Thursday, April 24, 2014

Boudin Bakery - San Francisco's Oldest Continuously Running Company

Our most favourite thing to do in San Francisco is eat. And each time we visit we try to chose one special food place to go to. One year, when we owned a fine dining restaurant, we went to Chez Panisse in Berkley.

Chez Panisse opened its doors in 1971, founded by Alice Waters and a group of idealistic friends. A neighborhood bistro, it is named after Honoré Panisse, a character in Marcel Pagnol’s 1930s movie trilogy about waterfront life in Marseille (Marius, Fanny, and César), as an homage to the sentiment, comedy, and informality of these classic films.

From the beginning, Alice and her partners tried to do things the way they would like them done at a dinner party at home, with generosity and attention to detail. The restaurant, located downstairs, is open for dinner Monday through Saturday, by reservation only. The fixed dinner menu consists of three to four courses. The menu which changes every night is designed to be appropriate to the season and composed to feature the finest sustainably-sourced, organic, and seasonal ingredients including meat, fish, and poultry.

Alice Walters is considered to be the "Mother of California Cuisine" by all in the restaurant industry.

We booked a table months in advance and then decided to use public transportation (tram car then the BART) to get from our hotel in the Marina District to the restaurant in Berkeley. We were told the trip would take an hour - it took an hour and a half so we arrived late for our reservation. And, as it was before the age of the cell phone, we could not call them. 

The way the restaurant works it that everyone coming for dinner that evening is seated and served at the same time. So, when we arrived, we found everyone seated and and waiting for us to start dinner. "Oh" the maitre d' said, "we knew you would be here". Wow! A class act.

Another time we went to The Fog City Diner:
Another legend in the restaurant industry. Don't you love the name?
This time we decided on Boudin Bakery at Fisherman's Wharf;

From a tiny, old-world bakery on San Francisco's Dupont Street, Boudin has evolved to the state-of-the-art facility you see above - and is San Francisco's oldest continuously running company. 

In 1849, the Boudin family struck culinary gold. They discovered that the wild yeasts in the San Francisco air imparted a unique tang to their traditional French bread, giving rise to “San Francisco sourdough French bread.” Today, the Boudin family's initial recipe lives on in the hands and hearts of their expert bakers, with a portion of the original mother dough still starting each and every sourdough loaf they make.

As you walk by the bakery location at Fisherman's Wharf you can see the bakers at work through a huge viewing window:
This man makes these little teddy bears all day long
And, once inside, you can view the bakery from above:
The baked bread is delivered to a sales area downstairs:
Via this ceiling trolley:
A trolley, how San Francisco is that!?
Also upstairs is a museum that tells the history of the bakery and a bistro that serves a full dining menu. Downstairs there is a casual cafe and patio where you can sit after ordering and picking up your food at a service counter. And a shop where you can purchase many food related gadgets, books, etc.

We chose to eat downstairs on the patio:
I had my favourite, homemade tomato soup, and Arch ordered the clam chowder and a half roast beef sandwich. The soups were served in a bread bowl - of course! 
It was a lot of food and I ended up carting Arch's sandwich around in my purse for the rest of the day. He had it for lunch the next day.

I love homemade tomato soup so here is an easy recipe for it.

1/2 cup olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
3 carrots, diced
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and medium-diced
4 teaspoons minced garlic
3 cups diced (1-inch) sourdough bread cubes (remove crust before dicing)
2 (28-ounce) cans Italian plum tomatoes
4 cups vegetable stock (I use vegetable but you may prefer chicken)
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, fennel, and garlic and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until tender. Add the bread cubes and cook for 5 more minutes. Place the tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process just until coarsely chopped. Add the tomatoes to the pot along with the stock, red wine, basil, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and allow to simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes.

Remove from the heat and beat the soup with a wire whisk until the bread is broken up. Stir in the Parmesan and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot sprinkled with toasted sourdough bread croutons and chopped fresh basil.

If feeling ambitious, you could buy some small round loaves of sourdough bread to serve the soup in.

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  1. I am sorry we missed this place on both our trips to that area. Next time for sure! I love the bread animals:)

    The restaurant in Berkeley reminds of Hell's Backbone Kitchen in Boulder Utah near Capital Reef NP.

    1. A spot to add to our must visit list if we ever get to Utah


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