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San Francisco ’11 – Part 7

Today we take a look around the new Boudin Bakery & Cafe at the Fisherman’s Wharf of San Francisco. Well, while this 26,000 square feet, high volume bakery, retail shop, restaurant and museum location is relatively new (opened in 2005), Boudin Bakery the company has been around for a long, long time, established in San Francisco in 1849.

Sourdough was the main bread made in Northern California during the California Gold Rush era, and it remains a part of the culture of San Francisco today. Boudin is the largest and oldest, with many more San Francisco-based bakeries out there now competing for market share, including Semifreddi’s and Acme Bread Company, to name a few.

The wild “lacto bacillus San Francisco” contained in the mother dough gives each loaf its distinctive “sour” tang, and is site specific, changing in response to the ambient temperature and humidity. This group of wild microorganisms thrive in the Bay Area’s unique climate, working together in a feat of culinary science to produce San Francisco’s unique Sourdough bread formula. While most breads are leavened using a single genetic strain of commercial yeast—trading flavor for consistency and predictability—sourdough relies on these wild microorganisms for leavening as well as flavor. Using a bowl of flour and water as bait, the baker makes a starter by capturing yeasts and bacteria (including lactobacillus sanfrancisco) from the air, the mixing bowl itself, even the baker’s hands. Feeding on the flour, these microorganisms begin to multiply. The yeasts give off carbon dioxide, which makes the dough rise, while the bacteria produce lactic acid and acetic acid (vinegar), which contribute the sour flavor. Once the dough is made, a bit of it is folded back into the unused portion of the starter, providing sustenance for the ever-growing colony of wee wildies, which is henceforth known as “the mother.” Fed a regular diet of flour and water, this mother strain continues to multiply, creating new “babies” every day, producing descendents indefinitely. In fact, the Boudin Bakery still uses the same “mother” strain that was created by Isidore more than 150 years ago.

Learn more about the fascinating history of San Francisco Sourdough here and here.

Without further ado, let’s check out Boudin Bakery & Cafe at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf!

I brought home a bunch of 1 lb. Sourdough rounds for omiyage, but I should have grabbed a couple of these half-pound rounds to use as soup bowls, as the 1-pounders are too big for that…

What’s funny is, when I asked that gentleman to give the camera a “shaka”, while showing him how to do it and explaining that it means “greetings” and “hang loose” in Hawaii, he was rather confused in how to position his fingers, having to look at his hand to make sure he was doing it right. lol

You know your bakery is way cool and hit it BIG when it has its own automated ceiling-suspended bread basket-on-a-track delivery system…

Now THAT’s what you call a cool bakery!

About half of the bakery’s retail space is occupied by a gift shop featuring culinary goods made by various third party local companies. This is just one of many display racks stocked with gourmet coffee, cooking oils, herbs & spices, dishware, cookbooks and much more…

Here’s the Boudin Bakers Hall Cafe menu…

I didn’t get around to eating at the Cafe, but if I did, I’d probably order the Tomato, Basil & Garlic Sourdough Pizza. Sounds yum!

Finally, luring in passersby from the bustling Fisherman’s Wharf sidewalk, is an open window kitchen where Boudin pastry chefs give live demonstrations on how their Sourdough bread is made, as well as making whimsical creatures out of it to keep the keiki entertained…

Man, if there’s a such a thing as a “Sourdough Bread Heaven”, Boudin Bakery here at Fisherman’s Wharf is exactly what that would look like. Neat shop!

You may remember in my last post I featured Clam Chowder in a Sourdough Bread Bowl from the Crab Station…

Boudin Bakery is just footsteps away from the Crab Station, however I’m not sure if all the vendors get their Sourdough Bread from Boudin, as I seen a few who had packaged Sourdough Bread for sale made by another company (IIRC, it was ACME).

If I lived in the Bay Area, I’d definitely do my own “Best San Francisco Sourdough Bread Shootout”. As it is, I don’t, however a quick Google search yielded an article at SFGate.com (San Francisco Chronicle) titled “TASTER’S CHOICE: The surprising truth about San Francisco Sourdough“. This taste test didn’t include the more established “Big Boys” such as Boudin, but instead focused on baguettes from newer companies, often baker-owned. The aim was to see what a new generation is doing with a venerable classic.

Interestingly, the winner of that blind taste test was La Brea Bakery out of L.A., not San Fran’! So does that mean this whole “secret’s in the San Francisco air” thing is just a myth? Or perhaps they got their “mother dough” from San Francisco, and all the future bread they bake are spawned from that. Food for thought.

