Based on our experiences as California Epicurators we’ve compiled a guide of our favorite ongoing experiences for travelers on the go.
Daily (Check venue to confirm)
San Francisco is home to Anchor Brewing, which crafts 10 brews, including the famous and tasty Anchor Steam, in their handcrafted copper brewhouse, a tribute to the traditional breweries of old. Daily brewery tours in Potrero Hill are followed by a tasting (naturally!) and last about 2 hours. Reservations are required. 1705 Mariposa Street, San Francisco, 415-863-8350.
Just down the Embarcadero from the Ferry Building — which has a farmer’s market on Tuesdays — you’ll find TCHO, a chocolate maker the size that Ghirardelli must have been in the early 1900s. During TCHO’s free chocolate factory tour, you’ll not only get your much-needed fix, you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at how pure cocoa is transformed into bars. Tours are held daily at 10:30 am and 2 pm. Here’s a story by Jennifer Pelka on a tour we attended. Reservations are recommended. TCHO Chocolate, Pier 17, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, 415-981-0189.
Learn more about the life of a farmer by touring Yountville’s idyllic Hill Family Farms and Jacobsen Orchards, which grows fruits and vegetables for the French Laundry, one of America’s top restaurants. The farm’s daily tours include a sampling of fresh produce, followed by a tasting of wines, meats and cheeses. Tours are offered everyday at 10 am, 1 pm and 4 pm from June through October. The cost is $45. For tickets and more information, click here. 6512 Washington Street, Yountville, 707-944-9580.
For candy lovers, the 40-minute Jelly Belly Factory Tour will remain planted in your candy brain as a memorable food experience. Whether you’ve got a car load of kids or adult candy lovers, it’s worth a drive to Fairfield. Just off I-80, it’s a nice stop between the San Francisco and Sacramento / Davis or Tahoe areas. Art lovers might even want to take home one of the carefully crafted jelly bean paintings. 1 Jelly Belly Ln, Fairfield, 707-428-2800.
Nearby: Suisun Valley is home to wineries and small family farms, such as Glashoff whose walnuts grown in their ancient orchard you can enjoy via their farm stand. If you’re heading east on a Saturday, the vibrant Davis farmers market is a great stop.
Stop in at La Victoria Bakery, 2937 24th Street, San Francisco first thing for “Bagel Mondays,” Sour Flour bakery’s weekly free offering of fresh bagels. Just their way of giving the dough back!
East Bay (Oakland, Berkeley)
The micro-roaster and coffee evangelists at Blue Bottle Coffee — who started at the Oakland farmers’ market — offer free public cuppings every Tuesday and Sunday at 2 pm. (If you’re headed to or from the Oakland Airport, it’s an easy stop off Highway 880!) Come and taste their latest roasts and learn what leads to their cult following. Details here. Can’t make it to Oakland? Be sure to visit one of Blue Bottle’s locations in San Francisco. We particularly enjoy their top floor cafe with “art pastries” and cakes at the Museum of Modern Art. An experience not to be missed.
Go whole hog at the Fatted Calf’s “Pork Happy Hour,” a free weekly butchering demonstration featuring, you guessed it, a whole pig. It’s free to observe, but you can also buy a piece of pork to take home. The happy hour runs from 5:30 to 7:00 pm, the amount of time it takes to butcher a whole hog. 320 Fell Street, San Francisco, 415-400-5614. http://fattedcalf.com
East Bay (Oakland, Berkeley)
Have you ever wondered how soy is transformed into tofu? Gain an insider’s view during monthly tours at the Hodo Soy Beanery in Oakland. Fascinating for vegans and non-vegans alike (we promise!), the tours typically begin at 10:30 am and include a short video, observation of the tofu-making process, a tasting and an opportunity to shop. The cost is $10. Book your tour tickets here. 2923 Adeline Street, Oakland, 510-464-2977.
Cowgirl Creamery‘s Peg Smith and Sue Conley are pioneers in the world of California cheesemaking. Don’t miss the hugely popular weekly tour and cheesemaking demonstration at their Petaluma facility (through September 28th). You’ll also be able to taste cheeses and take home a bag of samples. Tours begin at 11:30 am and cost $30. Reservations are required. 419 First Street, Petaluma, 866-433-7834.
The Lafranchi family has been milking cows for generations, and now they are using that milk to make some of the tastiest cheeses in the region. Hear the unique story of the Nicasio Cheese Company during their free weekly tours. They make six cheeses in their creamery, which is open to the public from 10 am to 5 pm Thursday through Sunday. Make sure to leave a little room in your cooler to take home a bloomy-rind Formagella to enjoy. 5300 Nicasio Valley Road, Nicasio, 415-662-6200.
Marin / North Bay
Can’t make it to Cowgirl Creamery‘s Wednesday cheesemaking demo in Petaluma? Fear not — for $5, you can get an inside look at their original Point Reyes facility as well. Tours begin at 11:30 and include a tasting and cheesemaking demonstration. Reservations are recommended. 80 Fourth Street, Point Reyes Station, 415-663-9335.
