We had a ball!
My stepdad was like a kid visiting Disneyland for the first time. Every step we took he would ooh and ah, want to visit another vendor, chat with another farmer, buy more stuff...
We arrived at 8 in the morning, and we didn't leave until close to noon. We could have stayed even later, but he needed to get back on the road and he had already blown over twice his budget (I promised not to tell mom how much he spent).
Andante Dairy: He's been raving to me about the cheese for weeks later. He bought 4 or 5 varieties and has loved them all. I was thrilled to snag a chunk of her famous butter (she's usually sold out by the time I arrive). Without question, best butter I've ever had. Rich, creamy, with a bite to the flavor. Perfect for coating a hunk of Acme bread and dipping in the yolk of a Marin Sun Farms egg. When I bought it, she said to me "that's a big piece of butter, and it will only last a week, are you sure you want that much?" It was gone by Wednesday.
Boulette's Larder: "This shop is dangerous, be careful!" Those were my words of warning as we walked in, he didn't heed them. He immediately went for a jar of 20 year balsamic vinegar, which has provided the perfect finish to some of his dishes. Next, he says to one of the helpful employees "My wife asked me to bring home some fancy salt, do you have any?" She smiles and gestures to a shelf containing about fifty varieties of salt. He is stunned, speechless, overwhelmed. She finally talks him into some rosemary salt, which he has really enjoyed. He also picked up some salt cured capers (on my insistence), some acacia honey (better than anything from Marshall's, in his judgment) and some imported Italian pasta which he adored. As we were walking out, he said to me "it's a good thing we don't have one of these in LA or I wouldn't be retiring next year."
Cap'n Mike's Smoked Fish: My stepdad adores smoked fish, and he acknowledged that this was tops (though he has a preference for Lazlo's smoked salmon in oldtown Sacramento - something we'll just have to agree to disagree on). Didn't stop him from buying salmon candy, lox, and smoked king salmon.
Cowgirl Creamery: Despite the enormous amount of cheese he got from Andante, I couldn't let him pick up smoked salmon without some of Cowgirl's fresh cream cheese. He loved the stuff - it's got such an unusual bite. As we walked there, I was trying to sell him on the paneer. He was skeptical: "I've been to high end Indian restaurants in London, I've had great paneer, blah blah blah." One bite, and he let out this guttural moan of pleasure. He bought a pound and turned it into a quiche. He and my mother are still raving about it.
Frog Hollow: When I talked to my mother the next day, her first reaction was "did you have to take him to that pastry shop? I mean, he brought back like forty pieces of pastry. It's all delicious, but you know I'm trying to lose wait for your wedding." Sorry, mom.
June Taylor Jams: He had already tried these gorgeous jams because I gave out jars as a Christmas gift a couple of years ago, but he was thrilled to have the chance to sample her selection and buy his favorites. I'm told these are being kept sealed until after the wedding, for fear of my mother leaving him ;)
Recchiuti Chocolates: We hit up Recchiuti towards the end of our visit, so he was a bit more reserved in his purchasing there. I think he regretted this. He told me it was comparable to the high end chocolates he bought in Paris. I've promised to bring him a large box before I see him next. I went with my standard order: $10 of fleur de sels, which are always a huge treat. Really, perfect texture for someone who loves a good chew.
Primavera: After a few hours of shopping, we're famished. But he doesn't even flinch when he sees forty people waiting in line. "This must be good." "Oh yeah, it's better than good." He got the chilaquiles and jamaica aqua fresca, I got the pork tamale and strawberry lemonade. The food at Primavera blows me away time and time again. The combination of premium ingredients, cooked to order preparations, and authentic, well layered favors is truly unbelievable. My pork was so tender, with just the right amount of fattiness. And those aqua frescas: ay yos mio! He said "my friends and I used to joke that you couldn't get good Mexican food north of Santa Barbara, wait until they hear about this."
Of course, these are just a few of the highlights of our trip. I really could go on and on and on, but it's lunchtime.
One last thing: a note on Della Fattoria's croissant. These were a bit built up in my mind, because they've been sold out every single time I get there. You know, they're good, but I still believe that the best croissants to be had are from the man in lederhosen at Oktoberfest bakery. Truly, Oktoberfest's croissants are better than DF, Tartine, LA Farine, Massa. I've never encountered such a perfect croissant outside of France.
Also, I really enjoyed arriving at the FB at 8am. It was busy, but not crowded. The vendors still had an excellent selection. The weather was beautiful, and not too hot. It was a great time to go. I'll probably never wake up at 7 on a Saturday again, but I'm glad I did it just this once. I also recommend an early arrival to any visitors who will just be visiting once.