The Ferry Building, a BC wine and more in San Francisco

The Ferry Building in San Francisco. photo by G.Hynes

Vancouver chef, food stylist and consultant Murray Bancroft shares a page from his daybook—starting at daybreak by transporting precious foodstuffs across the border to San Francisco and finishing at midnight with a well-deserved (and legal) cigar.  It’s a tale of one great city market, one spectacular wine dinner and how he made it out alive.


You gotta have a system or this market will swallow you whole.” Wise words overheard on a late spring trip I made Stateside last year. He wasn’t talking about stocks, but the San Francisco Farmers’ Market, swarming with roving locavores, each with his or her unique system of toting, bartering  (“split that pound of artisan butter?”) and crowd-navigating worthy of a market floor anywhere in the world. Herewith, a recounting of the 20-hour marathon that resulted in a memorable Pacific Northwest wine dinner.

The Journey

4:00 a.m. After a rude awakening in Vancouver, it’s time to pack a suitcase and head for YVR.

6:00 a.m. I’ve cleared U.S. customs (whew!) with said suitcase containing: Osoyoos Larose 2001, two Thomas Haas dark chocolate bars, two B.C. honeycombs, one jar of my homemade grape mostarda, one cheese each from Farmhouse, Poplar Grove and Moonstruck Organic, two boxes of Raincoast Crisps, one chef’s knife, sharpening steel, microplane grater and various, albeit limited, personal effects (including a couple of cigars, clearly marked “Honduran.”)

9:30 a.m. Thanks to tailwinds, we touch down 45 minutes early in San Francisco—I may need it. I meet up with Mike Parker, an old friend and ad exec who has recently relocated to the Bay Area. He’s hosting tonight’s Pacific Northwest wine dinner for his wine club, and we’ve got shopping to do.


“The strawberries are going to save us,” notes the guy behind Dirty Girl Produce, referring to the late-starting season.


The Prep

11 a.m. To market to market to buy a fat salmon belly. Or not. We learn the local fishery has suddenly shut down and what remains is $30 a pound. Wild Alaskan Coho it is.

Noon: B.C. Kushi oysters are a hot commodity and the Hog Island Oyster Bar will part with only a dozen. (Note to self: next time, FedEx).

12:30 p.m. “The strawberries are going to save us,” notes the guy behind Dirty Girl Produce, referring to the late-starting season. And they save us as well; they prove to be the most delicious, sweet and succulent thing going. Baby arugula and fingerling potatoes are procured a couple of stalls down.

12:45 p.m. Some rather large cuts of organic beef are ordered from Prather Ranch Meat Company, and a pot of truffle butter from Far West Fungi ends our hunting and gathering.

1:00 p.m. Back to Hog Island to pick up the chilled oysters and a cave-aged gruyere-and-fromage blanc grilled cheese sandwich for the road.

3:00 p.m. No time for a siesta, it’s into the kitchen to prep for the dinner and open our bottles.

The Dinner

6:00 p.m. Guests begin to arrive (some with their Yahoo security passes still on). There would be 17 club members plus one enthusiastic UC Davis oenology student. We head outside for radishes with sea salt and charcuterie leading into oysters with sambal-cucumber mignonette—finishing just as the sun sets behind the Burlingame Hills. A Blue Mountain Chardonnay poured by one of the members gets some happily surprised reactions.

7:00 p.m. Slow-cooked salmon is served with arugula, followed by grilled striploin with fingerling potatoes, asparagus and truffle butter. We finish with cheese plates. Meanwhile, the remaining 20-odd wines are presented, pitched and poured by their owners.

11:00 p.m. Once the last drop has been lapped up and the final crumbs swept away, it’s time to cast votes for the winning wine of the night. In a roomful of dot coms and ad execs, the pitches are worthy of the Giants. Among some heavy hitters like a 2003 Leonetti Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington Walla Walla Valley or a rare 1999 Cayuse Vineyards Syrah, my 2001 Osoyoos Larose is victorious (a 2003 Osoyoos Larose purchased from Bishops restaurant in Vancouver by a club member was an interesting foil). Second place is awarded to the 2005 Blue Mountain Chardonnay.

