touch of honey. It has a full, malty flavor that pairs well with milder cheeses, and that’s another good thing about Acme: Cowgirl Creamery is right next door.

Black Betty – Cowgirl Creamery

I stopped in to Cowgirl on a recent trip to the Ferry Building, looking for a chunk of Hoch Ybrig. A Swiss mountain cheese, Hoch Ybrig (pronounced ‘hockey brig’) has been a favorite of mine for years: dense and intensely flavorful with a sweet finish, it’s shot through with tiny crystals that give it an unusual texture. Alas, no dice: they didn’t have it.

Ferry Building Cowgirl

The Newly Redesigned Space at Cowgirl Creamery

When I asked for something similar, I was taken in a different direction entirely, and offered the Black Betty. Coming all the way from Fromagerie L’Amuse in Amsterdam, this goat gouda is aged for 12 months, resulting in a firm paste with pleasing notes of pineapple and brown butter. Just grab yourself a baguette next door, and you’re good to go.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake – Della Fattoria Bakery (Saturday Farmer’s Market Only)

This Petaluma bakery is such a resource, and scores on so many levels, that I can’t compliment them enough. Their selection is excellent, including some of the best breads to be had in the country, as well as stellar pastries that must be tasted to be appreciated. And they always have new items coming down the pike, keeping things interesting for people–like myself–who are here every week.

Ferry Building Della Fattoria Bakery

The Salubrious Crew at Della Fattoria Bakery

Their booth is all the way in the back by the water, and you should get there before 11:30 if you want the best selection (market hours are Saturday 8am-2pm). There is no way to go wrong here, but for starters, absolutely grab whichever loaf of bread appeals to you. They’re all exceptional, but standouts include the Sicilian Seeded Semolina, the Rosemary Meyer Lemon and the Pumpkin Seed. These are farmhouse breads, meaning they are made from natural starter rather than packaged yeast, and last twice as long as store-bought bread.

Don’t leave without trying the Pineapple Upside-Down Cake: a perfect iteration of the classic desert, it’s a sticky, buttery, pineapple-y little miracle. Get two, or only the bread is making it home.

Apple Lemon Cider – Hidden Star Orchards (Saturday Farmer’s Market Only)

When I first relocated to the West Coast over a decade ago and began shopping at local farmer’s markets, I was struck by the differences between the produce I found and what I had grown used to back east. This difference was maybe most jarring in the apples: crisper and tastier than anything I could remember having before, local Bay Area apples blew me away. Since moving here, I’ve never purchased another apple in a grocery store.

One of the first farms I found was Hidden Star Orchards. All of their apple varieties are delicious, and I particularly like their Fujis, which are a nice balance of tart and sweet. They also carry a line of ciders, one of which has been a favorite of mine for years: the Apple Lemon Cider. Lemon is the perfect foil for the sometimes cloying sweetness of apple cider in this brew, which comes near-frozen in small and medium sized containers. It’s as refreshing and satisfying as anything you’ll find to drink at the farmer’s market. Bottoms up!

Green Garlic – Multiple Farms (Saturday Farmer’s Market only)

A variety of garlic known for its peppery, grassy flavor, green garlic comes in stalks a foot long or more, and is edible tip-to-tip (some even eat the roots). Its season just began, and I’ve already worked it into the menu at Chez Content. Chopped roughly and sautéed in a combination of butter and olive oil until soft, then served with al dente noodles and dressed with plenty of reggiano parmigiano: it’s a simple dish that never fails, and it knocked my dinner guests out just the other night.

Green garlic can be used just about anywhere you would use regular garlic, and is even more versatile. Chop the green stalks finely, then mix into a bowl of fromage blanc (a soft, mild cheese you can procure at Cowgirl Creamery). Voilà! the perfect topping for crackers or sliced baguette, fresh and redolent of the garden.

Alubia Blanca Beans – Rancho Gordo

I don’t eat a great deal of meat, so I’m always looking for protein from other sources. Though I eat plenty of eggs and as much local seafood as I can get, I often look to another old favorite: the all-mighty legume.

