If you head to the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Market on Sunday, you miss out on all kinds of good stuff - Fatted Calf, my very favorite lettuces, the green garlic or fresh berries or perfect pears, the Blue Bottle guys pulling and pouring awesome coffee, the Tierra pepper people, and any number of other treats. But on Sunday? On Sunday, Boulette's Larder serves beignets - and you must eat them.
Welcome to day two of the Second Independent Food Festival Awards! We're so pleased to be participating again; this year the awards are being announced throughout the week. Gastronome is pleased to present Boulette's Larder with the "Best Reason to Go to the Farmers Market on Sunday Instead of Saturday", for their Sunday beignets.
Boulette's Larder is a special place - billed as "Mise en Place For Your Home Pantry", they're tucked away in a corner selling ingredients, building blocks, and even prepped main and side dishes for you to take home and eat. They're also a formidable restaurant, with a big, gorgeous communal table sitting just inside the door next to the huge stove. They serve a terrific brunch, full of tasty sweets and savories, good coffee & European hot chocolate. The decor is simple and charming - gorgeous flowers, piles of dishes on shelves, and a spice rack full of phials and jars. The blend of laboratory and kitchen sensibility makes my heart sing. On the best Sundays, Boulette sits on my feet while the staff smiles at me. If I take you to Boulette's, you know I love you. It's definitely my happy place.
And on Sundays? On Sundays there are the beignets. They're round beignets, served piping hot, rolled in some sort of sugar. I've had them with pistachio sugar, with sugar & pimente d'esplette, with orange sugar, lemon sugar, and sugar mixed with ras el hanout (my fave so far). They release a cloud of steam when you bite in, and just about everyone at the table starts with a generous boatful. (If your neighbors don't have one, offer them one of yours. They'll order up some of their own, immediately.)
It's funny, how much & how instantly I loved the beignets at Boulette's. See, I grew up in a family that loves cooking, feeding people, and eating; my Mom is an excellent cook. I'm an adventurous eater, and an open-minded, scientific cook. Yet there remains a category of foods where it's just Not Right unless it's Mom's. I don't eat lasagne in restaurants. What they serve? It's not lasagne - and just makes me angry. It took me years to come to terms with the idea that while those tasty stuffed pasta dishes weren't Ravioli, they were delicious. (I still have to translate menus quietly in my head to avoid disappointment.)
My Mom makes beignets every Christmas morning (and some other special mornings, if we ask really nicely.) Here's the crazy thing - Boulette's doesn't make my mother's beignets. Mom's beignets are less eggy, more yeasty, and squarish. They're dusted in powdered sugar (good for blowing on your little brother). Cafe Du Monde beignets taste like my Mom's beignets. Boulette's are round, smaller, rolled in granulated sugar & spice, and are moister and eggier - they taste more like a brioche dough inside. And I love them both. And they're both beignets. No naming games necessary. I sit comfortably inside the thing that isn't cognitive dissonance, and happily share my beignets with a friend. And wonder what sugar will be on offer next week. That's magic.
(Also? They press Blue Bottle coffee, tableside - so even if you miss the BB crew on Saturday, you can still drink their coffee on Sunday.)