Shut Up and Take My Money

Coffee at Ferry Plaza//

I’m not sure how I got on Blue Bottle‘s mailing list, but does it really matter?

Or, rather, is anyone at all surprised that I’m on Blue Bottle’s mailing list, given my inclination to wax poetic about their coffee (about which they already wax well beyond poetic) every time I have the opportunity to have it – in SF, straight from the pour-over bar or in the form of a perfect cappuccino or even from a waxed carton of New Orleans-style iced coffee, or in Brooklyn on a hot day, or at lab after randomly running into the proprietor on the other side of the country while standing in line at, you guessed it, Blue Bottle.

All of this being a preamble to the “well, obviously” moment when I mentioned to N that Blue Bottle had introduced coffee subscriptions that included a free 2 oz trial by mail.

Our wee packet of Bella Donovan beans arrived earlier this week and was tucked away for this morning, the first day of vacation, as perfect a summer day as we’re likely to have in Chicago, where over the last 10 days we’ve slipped from early spring into high summer weather with no regard for the dates on the calendar. The toddler was awake at 5am, our stroller run was middling, our trip to the park culminated in tears and tantrums, and the breakfast I’d looked forward to making all week was a disaster.

But the coffee was solid. I couldn’t tell you whether it was “warm, comforting, [or] familiar” because mine was mostly lukewarm by the time I had wrangled my over-tired child into dreamland, but it did feel awfully luxurious to have really good beans (instead of the $5/pound grocery store variety) in the grinder, and an actual bloom on the grounds when I used the pour-over, and a cup of coffee to look forward to for more than just reasons of survival.

Farewell, SF!

With little more than hours remaining on our honeymoon trip, we had to make some tough choices.  Where could we go for breakfast with all of our luggage?  What foods needed to come home with us?  How much could we realistically stuff in our suitcases?  And where would we get our last cups of coffee?

Answer: Blue Bottle. Blue Bottle. More than we did. And Blue Bottle.

The Ferry Plaza farmers’ market runs on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, so we decided to see if we couldn’t get one last perfect sandwich out of the trip.  The Roli Roti stand hadn’t arrived when we rolled in with all of our luggage, so we settled inside at the Blue Bottle counter, cappuccinos and ACME rolls in hand to tide us over.

Blue Bottle Ferry Building
Photo by niallkennedy

An hour’s a long time to wait when you have a perfect sandwich on the brain. We finished our coffees and wandered in and out of the stands as they opened, buying a bag of Amaro Gayo Washed (which gave me the most lovely coffee buzz every time I opened my bag for the rest of the day), Rancho Gordo beans, fancy granola for our car-sitters, and a very fresh Pliny for Shane’s lunch.

Roli Roti Porchetta Sandwich
Photo by wonggawei

One last perfect sandwich, this one consumed sitting on a bench in perfect weather while Shane sipped his Pliny from a paper cup. The same crispity skin, flavorful meat, and crusty bread. No doubt: this was the right choice. With another hour until I had to leave for the airport – and some room left in our stomachs after splitting the sandwich, we hopped on a bus to the Mission, where we would part ways for a day while I flew home and Shane followed on a separate flight. What better way to go out than with ice cream from Bombay Ice Creamery:

jamine tea ice cream
Photo by Jason Schlachet

With at least 2 dozen exotic options and only 2 samples allowed per person, we had our work cut out for us. I had the young coconut – sweet but not overwhelmingly so – and before you ask, I have no idea what differentiates young coconut from regular or old coconut. Shane had a scoop of pineapple-something – maybe pineapple coconut? – which he found to be too pineappley for his tastes.

I can think of no better way to end a vacation than with a drippy ice cream cone and my sweetheart. Thanks for a really great time, San Francisco. We’ll be back as soon as we can.

If you go:
Bombay Ice Creamery
552 Valencia St (between 16th & 17th)
San Francisco, CA 94110-1115
(415) 621-1717

Choose your samples wisely, but make sure to get something out of the ordinary. No point in getting Cookies & Cream when STAR WARS is on offer.

The Beginning of a Beautiful Obsession

Let’s not talk about the cocktails we had in the hotel bar last night, or about the quantity of chili almonds that I ate while drinking those (bourbon) cocktails. Suffice to say that I woke up this morning feeling toxic and in need of coffee and greasy breakfast – but a goood greasy breakfast. While Shane was in the shower, I concocted a plan for the day, and we stumbled down the street in a hung over haze in search of breakfast at Blue Bottle’s Mint Plaza shopfront. Little did we know that we were about to encounter a coffee dreamworld.

