holy smoke! the ferry building farmer’s market rocks my world

one of my favorite things to do in san francisco is spend a saturday morning at the farmer’s market at the ferry building on the embarcadero. i’d venture to say that this is one of the best farmer’s markets in the country – incredible artisan producers and local organic fruits and veggies straight from the farm, all set up inside and around a gorgeous old renovated ferry building at a spectacular location right on the water with a view of the bay and the bay bridge looming overhead. i’ve spent so many happy hours there – drinking new-orleans style iced coffee from blue bottle, ripping into fresh made herb slabs from acme, slathering bread with mt. tam cheese from cowgirl creamery, getting my sausage-on-a-stick on thanks to golden gate meat company, sampling multiple varieties of locally produced olive oil, chatting with the lovely food entrepreneurs and my friend tish over at the la cocina booth, purchasing seasonal fruits and veggies from all the fantastic vendor booths – i could clearly go on and on and on. there’s nothing like sitting down in the sun by the water with some friends and a bag of oysters from the hog island booth and juice-dripping-down your chin freshly picked best-peaches-you’ve-ever-tasted from frog hollow farm.

however, some of the best times i’ve ever had at the ferry building haven’t been just aimless wandering and stuffing my face, but the days i’ve spent working as a sandwich seller at cap’n mike and sally’s holy smoke salmon stand. not only are sally and cap’n mike two of the kindest, warmest, jolliest, most wonderful people on the planet, but their brined, cured, hot and cold smoked fish, deliciously sweet and gooey salmon candy, and their kickass salmon sandwiches are some of the best stuff you’ll ever put in your mouth. just look and see for yourself:


if you’re not screaming PUT THAT IN MY MOUTH NOW!!, we are so not friends anymore.

the sandwiches are so beautifully constructed with contrasting textures and rich colors. i can’t even tell you how many people i’ve seen walk by, glance at the sandwiches, do a double-take, come over to take a closer looks, ooh and ahh a bit, then buy one or two or three to eat on the spot. here’s the bait we put on the line to reel them in:


i see you eyeing those sandwiches. i bet you want to know what they are, cause everybody does. i’ll give you my super-excellent salmon sandwich seller spiel.

hi! how’s it going? would you like me to take you through the sandwiches? fantastic. on the left, we have the northwest-style red king salmon lox, caught off the coast of bodega bay. it’s mild and delicate in flavor and comes paired with roasted red peppers, shaved fennel, and pickled onions. next up, the brightly colored red one (close-up in the first photo) is the alaskan sockeye salmon, which has a big bold salmon flavor but still a great silky texture. that’s paired with meyer lemon slices and capers and pickled onions. the third sandwich is the sturgeon, mild in flavor and caught up at the columbia river, also paired with the same meyer lemon, capers, and onions. last up we have the albacore tuna lox, which is really unique because of the natural sweetness, so it’s topped with roasted golden beets, toasted walnuts and onions. all of the sandwiches are made with acme sourdough, spread with sally’s famous homemade cream cheese, and given a sprinking of lavender salt from eatwell farms.

nom nom nom. after that description, anyone within 10 foot of the booth is like PUTTY IN MY HANDS. yes, hand over your cold hard cash and cap’n sally and mike will deliver you to smoked fish nirvana. i mean, really. just look at the close-up of the sturgeon below:


mmmmmmmmm. i had that sandwich for lunch yesterday and it was fucking bomb. my favorite is the albacore tuna lox, (above right) which rides the savory/sweet line like only an almost dessert-like fish sandwich can, but the big bright bold sockeye comes in a very close second. on the dessert and fish tip, make sure to go to the farmer’s market sometime (or the website) and try the crazy delicious salmon candy. it’s strips of salmon cured in honey and then smoked for three days. you might think, ‘eww, sweet salmon, that’s gross!!‘ and i’d be like, ‘dude, haven’t you had salmon teriyaki? sweet but also fishy and super tasty!‘ and you’d be like, oh yeah. duh. mei, you’re always right. gimme some of that delicious salmon candy!’ and i’d be like, ‘no way dude. go get your own.’ then you’d get your own and it would blow your mind.

cap’n mike and sally sell a few different recipes (indian smoked, black pepper and garlic) and fish varieties (black trout, tuna, sable, sturgeon) and both alderwood smoked salmon and cold smoked salmon and everything i’ve tried has been incredibly delicious. a couple of people have asked me recently the difference between smoked salmon and lox. in case you’re interested, regular smoked salmon (like over alderwood coals) results in a fish that has the flaky texture like salmon you’d order in a restaurant. cold smoked salmon (which is lox) is the silky, smooth kind in thin slices you’re used to having on bagels for breakfast. (hopefully that’s right, if not, someone will tell me). in addition to all the yummy stuff they sell, they’re sustainable! hooray!

i’ll be super sad to leave the whole holy smoke family when i move to london. all the people who work there are super cool, like my friend kirsten who hooked me up with them. i’ve worked a bunch of saturday shifts over the last six months or so and it’s such a fun and enjoyable way to spend a morning. the work part consists of taking orders, describing sandwiches, dealing with the money, slicing bread, and helping to set-up and take down the booth. the fun part consists of chatting with market shoppers, enjoying the beautiful views, dipping into sally’s famous she’ll-never-tell-the-recipe cream cheese, seeing all the cool vendor relationships and trades, benefiting from those relationships and getting gifts of almond brioche or farm grapes, and especially chatting with the ever-smiling and funny cap’n mike.


seriously, cap’n mike, sally, and all the other awesome folks at holy smoke rock my world. go visit them at the ferry building on a saturday morning and they’ll rock your world (and your taste buds) too.

to finish this off, since i’ve spent this whole post talking about fish sandwiches – lauren, this one‘s for you.

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One thought on “holy smoke! the ferry building farmer’s market rocks my world

  1. […] holy smoke! the ferry building farmer’s market rocks my world … […]

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