Midnight: The Limovan departs with our well-lubricated guests (some of whom continue on to put a dent in another personal cellar). But one lingering guest (founder of among other things) sets up a vertical beer tasting from one of his microbreweries. Talk about a rapper at a rock concert. Honestly though, I have always found that a spot of beer or bubbles after wine does refresh the palate. Honduran stogies … not so much.


Murray Bancroft’s San Francisco Picks

Ferry Building Marketplace, One Ferry Building, 415-693-0996,

Acme Bread Company, Ferry Building, 415-288-2978 Pastries and artisan breads that are as memorable as the name.

Boulettes Larder, Ferry Building, 415-399-1177 An absolute favourite for hard-to-find ingredients like rizo nero (Italian black rice) or freeze-dried yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit).

Culinaire Antiques, Ferry Building, 415-576-1700 Rare finds from antique Mezzaluna knives to a vintage Madeleine form to give some character to your kitchen.

Far West Fungi, Ferry Building, 415-989-9090 Wild mushrooms without the foraging and value-added essentials like truffle butter and truffle salt.

Hog Island Oyster Company, Ferry Building, 415-391-7117 Sit down for raw or baked oysters, or salads like their red romaine with shaved radish, parmesan cheese and boquerones with creamy lemon dressing.

Lulu Petite, Ferry Building, 415-362-7019 After a run along the Embarcadero seawall, step in for a Meyer lemon and orange blossom lemonade or pick up a crispy chicken sandwich and baby beet salad to go.

Prather Ranch Meat Company, Ferry Building, 415-3910420 Organic, sustainable and pasture-raised meats.

Slanted Door, Ferry Building, 415-861-8032 A long-standing favourite, the Slanted Door always delivers with Vietnamese flavours and a smart wine card with lots of Riesling and Grüner Veltliner. Healthy, refreshing dishes like Manila clams with Thai basil, pork belly and chilies or grilled prawns with cellophane noodles and Imperial roll make it hard to get a table. Thankfully, a second location of their to-go branch Out the Door has recently opened in Westfield Centre.

Bin 38, 3232 Scott St., 415-567-3838, A good bet for happy hour, with its best-friends-backyard vibe. The young, fun crowd looked as though many had already spent several happy hours before we arrived.

Hotel Vitale, 8 Mission St., 415-278-3700, Check in at Hotel Vitale where the fifth floor terrace looks over the Ferry Building and Bay Bridge. Cross the street and bring back a brunch of Andante Dairy cheese, bread from Acme Bakery, strawberries and some well-chilled Prosecco for some of the best alfresco dining in town.

Pacific Catch, 2027 Chestnut St. and various locations, 415-440-1950, Check out one of their three sustainable seafood restaurants and snack on crispy oysters and jalapeño tartar sauce with an even more sustainable cold microbrew.

SPQR, 1911 Fillmore St., 415-771-7779, Rustic and very tasty dishes like deep-fried Brussels sprouts and grilled pork ribs with fennel and rosemary pair well with homemade pastas like spaghetti with garlic, olive oil, pecorino and chilies.

Spruce, 3640 Sacramento St., 415-931-5100, Located in the toney neighbourhood of Persidio Heights, but don’t let its well-heeled looks fool you. A page on the wine card reads under $50 and offers some real value. Ditto the lunch-or-dinner-eat-anywhere-in-the-room bar menu (you can take the boy out of the bar but not the bar out of the boy) with upscale classics like Caesar salads and burgers. In the dining room, the charred Berkshire pork tenderloin is enough to restore honour to an often ho-hum cut. Do look for a banquette—the white tableclothed round we sat at was about as sure on its feet as Lindsay Lohan on a Friday night.

— by Murray Bancroft


Written By:

We get many people writing guest articles for us, as well as past contributors. This is the Guest ...

Comments are closed.