I know our local Safeway bakes fresh Sourdough Bread in both round and elongated loaf shapes. I’ll have to try it and see how it compares to Boudin, which I have a couple 1 lb. round-shaped loaves sitting in my freezer from this trip.

On the second half of our visit to San Fran’, we moved from the Grand Hyatt in the downtown area to the Hyatt at Fisherman’s Wharf

Greeting us in our room upon check-in, a complimentary bottle of Zinfandel paired with an array of dry fruit, nuts, cheese, organic honey and of course, San Francisco Sourdough Baguettes…

That Zinfandel paired BEAUTIFULLY with the sharpness of the cheese, earthiness of the nuts and dry fruit, and golden sweetness of the honey. Very, very nice!

The following morning we decided to order room service for breakfast…


Hyatt at Fisherman’s Wharf Room Service Amenities: “Awaken Your Senses” Breakfast


Cranberry Juice, fresh-squeezed Grapefruit Juice, fresh-squeezed Orange Juice and Torrefazione Italia® Coffee


Sourdough French Toast: Dipped in Eggless Batter, Served with Peach Compote. $14


Corned Beef Hash: Poached Cage Free Eggs and Chipotle Sauce (omitted). $15


Three Egg Omelet: With Cheddar, Bacon and Ham. $15


Golden Gate Breakfast Sandwich: Hobb’s Honey Cured Ham, Cage Free Fried Eggs, White Cheddar, Sauteed Onion and Napa Valley Mustard. $14


Seasonal Fruits and Berries. $10


Rice

If you’re from Hawaii and work in a restaurant on the mainland, if you seen rice on this ticket, you’d probably think to yourself, “Hmmm, I bet these guests are either asian, or they’re locals from Hawaii.” The plate may already have potatoes, noodles or bread as a starch, but still, gotta’ get RICE! LOL

Here’s the Hyatt at Fisherman’s Wharf entire “Awaken Your Senses” room service amenities breakffast menu…

So how was everything? DELICIOUS. No, DELICIOSO! I ordered the Golden Gate Breakfast Sandwich, and everything in it tasted very fesh, using high quality ingredients. So did all the other dishes I got to sample a bite of.

But WOW, that Sourdough Bread French Toast with Peach Compote was particularly STEL-LAR!

Seriously, this is probably one of the BEST BREAKFAST DISHES I’ve ever put in my mouth. The chewy texture and slight twang/tang/shlang of the Sourdough, when combined with the roasty-toasty battered crust and sweet ‘n sour, totally fruity encompassing contrast of the Peach Compote, truly takes French Toast to levels previously unknown to mankind. Bam!

Seriously, EASILY 10 SPAM Musubi awarded for Hyatt at Fisherman’s Wharf Sourdough French Toast with Peach Compote’s themed “Awaken Your Senses” breakfast dish.

I’m DEFINITELY gonna’ make this using one of the Boudin Sourdough Bread loaves I have in my freezer. I’ll think of some local Hawaii fruits for the compote, while I’ll probably add Macadamia nuts to the batter for a nutty texture contrast and serve it with Coconut syrup. Sound gooooooo’oud, eh? lol

I was going to include a trip to Ghirardelli Square in this post, but decided to separate for the next post to keep this one from being too drawn out (as not any of previous posts recently haven’t already been drawn out). lol

So next up, an excursion to Ghirardelli Square to check out their “mock” Chocolate Factory (for display purposes only), and a few more musings along Fisherman’s Wharf. I may even be able to wrap up the rest of this San Francisco trip travelog in the next post. We’ll see.

27 thoughts on “San Francisco ’11 – Part 7

  • January 2, 2012 at 6:57 pm
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    It’s only about 3 1/2 hour drive via I-80 to Reno, NV to John Ascuaga’s Nugget Casino! Been there done that as I visit Reno all most every year!!!! If you visit Guittard Chocolate Company, San Fran you might be able to get some North Shore Oahu Chocolate rated best “single estate” chocolate in the world!

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  • January 2, 2012 at 7:08 pm
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    Ken, they sell North Shore Oahu Chocolate right here at the KCC Farmers Market (surprise!), which I’ve tried a sample of. Good stuff.

    How do you like Reno, compared to Las Vegas? I really thought Boulder City near Hoover Dam was the kind of town I could live in Nevada. Seemed like a quaint, well-kept town with a tight-knit community, with its isolation from the city being a plus. I really don’t think I could ever call any town that’s land-locked my permanent home, though (and Lake Mead is drying up at an alarming rate). That’s the Pisces in me.