A $20,000 syphon brewing system, where water heated by a halogen lamp rises up through the grounds to make a perfectly smooth cup of coffee:

Syphon Pot

An iced coffee system that redefines slow brewing: water passes through the grounds one drip at a time over the course of eight hours. Eight hours!

Kyoto Iced Coffee

And, of course, perfect pour-over coffee and espresso drinks made with care. Such was our infatuation with this place that we actually had breakfast here two days in a row – but I’ll spare you two posts’ worth of drooling and instead give you one overly-enthusiastic one.

Blue Bottle Breakfast #1

Breakfast #1: a grilled ham and gruyere sandwich for me and a fabulous frittata with goat cheese, sweet corn, and red pepper puree for Shane. I coveted that frittata. I dream of that frittata. Fortunately he shared a few bites, and we shared two syphon pots of Amaro Gayo and Guatemalan Guya’b, enjoying the former much more than the latter. As we were sitting in the front window enjoying our breakfast, we spotted the owner of one of our favorite Ann Arbor coffee spots standing in line for his own breakfast. What are the chances?!

Shane's first cappuccino

Breakfast #2: less hungry and less hung over, so we shared the dreamy frittata and thick slabs of ACME toast, along with two beautiful cappuccinos – Shane’s first!  His tastes in espresso drinks previously leaned in the vanilla latte direction, so this was a revelation, and the beginning of a beautiful obsession.


If you go:
Blue Bottle Mint Plaza
66 Mint St
San Francisco, CA 94103-1800

Go for brunch on Sunday or to just admire the beautiful coffee equipment – while drinking amazing coffee, of course.

Ferry Plaza and the Most Perfect Sandwich

When I dream of San Francisco, it is more often than not about the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market.  While Michigan ranks highly in agricultural diversity despite our relatively abbreviated growing season, California’s a whole other animal.  If you’re eating strawberries in January, there’s a good chance they’re from California.  Same thing if you’re eating asparagus in the October.  The climate is moderate and  the growing seasons long, and the farmer’s market evinces this bounty.

"Take a picture of me with this giant carrot!"

We haven’t seen strawberries in the market since late June, but they were at Ferry Plaza, as were avocados and intensely wonderful plums (flavor grenade!) and giant carrots and lavender salt and Cowgirl Creamery cheeses and so many other things that we just couldn’t buy, not with a week to go until returning home and no source of refrigeration.

But first things first: coffee and breakfast. If you walk around the right side of the Ferry Plaza Market on a Saturday morning, you’ll be hit by a wave of delicious smells: roasting vegetables, frying eggs, and coffee. Coffee worth pretentious descriptions and standing in a long line. Blue Bottle actually has three locations at the Saturday market – the permanent stand in the Ferry Plaza building, plus two outside kiosks at opposite ends of the market. Shane queued up and perused the coffee descriptions while I scoped out the other locations, where the lines were just as long.


Used to the pour-over options at Comet, we were a little confused when we got to the front of the line and couldn’t choose our beans. We walked away with two damned fine cups of coffee and some good advice on beans to try next time. Because oh, there will be a next time.

Blue Bottle

Coffee in hand, we followed our noses to the Roli/Roti food cart, where we encountered a beautiful sight:


Have you had porchetta? I thought I had, but my memories had nothing on this. Using the rotisserie technique that most of us have encountered in grocery store chickens, the pork roasts slowly and evenly, and the skin turns into crisp flavorful candy. The owner, son of a Swiss Master Butcher, handed us scraps of meat as we waited in line, and we were sold. Sold sold sold.

Most Perfect Sandwich

Oh my god, you guys. I know I can wax hyperbolic about food on occasion, but this sandwich! It really might’ve been the best sandwich either of us have ever had – and remember we live in the land of Zingerman’s. The pork was moist, herb-infused and intensely flavored, with a fair portion of crispy skin. On top of the pork, crunchy greens and some sort of jammy onions, all of which is piled onto an ACME roll. We dug in, giving a sticky thumbs up to the owner when he called out to see how we liked it.

If you go:
Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market
One Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 291-3276

The farmer’s market is best experienced Saturday morning (8am-2pm), though it also runs Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am-2pm.  In addition the Ferry Building has many permanent vendors and restaurants, including Cowgirl Creamery, ACME Bread Co., Boccalone, Sur La Table, and Slanted Door.

Variety of locations, but appearing at the Ferry Plaza Market on Thursdays and Saturdays

RoliRoti is in the running for The Great Food Truck Race – they’re not on the show currently, but might be on a subsequent season? I’ll admit to making a huge mess of my phone trying to vote mid-sandwich.