If you’re in San Francisco, we also recommend a visit to Cowgirl Creamery’s retail store in the Ferry Building, which features a large selection of some of the best American and European cheeses and cheese accessories. Next door, grab a sandwich, a cheese plate or a simple glass of fresh, cold milk at their Sidekick cafe. Special tours and tastings of the Ferry Building shop are available for groups of up to 10 people. One Ferry Building, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, 415-362-9354.
On First Friday’s, Jack London Square has its night market with music, shopping and good local foods. On other Fridays they often have some sort of food frolics. The ferry ride between JLS and San Francisco’s ferry building lets you enjoy both sides of the bay PLUS often fabulous sunsets. But don’t miss the ferry as they can be few and far between!
Farmers Markets: No food lover’s visit to San Francisco would be complete without a visit to the iconic Ferry Building. For a more unique experience, stop by during the farmers market at 12:30 pm Tuesdays and 11 am Saturdays for free cooking demonstrations. Well-known Bay Area chefs, farmers and authors will demonstrate a seasonal recipe with produce pulled directly from the market. Here’s the upcoming calendar. One Ferry Building, The Embarcadero, San Francisco. See Cuesa.org.
Have car? Travel to the Alemany market early morning. Bustling with serious bargain hunters, colorful murals lining stalls represent the produce you’ll find. San Francisco established this market in the ’40s to connect cities with farms. What’s old is new again! 100 Alemany Boulevard, off highway 280, San Francisco.
- Avedano’s Holly Market in Bernal Heights leads the trend in old-fashioned butchery. You can see the butchers at work behind the counter. Check their class schedule to hone your own skills. This tiny specialty store brings you a selection of local favorite foods for your picnic or to take home! avedanos.com
Weekly walking tour hosted by Edible Excursions – The Mission in San Francisco is home to some of the Bay Area’s best food, from the tacos, salsa and horchata of its Latin American heritage to newer local favorites such as Mission Pie. A typical tour starts at Mission Pie and includes stops at El Farolito, Humphry Slocombe and La Palma Foods. Tours begin at 11 am and are held rain or shine. The cost is $75. For tickets and more information, click here or call 415-806-5970.
Marin / North Bay
Chocolate Making Classes every other Saturday at Coco-luxe let you be the master of your chocolate bar habit. Great fun for groups, families, or solo die hard chocolophiles. More info.
Take a ferry ride out of San Francisco to check out the weekly farmer’s market at the Marin Country Mart featuring some of the region’s best produce, as well as pony rides and music. It runs from 9 am to 2 pm (Check for schedule changes). 2257 Larkspur Landing, Larkspur, 415-461-5700.
Whether you’re an experienced baker or a bread novice, you’ll learn something new at bagel making workshops with San Francisco’s Sour Flour. Participants will learn about mixing ingredients, developing gluten and shaping bagels. Unbaked bagels can be brought home or left at the bakery for baking. Classes are held most Sundays at 5:30 pm at La Victoria Bakery, 2937 24th Street, San Francisco. The cost $80. Book your tickets here. For more information on Sour Flour, call 415-509-3380.
East Bay (Oakland, Berkeley)
You’ll find the Jack London Square farmers’ market by the water and railroad tracks on Sunday, from 9 am-2 pm. We suggest arriving around 1 pm and grabbing bites for a picnic. Water Street, between Franklin and Harrison Street, Oakland.
Then walk up Webster a couple of blocks to get schooled and caffeinated. The micro-roaster and coffee evangelists at Blue Bottle Coffee — who started at the Oakland farmers’ market — offer free public cuppings every Tuesday and Sunday at 2 pm. (If you’re headed to or from the Oakland Airport, it’s an easy stop off Highway 880!) Come and taste their latest roasts and learn what leads to their cult following. Details here. Can’t make it to Oakland? Be sure to visit one of Blue Bottle’s locations in San Francisco. We particularly enjoy their top floor cafe with “art pastries” and cakes at the Museum of Modern Art. An experience not to be missed.
Near the Oakland Blue Bottle is an urban winery, who opens up only on Sundays for tastings. Their schedule may
Pioneer in the new American artisan spirits movement and famous for Hangar One Vodka, St. George Spirits is just 5 minutes from Blue Bottle in Alameda, with weekend distillery tours starting at 1 pm, 2 pm, and 3 pm on Saturday, and 1 pm on Sunday. Tours last approximately an hour. A tour guide will lead the group around the hangar where you’ll learn the finer points of distillation. 2601 Monarch Street, Alameda, 510-769-1601. http://www.stgeorgespirits.com
Marin / North Bay
The Sunday Marin Farmers’ Market is the third largest in California. It has a character different from others, with beautiful craft makers in addition to all sorts of products, many you wouldn’t find at other markets. If you’re heading to the shore it’s a great place to pick up picnic supplies. More info.
Restaurant Dining Recommendations in Bay Area