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    • January 3, 2012 at 4:24 pm
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      My godchild lives in Reno. Not a bad place. Easy access to Lake Tahoe. Not as crazy as Vegas. No humidity but when the sun goes down it sure cools off fast. I purchase my North Shore chocolate at Dole because of the discount given. Hilo Hattie main store also sells North Shore chocolate. I was at the Chocolate Show in New York City this November and North Shore chocolate was first to sell out. Ranked very high in the world for single estate chocolate.

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  • January 2, 2012 at 7:16 pm
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    Lulu Petite at the Ferry Building Market sells sourdough starters that you can lug back to the 50th. Just make sure you replace 50% of the starter on a weekly basis to keep it goin’…

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  • January 2, 2012 at 7:37 pm
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    Ryan, thanks for the tip. I’m curious if having a “starter” or “mother” dough will continue to foster the resulting baked Sourdough’s flavor over time as it evolves, just by having that. If so, just about anyone anywhere can make sourdough bread with that San Francisco taste, right?

    On another note, I notice you’re a Pharm.D. My girlfriend’s sister is a Clinical Pharmacist as well, practicing at a federal veterans outpatient clinic in the north-west US. I should resource her chemistry smarts to come up with the ultimate Sourdough Bread recipe! After all, baking IS a science. Ha!

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    • January 3, 2012 at 5:25 pm
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      According to King Arthur Flour each individual “starter” or “mother” dough will develop its own distinct character taste and tang. It’s particularly the strain of wild yeast floating in the air that really develops the flavor and makes it unique. Go to the sourdough starter link I posted and if you want more information click on [education] then click on [baking tips and primers] and finally click on [Sourdough primer]. Note: according to King Arthur Flour the 1 oz. of starter they sell for $6.95 has been around for 240 years. They just keep feeding it and selling 1 oz. jars of it!

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      • January 3, 2012 at 7:37 pm
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        Ken, I read through the comments in the King Arthur link you provided, and it sounds like you have to let the starter develop for a long time before using it. I’m curious in how the air here in Honolulu (nearer to the waterfront) would affect and introduce its own yeasts to the starter. I’m DEFINITELY going to read more on the science of sourdough and try making my own. Thanks for all the info’!

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        • January 3, 2012 at 8:01 pm
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          Pomai go to the King Arthur link and look at the sourdough recipes. The one to really look at is grape sourdough starter and then think Hawaii for what we grow here.

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          • January 3, 2012 at 8:20 pm
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            Ah, grape sourdough. That’s exactly what I need, is where to focus in my research, as surely there’s TONS of variations to this Yeast-developing madness.Thanks again for the tip!

  • January 3, 2012 at 3:53 am
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    Pomai, enjoyed the photos of your stay in San Francisco. So far I am now hook on sourdough bread. I didn’t care before till I went to San Francisco and had it . There a Safeway on Taraval St. in sunset district San Francisco that make the best forcacia bread with cheddar cheese and jalapeno pepper. Other Safeways does not make that good .
    The reason is she the only female baker in this store all other Safeways in San Francisco or California are guys and Chinese too funny. No matter what day the forcacia sold out before noon and people kept on asking for more. She put lot cheese and jalapeno peppers on it that why is so good . Not other stores. Their sourdough breads is good fresh every day too.

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  • January 3, 2012 at 7:05 pm
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    That is some expensive bread. I guess the kooky crab shapes are hard to make?

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    • January 3, 2012 at 7:33 pm
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      Taj, if you think the bread’s expensive here, you’ll be even more sticker-shocked in the rest of the gift shop. Think Executive Chef.

      The creature-shaped breads are indeed WAY overpriced, and I’m guessing has a much more inferior texture to the standard round loaves, especially in the thinner arm sections.

      I’m surprised you didn’t mention the room service menu prices. Woo-ha!

