I am working slowly to re-introduce some of my posts of 2006 from my other server that remain relevant. Since most of you never read that incarnation of the Zealot, I hope you enjoy them. I could just drop them anonymously into the archives, but I'm hoping they will strike a chord. Here is a introduction to the now-stalwart of the Ferry Building, and still worth discovering, for those who haven't......
I must admit that the first few times I visited Boulette's Larder, I didn't quite get it. Occupying a corner of the Ferry Building, tucked away behind Culinaire and across from Frog Hollow Farms, Boulette's feels like a cross between an Apocathary, a Butcher Shop, a Bakery and a Science Lab. There is a wall of glass jars filled with exotic herbs, roots, spices and grains. Chefs huddle over their meticulous work, darting in and out of a walk-in cooler, while counter-folk are busily filling up containers and stacking them for their knowing clientele. There is also a monster of an animal (a dog, Boulette himself) slumped underneath a communal table, seemingly overseeing the show.
So, what exactly is Boulette's Larder? If I had to boil it down, I would call it a foundation for the foodie. The easiest thing to do there, is to simply enjoy a breakfast or lunch, served café style at the communal table or outside of either of the doors. Amaryll Schwertner and Lori Regis were the former owners of Star's restaurant and have obviously poured their hearts and dreams into this concept. Every item they serve is meticulously planned, prepared and executed. They embody the concept of Slow Food, yet don't exploit it. If you are looking for a pure example of contemporary California Cuisine, this is the place.
Another interesting facet of Boulette's is to rent their facilitiess and their talent for an private evening function. I had the pleasure of attending a special birthday dinner that reconfirmed their dedication to effortless perfection Boulette's exhibits. Every detail, from the flowers to the wines to the aromas, presentations and pure flavors of the food were personally watched over by Lori and Amaryll. It is a casual, yet elegant experience and something everyone must try for their next important gathering.
Boulette's also offers a daily selection of prepared foods, raw ingredients and baked goods. Where I gain most pleasure from Boulette's is actually in my own cooking. When I plan for a dinner party or special event, I often stop at Boulette's first for inspiration. It may come in the form of an herb blend, rendered duck fat, a handmade stock or one of the treats from the Fatted Calf charcuterie. Sometimes a small side-dish provides a basis to inspire an entire meal, like a salt-cod brandade or a beet salad. If you take the time to read the chalk-board and compare with what is in the deli case and bowls behind the counter you will always find something relevant. During holidays, there is always something perfect that you hadn't thought of or didn't have time to make (Jews: think handmade gefilte fish and perfect Matzoh Balls).
As an example, for my son's first birthday party we wanted to do make-your-own pizzas on the grill. I had my dough, cheeses (ricotta salata, fontina, gorgonzola) and a few toppings (trumpet mushrooms, broccoli rabe, fresh peas, prosciutto). A quick visit to Boulette's added: Lamb Ragu, Cardoon Sugo, Wild Nettle Pesto, Baby Artichokes and Hand-stretched Buffalo Mozzarella. Needless to say, everyone was enamored with the selections.
Most of all, what really rounds out the experience at Boulette's is the advice and council offered by Lori and Amaryll themselves. You must be patient, as these are busy people. I've had a number of people tell me that Boulette's can feel snobby, but I think it's really just a busy place where the regulars are known and appreciated. You might drop a question here and there at first. Certainly go often and buy things that you can use throughout the week. In the end, they can always offer a creative spin on your cooking and help you to find that one item to make it that much better. So,with that said, why are you not a regular at Boulette's Larder?