Roaming around The Embarcadero of San Francisco around lunch time one day, we stopped by the Ferry Building to check out the market within. Our host had recommended a sandwich shop in there, and a huge building full of specialty food products is never easy to say no to.
There are cafes, creameries and delis with prepared food to scoop by the pound. There’s a juicery that sells kale shots at exorbient prices. There’s a bakery which supplies almost all the other businesses in the building with bread – a lesson in self-sustainability and eating local. There’s really good Mexican and a great looking Pacific oyster raw bar. Unfortunately the place teems with tourists who make the lines long enough for lunch-breaking locals not to have the time for them. This was especially true for the place I ended up getting my sandwich that day, after waiting a solid 35 minutes in line and waving weakly to my friends who were already happily devouring their own market finds on a bench overlooking the water. By the time I finally got my first bite, they were already tossing crumbs to hungry seagulls.
Before settling for our respective spots, we walked around the market to gauge the variety of offerings. We stopped at a Japanese deli named DELICA, where I tried some prepared dishes. They have a pretty nice list of lunch offerings, including some soups, salads and grab-and-go, prepared bento boxes.
First came the Hijiki and Soybean Salad with thin strands of gummy hijiki seaweed, some chewy fried tofu, dried soybeans, fresh edamame, konnyaku potato, Japanese mustard, a bit of daikon and some goji beans. The salad was lightly dressed with soy sauce and had a great variety of textures to make each bite very interesting. All in all very light and flavorful salad, a great alternative to your everyday lettuce-tomato-onion toss.
There was also a delicious Organic Tofu Miso Soup simmered with a dashi broth for a very slight fishy flavor and topped with scallions. The soup was a very nice consistency, with just the right amount of miso dissolved into the broth to achieve a thick yet silky texture. Suspended in the soup were big, beautiful chunks of fluffy-soft yet firm tofu which broke apart and melted in my mouth after a single bite. The tofu was entangles in large, slippery leaves of wakame seaweed which were substantial enough in size to form juicy little bundles here and there and make for a great partner to the tofu. I tried a single spoon of this while in line for my sandwich and ended up eating the whole thing, standing, or sipping it rather directly from the cup. A great cup of miso which soothed my soul on a chilly afternoon.
I also got to try their Crab Croquettes, which were heavenly soft and airy in texture. A very light and thin but crispy-as-heck panko crust wrapped around a blend of moist, luscious Dungeness crabmeat and creamy Béchamel sauce with some chopped scallions for color. Delicate and mushy and light as a feather, with the crabmeat maintaining its characteristic fibrous texture and beautiful natural sweetness throughout.
Although tempted by Acme Bread’s own signature sandwiches, I listened to my friend-host and opted for the line trailing out of Il Cane Rosso, gourmet sandwich shop and rotisserie. After about a half hour waiting in line, I ordered the Beef Brisket Sandwich, which came on fresh, flour-dusted ciabatta from Acme, slathered with piquant lemon aioli, baby leaves of arugula, some confit cherry tomatoes and a thick layer of shredded Marin Sun Farms beef brisket. Not a bad sandwich, but nothing mind-blowing enough to be worth the wait. The bread was fresh and crunchy and the tomatoes brought forth a nice burst of moisture and acidity, smoothed out nicely by the citric, creamy aioli. The meat was tender, but not quite juicy enough, a bit bland in flavor and almost too lean for my taste. It was a textbook beef brisket but one which was a tad lacking in creativity, in the oomph factor which would’ve warranted the wait.
While in line, however, I heard whispers of the Petaluma Farm Warm Egg Salad Sandwich (along with its apparently fabulous anchovy-garlic butter smear) and how it’s considered to be one of the best eggtastic dishes in the area. I also see that the menu has since changed and they now have a Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf Sandwich with bbq sauce and mozzarella chalked up on the board. So that’s pretty exciting. Maybe I just didn’t make the best choice this time around.