The Iconic Foods of San Francisco; SF's Culinary History: Part 2 of 12

Dessert Specialty

Originally from France, the Boudin family has been baking sourdough bread in San Francisco since 1849. The bread became instantly popular with gold miners, as they would line up every morning to buy fresh bread before trekking off to the gold country. It’s incredible that a bread recipe so simple – salt, water, flour, and a homemade sourdough starter (a yeast culture called the "mother dough") – yielded a product so unique. Boudin Bakery even found it appropriate to conjoin the city's name with the name of their product, calling it “San Francisco Sourdough” in reference to its distinctly tangy taste. Due to the high amount of lactic acid that forms naturally in this type of sourdough, its acidity works as a protective agent against spoilage. Even more remarkable is how Boudin Bakery managed to preserve the exact same living yeast "mother dough" that was created in 1849, and continues to use it in every loaf of sourdough made today. This means (quite literally) that every slice of San Francisco Sourdough from Boudin Bakery is an actual piece of culinary history.

What better dish to accompany some delicious Boudin sourdough bread than San Francisco's signature Cioppino. This local favorite was first introduced to the US in the late 1800s by Italian fishermen who set up seafood stands along the Wharf, near North Beach. This famous fish stew calls for the catch of the day -- traditionally Dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels and fish -- along with fresh tomatoes, wine, and broth. Seafood restaurants throughout the region feature this classic dish on their menus, as do many other restaurants around the country. 

The "King of Salads" -- the Crab Louis is rumored to have been invented in San Francisco, but inconclusive evidence confirms which source is the original innovator. In one case, the recipe does appear in the 1910 St. Francis Hotel Cookbook. And in another case, the dish also appears on a 1914 menu from the former Solari’s restaurant on Geary Street. The primary ingredients for this entree size salad includes fresh crab meat, Romaine lettuce, tomato, cucumber, hard boiled egg, and a mayonnaise based Louis dressing (similar to Thousand Island). 

Another one of San Francisco's foremost culinary icons is Ghirardelli Chocolate Company in Fisherman's Wharf. Founder Domingo Ghirardelli, from Italy, dreamed of striking it rich in gold, but it was his expertise in confection manufacturing that brought him his fortune. Ghirardelli was established in 1852, and is the second oldest chocolate company in the country. It is also a leader in the industry within the consumer market, due to its meticulous chocolate-making process that starts with the raw cocoa bean -- an uncommon practice in the chocolate making business in the US. The landmark Ghirardelli Square, on Northpoint Street, is a chocolaty amusement park filled with sweet history; a full square-block is filled with restaurants, retail shops, and the hugely popular Ghirardelli Ice Cream Shop. 

Most people are familiar with the famous Rice-A-Roni® "San Francisco Treat" slogan. Many have their doubts about whether there's a real connection between the product and the city. Doubt not: there really is a connection. In 1912, Rice-A-Roni® was founded by San Francisco native Domenico DeDomenico. He opened a pasta factory called Gragnano Products Inc. in The Mission district, and it did exceptionally well. He then renamed his company Golden Grain Macaroni Company; and in 1958, DeDomenico discovered an Armenian recipe for rice and macaroni that inspired his break-through product Rice-A-Roni®. A year later, the "San Francisco Treat" TV Advertising campaign ran and became a national success. Today, Rice-A-Roni® is owned by Quaker Oats/PepsiCo and the product remains a leader in its market.


San Francisco's Culinary History: Part 1 of 12

The Iconic Foods of San Francisco; San Francisco’s Culinary History: Part 2 of 12

Culinary Institutions; San Francisco’s Culinary History: Part 3 of 12

Fisherman's Wharf; San Francisco’s Culinary History: Part 4 of 12

North Beach; San Francisco’s Culinary History: Part 5 of 12

The Mission; San Francisco’s Culinary History: Part 6 of 12

Nostalgia; San Francisco’s Culinary History: Part 7 of 12

The Creme de la Crème; San Francisco’s Culinary History: Part 8 of 12

Asian Influence; San Francisco’s Culinary History: Part 9 of 12

The Veggie Scene; San Francisco’s Culinary History: Part 10 of 12

Ice Cream Goodness; San Francisco’s Culinary History: Part 11 of 12

Food Forward; San Francisco’s Culinary History: Part 12 of 12




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