I love living in the Duke City, but like many Burqueños, there are times I need to stretch my brain and see what the rest of the world is up to. A handful of places lure me to their special brand of living large, and one of them is a city that knows not only how to survive, but how to make rebuilding an art form.
In San Francisco, a phoenix has risen from the derelict Ferry Building. Built in 1898, the building was the hub for inland trains and ferries crossing the bay—the center of a financial district growing out of the Embarcadero Pier. The building began to lose traffic with the opening of the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate in the ‘30s, and the advent of motorcars. The ’70s construction of the Embarcadero Freeway obscured the view of the Ferry Building façade and relegated it to a dark walkway between the pier and Justin Herman Plaza. Ironically an earthquake brought it back to life.
The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake had soundly shaken San Francisco. The Embarcadero Freeway was in ruins and would not be rebuilt. Instead the Ferry Building, again visible against the bay, was reimagined by forward-looking city planners and entrepreneurs and remodeled for a new audience in 2003.
Today the Ferry Terminal is jam-packed with locals and tourists alike, shopping and dining at the nearly 50 shops and restaurants that offer only sustainable, natural and organic foods. In early summer, my friend Mike Wing had a conference near the pier, so I tagged along to visit a mall devoted to some of the best food in the world.
Imagine the blocks of shops: McEvoy Ranch; Cowgirl Creamery, which sells their own and other gourmet dairy products and cheeses; Boccalone Salumeria’s “Tasty Salted Pig Parts” where house-made salamis, cured sausages and even lardo chill; the Slanted Door Vietnamese Restaurant; Hog Island Oyster Company; Acme Bread Company; El Porteño Empanadas Argentinas; Prather Ranch Meat Company; San Francisco Fish Company; and more and more.
Today the Ferry Terminal is jam-packed with locals and tourists alike, shopping and dining at the nearly 50 shops and restaurants that offer only sustainable, natural and organic foods.
The lines to Slanted Door wind onto the pier where customers from many shops sit at tables with plates full of fresh oysters, pizza or tapas and listen to the screech of gulls diving into the bay. I recharged myself and recharged my phone while sipping a latté at Peet’s Coffee and Tea. After a gourmet Asian fast food lunch with friend Sharon Tracz at Delica, we enjoyed afternoon tea at the Imperial Tea Court. A couple conversed over a dozen wine glasses at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant.
The next day I met Gus Vespa for a game of pétanque on the plaza, and we had lunch with a friend at Il Cane Rosso, a stand-in-line sandwich shop that features an unctuously moist beef brisket sandwich made with Prather Ranch beef. I finished my tour with scoops of Ciao Bella’s blackberry and passion fruit gelato.
Tuesdays and Thursdays, the sidewalk in front of the building is lined with market vendors selling produce, home-baked goods and food-truck fare from local farms and businesses.
After four days in the city, as tasty as it was, Mike and I escaped across the Golden Gate Bridge through Sonoma wine country, past the Muir Woods and Korbel vineyards, 83 miles north to the Redwood forests to Raymond’s Bakery in Cazadero, California. We were meeting longtime friends Patty and Edo Marigliano and their son Sammy who have known proprietors Mark and Elizabeth Weiss since their Lindy hop days in the Bay area.
When we arrived late Friday evening, the bakery was sending out hot, crusty pizza to tables indoors and on the patio where nearly a hundred customers were clapping to live music. The beer and wine flowed freely, and I felt as if the ’60s were alive and well in these north woods.
But morning found them short one staff member, so I volunteered to help Mark, Elizabeth and core staff Cory, Alan and Tiffany for an early turn in the bakery, prepping a carload of crusty breads, Danishes, giant cookies, tarts, savory turnovers and other pastries for the trip to Santa Rosa’s Organic Market. By 7:30am Mark was on his way, and I joined Elizabeth, her three children and the rest of the late risers in the bakery kitchen where the smell of warm pastries still lingered.
I should mention, Raymond’s operates a handful of guest accommodations year-round. The Elim Grove Cottages vary in size and are designed for a cozy stay. Most cottages have shelves full of cookbooks. While I spent a quiet morning after the early shift, Mike and friends were walking the nearby woods where streams run clear, and the trees reach over 1,000 years of age.
In the compound there was a smoker and an outdoor grill where Mark worked his magic on roast pork and chicken, and we feasted into the evening with grilled vegetables, Mark’s cherry tomatoes in balsamic glaze, the bakery’s fabulous rosemary wheat bread and lots of storytelling.
The next time you want a change from the stuccoed vistas of the Duke City, what better than a trip to the San Francisco Bay, and a hideaway at Raymond’s in the wine country?