Give me 4 hours in a city, and I'll eat two meals and sample some of the best foodie finds in whichever metropolitan area I find myself in. I'm the type of person that makes a beeline for the best food truck, market stall, cheap eats restaurant, and ice cream stand the minute I set foot in a few place, and my short visit to San Francisco was no different - I headed straight for the San Francisco Ferry Building Marketplace.
I was on a babysitting trip in San Jose for the weekend, so knew I had to maximize the four hours I had to explore San Francisco, and the Ferry Building was the perfect choice. While the building still operates as a ferry terminal (San Francisco is the City By the Bay, after all) and an office building, the real draw for me was the marketplace inside and the farmers market that sets up outside (lucky for me, on the day I was visiting!) There are dozens of food vendors in the stalls inside and outside, as well as groceries and specialty shops.
After pacing half a dozen times up and down the hall, comparing my prior research on what to eat while surveying my options in person (should I admit I put this much thought into everything I eat on the internet? Probably not, but here I am), I finally committed because my stomach was rumbling. I happily snacked on prosciutto di crudo (my guilty pleasure), prochetta di testa, and cappocollo from Boccalone - a shop literally calling to me with its tagline "tasty salted pig parts." This trio is also known as the "meat cone" of thinly sliced, salty, fatty, savory meats. My eating escapade continued with a visit to Cowgirl Creamery's Sidekick Cafe & Milk Bar for their specialty grilled cheese of the day: quince apple jam with ricotta, raclette, and Holey Cow cheeses. This was served with bread & butter pickles (I LOVE all things pickled) and I couldn't resist adding in one of my favorite flavors of one of my favorite desserts: earl grey panna cotta (a combo I'd never seen before). While I liked the jam with the cheeses, I could eat a whole pot of the earl grey panna cotta. Maybe I'll try my hand at making it myself?
As I'm recounting my afternoon I am now realizing that after this delectable dessert, I literally went straight to Humphry Slocombe for a scoop of their legendary Secret Breakfast ice cream in a cone. "Secret Breakfast" is bourbon + cornflakes, something I wasn't so sure about - I'm not a huge fan of bourbon, but this was perfectly done, slightly savory, and exactly the kind of salty sweet scoop you'd want at breakfast time. Nothing wrong with double dessert.
I reluctantly decided I should pretend to do something other than eat, so I decided to bring more food on-the-go and traipse the 452 steps up the Filbert Steps to Coit Tower. Yep, that's right - 452. I did not quite realize this when I started, but it ended up being a beautiful cardio workout through secret gardens. By the time I got to the top, I was grateful for the elevator up to the top of Coit Tower, with an expansive view of the city and the bay on a sunny, breezy, San Francisco day.
The top of the City By The Bay was a pretty nice place to enjoy my sandwich on a fresh baked baguette from Acme Bread (with Cowgirl Creamery cheese, arugula, black pepper, and sweet fruit jam). I enjoyed it with a California peach from the farmer's market that was happening right outside the Ferry Building, and I was reminded of what it was like to live in Sacramento, the Farm to Fork Capital of America where I went to farmers markets every couple of days and sampled fruit the way it it supposed to taste. I would get a whole box of strawberries and make chocolate covered strawberries and bags of peaches for homemade peach cobbler (that summer was an indulgent summer for me - and I have no regrets about that). I couldn't eat strawberries or peaches & nectarines for months after coming home from California because my California fruit was just that much better. It was nice to get a taste of that summer again.
I am slightly cringing as I type this, but after my sandwich and peach, I moved on to my third dessert of the trip from Miette: a chocolate lavender macaron (I saved the rose geranium for later that night - this was a good choice, both for me in the moment and my sweet tooth flaring up just a few hours later). Hey - all I can say is, I know how to maximize my time.
Before I came across the Ferry Marketplace in my research, plenty of the places that I got to try were already on my list. It was the perfect stop for a couple of hours and still let me try a bunch of different things. There are still San Francisco foodie institutions that I didn't get to - Tartine is definitely one of them - but I would not be opposed to more days wandering around in search of a good bite in this city, and I know the chance will come again.
Writing about my day in San Francisco here makes me feel content and at peace. This is exactly how I choose to spend my time in my ideal world: eating good food, wandering up and down the market stalls upwards of two dozen times, and exploring the city to new heights (literally). I was in San Francisco twice three summers ago when I was interning in Sacramento and enjoyed hitting all the big landmarks then, but I feel like I've grown a lot as a person since right after my freshman year of college (I'm also a college graduate now! WHAT!). It was nice to come back and have a few hours to fill exactly the way I wanted to fill them - unabashedly in pursuit of good food and a full tummy.