Ferry Building Rancho Gordo

Rancho Gordo’s Alubia Blanca Beans

I know my way around the frijoles: a steady diet of rice and beans got me through college, and I learned a lot of cooking tips from the clever Latinas I grew up with in South Florida. Being a bean lover, I was thrilled to learn about the fine folks at Rancho Gordo. Their selection of heirloom varieties is encyclopedic, and their products are always last year’s harvest (there’s no way to tell the age of beans on most shelves, and they get very old). I’m a sucker for white beans, so I’m particular to the Alubia Blanca Beans. Small Spanish-style beans, these are creamy and flavorful, and great in salads, stews, or just served on their own with a little olive oil, salt and black pepper. Buona!

Whatever Jason is Pouring – Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant

This was my original wine hangout when I moved here from New York a decade ago. I first came in early one Saturday afternoon after the farmer’s market, a bag of local comestibles under my arm. Jason was behind the bar, and after getting a dose of his twisted sense of humor, it quickly became a regular thing. He figured out my palate in no time, and Saturdays took on a pattern: a stroll around the farmer’s market for groceries, followed by a couple of hours at the bar at FPWM, preamble to another blackout Saturday night in North Beach or the Mission.

Needless to say, I stopped doing that (every Saturday, anyway), but I still love this place. You can bring anything you want to eat as long as you’re buying drinks, which makes for some amazing indoor picnics, especially on market days. They get tourists, locals, foodies and ferry commuters of all sorts, and the crowd varies wildly from hour to hour. The wines they serve by the glass are well-chosen and change often, and yes, Jason is still behind the stick on Saturdays. Go see him, and tell him Joe said hello.

Orange Strawberry Lemon Juice – Sow Juice

Sow opened their first brick and mortar location in one of the new spaces in front of the Ferry Building last November, and they’ve settled nicely into the new expansion’s lineup of Marla Bakery, Fort Point Beer Company, Dandelion Chocolate and Blue Bottle. I don’t drink much juice, so I haven’t been giving them a lot of business. But a few days ago, they had a special that I couldn’t resist: Orange Strawberry Lemon Juice.

Ferry Building Sow Juice

The New Location of Sow Juice in Front of the Ferry Building

The combination sounded intriguing on paper, and it definitely works in the cup. Orange can dominate when blended with other juices, but balanced by the tartness of the lemon and the berry’s perfume, it yields a fresh, almost tropical flavor that is an argument for regular visits. Delish.

Blackberries – Multiple Farms (Saturday Farmer’s Market only)

One of the persistent joys of the Northwest is the long berry season. I’ve been getting local blackberries since the Spring, and the beauties that I picked up at Yerena Farms on Saturday were some of the best I’ve seen all year. They are sweeter than any I’ve ever had, with every third berry just tart enough to remind you of the difference. Terrific to bake with, but they never can last that long in my house. Get ‘em while you can.

Brown Sugar and Fennel Salame – Boccalone

In a city full of food luminaries, Chris Cosentino is one of our most famous sons. He did great things at his pioneering nose-to-tail restaurant Incanto in Noe Valley, and his appearances on The Next Iron Chef and Top Chef have made him a household word in food circles. His Boccalone has been crafting artisanal charcuterie for Ferry Building crowds since 2007, and he recently opened Cockscomb, which continues his commitment to whole-animal cuisine (a current entrée: wood oven roasted pig’s head).

A Fan Enjoys a Cone of Brown Sugar Fennel Salame at Boccalone

A Fan Enjoys a Cone of Brown Sugar Fennel Salame at Boccalone

Cosentino’s got a lot of good stuff in his shop (or as his tagline says, Tasty Salted Pig Parts), but my favorite is still the Brown Sugar and Fennel Salame: a coarse-grind salame with just enough fennel flavor, it carries a hint of caramel from the brown sugar, with no sweetness. It is delicious, and sliced thin, it’s perfect for sandwiches or the charcuterie plate. Going home for the holidays? Toss a couple of these in your bag, and make someone you love happy.