Culinary arts have acquired a mythic status in our hedonistic culture. TV cooking shows, newspaper sections on food and wine, unrelenting publications of cookbooks and internet blogs have reinforced the paramount importance of fine food and drink in our leisure time. Chefs and cooks effortlessly rocket to stardom becoming celebrities overnight. Then, there is one more best-seller from the new chef. Or a new street market offering organic products. San Francisco, the foodie city par excellence, knows more than any other on this subject. The gourmet industry shines here with uncommon vividness.
Yet, in spite of all the experiments in gastronomical currents and the success of many of them, there is an elusive quality missing in most of the current trends. Food as emotion, surpassing the qualities of taste and smell. Food magically and simply prepared. Boulette’s Larder in the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero in San Francisco is such a place. Chef Amaryl Schwertner and partner Lori Regis have infused their cooking with an elegant and uncluttered touch. The rare attribute of their dishes is that they all seem to have something of an alchemical spirit in them. Not so much for any tampering with the ingredients but because they elevate the experience of the meal to a higher level. The large industrial cookers and ovens, the gourmet products, the cash counter and food displays, the kitchen and customer traffic all mingle fluidly without any physical separation in one single space as a metaphor for the joy of their food. My last lunch there of leek and cauliflower soup with a pistachio pesto followed by a burrata with pumpkin seeds and almonds infused me with spontaneous cheerfulness and warmth. If Amaryl and Lori did not exist, the city would be forced to invent them.