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      • January 6, 2012 at 10:20 pm
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        Hi pomai,
        Thanks for the reply!
        I guess I’m amazed at the price of a staple (bread), as opposed to hotel room service where it’s a given that we pay more.
        It’s a tough call – room service bacon and eggs for sixteen dollars or walk to docks for crab shaped loaf of bread for sixteen dollars.
        Hmmmm let me think.
        cheers,
        T/

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  • January 3, 2012 at 8:47 pm
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    Pomai, Hubby and I were there, Nov, 2010, actually arrived the night the Giants won the World Series…n e ways, he knows I ‘have to get my crab on”, so the following day, after picking up the rental car, we drive to F-Wharf and did our strolling. I love that place soooo much, the freezing cold weather, the friendly people (well most of them-lol) and the place I got my “Crab on”, which at this time slips my memory bank, but the waitresses name was Vicky (I remember her cuz thats my sisters name). She was great and the dungenous crab, I did not want it dressed up and spoiled, I asked for it in its natural juices and left alone, just boiled and served, I can open it myself. I can’t help it, the juice is sooo rich and sooo good and not so good for you eaten on a daily basis I’m thinking. But whenever we fly there, I have to have it. There’s something about eating it there, on the wharf, with the cold weather. Hubby had the clam chowder in the sourdough bowl, which of course, he really loved too. Mahalo for your blogs, they’re entertaining, funny, and informative, unfortunately, they really make me hungry! lol lol a hui hou!

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    • January 3, 2012 at 9:36 pm
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      lownslow808, ironic you mention crab. I have a post I’m working on coming soon that will feature a dinner we had while in SF’s Nobb Hill area (Polk St.) at Crustacean, famous for their Roast Dungeness Crab and Garlic Noodles. The Roast Crab is dressed up just a little with their “secret spices”, while you certainly can taste the essence and sweetness of the crab itself. Ono stuff!

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  • January 6, 2012 at 10:08 am
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    Thx for the great comments. Will share your experience.

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    • January 7, 2012 at 9:31 am
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      J.T., HUGE mahalos for all the AMAZING HOSPITALITY. YOU ROCK!!!

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  • January 6, 2012 at 6:38 pm
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    mmmmmm chowder in the bread bowl mmmmm

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    • January 7, 2012 at 9:29 am
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      I have a “local twist” idea to that, which I’ll post somewhat soon. Bet you’ll never figure it out!

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  • January 7, 2012 at 3:03 am
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    Pomai, glad you enjoyed yourself in San Francisco. Did you rode the cable car any where? I did with my cousins just to shop around in supermarket on Columbus in North Beach. Must not forget the beef jerky on Jackson and Taylor St. known as the best ever made there. The only way I got there is on the cable car.

    I like the fortune cookies made fresh on Stockton next to the Walgreen Store in the factory. You can’t miss it just follow your nose to aroma of cookies

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    • January 7, 2012 at 3:24 am
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      It Mee Mee Bakery at 1328 Stockton St.next to Walgreen.

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    • January 7, 2012 at 9:33 am
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      Amy, we rode and experienced on what I think are most of the well known public transit systems in San Francisco, including MUNI, F-LINE Street Car and, most importantly, the Cable Car. Plus our own rent-a-car. SF seems like a pretty easy place to navigate; if I get lost, I’ll just head to the bay for The Embarcadero and work my way back up! Or I might stay at some restaurant there and pass off wherever the heck I was going. lol

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  • January 7, 2012 at 3:19 pm
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    Next post- Portugese bean soup in a bread bowl?
    Beef stew in a bread bowl?
    Chicken curry in a bread bowl?
    Pork chowder in a bread bowl?

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    • January 7, 2012 at 5:23 pm
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      Hah! You guessed CORRECT! But I not going tell you which one. He he.

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  • January 10, 2012 at 2:40 pm
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    Thanks for the Kudos on your food! Next time your here say aloha.

    Chef Jason
    Hyatt at Fishermans Wharf

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  • January 22, 2012 at 6:20 pm
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    Pomai, Boudin holds a special memory for my family: About five years ago, we took a a family trip to S.F. and stopped in front of the Boudin window to watch them make the little animal breadss. While there were several kids watching, one of the older bakers took a liking to my daughter (who was in kindergarten), demonstrated how he made a mini-turtle, and then gestured for us to go inside. When we went inside, he held up a package, told me daughter that the dough turtle was inside, and asked her to help him bake it by counting to 3 and then blowing on it. When she did that, he opened up the package, and there was a hot, freshly baked, mini-turtle sourdough that he presented to her. She still remembers it to this day (along with being scared by the Bushman).

    There is a reason why some of the bread prices there are so expensive, other than high quality: Fisherman’s Wharf is a predominantly tourist area, kind of like Waikiki, so the assumption is that tourists will pay higher prices (as in Waikiki!). I still like the area for its sense of history and colorful sights, but my relatives living in that area confirmed to me that they NEVER go to Fisherman’s Wharf! Oh, well, it’s still fun to be a tourist.

    Reply

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