Creative people have been known to have unusual muses. In the case of Boulettes Larder co-owners Amaryll Shwertner and Lori Regis, it’s their Boulette, or “little meatball.” No, they’re not inspired by a hand-formed ground meat mass. Boulette is their Hungarian sheepdog.
Amaryll and Lori began their collaboration in 1990 at Sol y Luna, an Iberian tapas restaurant in San Francisco. Amaryll served as Executive Chef, Lori as a kitchen manager. At Boulettes Larder, Lori handles the business end and Amaryll serves as culinary innovator. Amaryll pretty much sticks to the kitchen, preparing a different menu each day, and Lori often roams the tiny cafe, sharing her winning smiling. Boulette has been known to make appearances.
Boulettes Larder is primarily a high-end take-out establishment that also sells top ingredients to home cooks, a series of delicious shortcuts. A daily prepared foods menu appears in marker on butcher paper above the counter. Take-away items may include Mariquita Farm braised carrots, marinated squab breast; Niman Ranch lamb shoulder navarin; and fresh fish in baking paper with herbs and olive oil. Considering the owners are animal lovers, they even sell “organic pet boulettes” made with poached chicken, carrots and grains. For home cooks, the larder is stocked with a myriad of ingredients: stocks, broths, spice blends, condiments, fats, dips and spreads, sausages and meats, grains and beans, flours, sugars, puff pastry, and more. There’s even a bakery case that on our visit contained pear tarts, carrot cake with orange and cardamom, various cakes and cookies. On Sundays, Boulettes Larder offers brunch, the purpose of our visit.
For Sunday brunch, Boulettes Larder held only five tables: one large table inside and four in the Ferry Building hallway With limited space and a burgeoning crowd, we sat with strangers. I wasn’t exactly thrilled at this development, but it was surprisingly comfortable. The food was so good, the service warm, and everybody was in such good spirits. A bonus: since Boulettes Larder is situated in the Ferry Building, there were prime opportunities for people watching; literally hundreds of gastro-tourists walked by while exploring the marketplace.
In their focus on seasonal cooking, Amaryll and Lori divide the Bay Area’s year into five culinary seasons: “Dead of Winter,” “Spring,” “The Ease of Summer,” “Indian Summer,” and “The Holiday Season.” We brunched at Boulettes Larder during Dead of Winter, which lasts from January through March, featuring the coldest weather and heartiest ingredients.
Even though the menu wasn’t large, most dishes sounded terrific, so we asked Lori to help narrow our focus. She said, “You must have hot beignets.” Good call, Lori.
Luscious cuts of “Toulouse sausage from the fatted calf,” a squiggle of crispy organic pancetta, and a fat square of smoked pork belly, crispy on top, literally melted into the cheese-infused, Anson Mills white corn grits.
To drink, freshly pressed Olsen organic citrus juice ($4.50) was certainly outstanding O.J., but I could have used a bigger helping. The Eastern European style hot chocolate ($4.50) was kind of like a regular hot chocolate, plus cream, plus chocolate, plus more cream. Lori even brought us a pitcher of cream, in case we wanted to add more. We didn’t. The hot chocolate was so rich, we never saw the bottom of the cup, but the flavor was sensational.
Considering the food’s richness, we chose not to indulge in the enticing carrot cake, but did gobble up three tiny cookies (75¢ apiece).
Sunday brunch at Boulettes Larder was special. Not only for the spectacular food, but also for the sense of warmth Lori managed to cultivate. My only complaint is that there isn’t a Boulettes Larder branch in Los Angeles.