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Boulette's Larder

Baring All its Fancy Ingredients

Like San Franciscans in general, gourmet grocer Boulette's Larder in the Ferry Building has nothing to hide. Though only open for sit-down service at breakfast and lunch, the single ten-person table is cozy, warmed by the large stoves and brick hearth of the kitchen, which is open and surrounds the table. As you sit and watch the chefs prepare your food in front of you, they may pluck fresh herbs from the vases on the table before returning with your dish. And if you are still curious about the status of the mostly-sustainable ingredients at Boulette's, the walk-in cooler on the other side of the table has large windows, with the names of the produce and cheeses, olives and yogurt inside written on the glass.

Although the frequently changing, hand-written menu is divided into four sections, chef/owners Amaryll Schwertner and Lori Regis, both formerly of Stars restaurant, could do fine sticking to No. 3: "Weekday Breakfast and Lunch, plus beignets on Sundays". Boulette's also sells hard-to-find items like fresh chicken broth ($9/Qt) or "True Wild San Francisco Sourdough Starter" ($6/Pt), and is available for private dinners and cooking seminars for 2-20 people, by reservation only.

The décor is designed to look like an inviting home kitchen: a fancy, gourmet home kitchen. Above the ranges hang copper sauté pans and saucepots, the shelves are lined with jars of spices and assorted oils and vinegars, and a fire is built daily. The atmosphere is enlivened by floor to ceiling views of the Bay and Bay Bridge, as well as the owner's dog, Boulette, who is often sprawled beneath the kitchen table.

On our first visit we ordered the daily breakfast special, a poached egg balanced atop a light, golden brown hashbrown and sausage patty ($8), similar in appearance to a plump crab cake. The poached eggs were so superbly prepared that on our second visit we ordered scrambled eggs and buttered toast with the kind of last-minute addition that makes Boulette's special: freshly-shaved black truffles ($17). Boulette's also serves comfort breakfasts like oatmeal or hot farro and sausage. Lunch options include soups like asparagus or spring vegetable, and there are always plenty of desserts to choose from, including scrumptious-looking fruit tarts, cakes and assorted European style cookies.

The Sunday beignets ($7) are also worth a trip, and when paired with French press coffee ($3) and the complimentary New York Times spread across the community table, make for one of the most original San Francisco breakfasts around. So if you need an indulgent breakfast downtown, or want to wow guests visiting San Francisco, head into Boulette's and see what's cooking.