By day’s end, I was exhausted and nervous to the point where all I wanted to do was ensure I milked my trip to the west coast for all it was worth in the event I never made it back to California. As part of my interview, I asked each of my interviewees for activities in which to participate up in the city – after all, I wasn’t going to spend my pseudo-vacation in the South Bay.
Taking the advice of my soon-to-be co-workers, I drove my loaner across the traffic jammed US-101 (which, as I would come to learn very quickly would become a staple of my daily life), up to San Francisco and made my way toward Chrissy Field.
Golden Gate Bridge…yadda yadda...
Karl the Fog…yadda yadda…
Since I hadn’t been in the city since I was a teen, I figured I’d hit up the touristy spots for good measure, so I made my way to the Ferry Building. After searching for an elusive parking space for the better part of an hour (which, as I would come to learn very quickly, would become a staple of my daily life), I found a meter, inserted every piece of change I could conjure from the cushions and cup holders of the car, jogged along the city streets, reach the iconic structure, and made my way inside.
Despite the fact that there were dozens of shops and restaurants, one scene in particular quite literally stood out: there was a snaking line emerging from the far end of the building. Ignorant, I figured if people were willing to wait for whatever was at the line’s origin, it must be worth it.
Thus, I stood in line (which, as I would come to learn very quickly, would become a staple of my daily life), until I finally reached the counter of Blue Bottle Coffee Company. I ordered myself a latte from the barista, Julius, and we chatted for a while about what I was doing in San Francisco, how my interview went, and he wished me luck in my quest for the job.
But as I peered into the pastry case, something caught my eye.
A few things caught my eye, actually.
A sucker for both granola and mason jars, I opted for the granola in a mason jar as the winner for my plane snack. The shortbreads, too, seemed extremely appealing, and Julius nudged me toward the Parmesan-fennel variety.
Outrageous! Sweet, savory, buttery, delicate and hearty, I had never tasted any treat so complex, yet somehow comforting. I almost went back for another, until Julius was kind enough to sneak me the last olive oil rosemary version on the house for my drive to the airport.
Not knowing if I’d ever be back, I email Blue Bottle:
“Hello Blue Bottle,
I was recently flown out to San Francisco for an interview, where I found the Blue Bottle shop in the Ferry Building. One of the baristas cued me in to the Parmesan-fennel shortbread, and I was absolutely blown away.
I know this is a long shot, but I was wondering if you were able to share the recipe. I'm sure that you aren't, but they were so amazing that I thought I would ask. Either way, I'll be coming back simply for those. They were incredible.
Keep up the amazing work. You've made a friend from the east coast!
The very next day, I received a response from a woman named Caitlin, which read:
Thanks for your note -- it's so nice (and rare) to get such a nice email. I'm currently working on adapting some of our recipes (parmesan shortbread included) for the home. These recipes will be a part of the Blue Bottle book that will be coming out in a little over a year. It'll be a little bit of a wait but, I promise, they'll be super well tested and come out great at home. In the meantime, we make the shortbread at our Brooklyn roastery, too, which sounds like it's closer to you.
Thanks so much,
Wow – a bit of a bummer that I couldn’t steal the secret, but how incredible that I received such a sweet response – from the head pastry chef, no less.
As luck would have it, I was offered the job, and when I went back to visit the Ferry Building shop where my journey began, happened to run into none other than the man himself: Julius! With that look of, “I think I know you, but don’t remember from where…” he somehow managed to recall that I was interviewing for a job, and must have taken it.
He then introduced me to my next Achilles heel: the vanilla-saffron snickerdoodle. So, as I do, I wrote another note:
I wrote a while back about the ridiculously amazing Parmesan shortbread that I fell in love with on my trip out to SF. Well, I actually landed that job and have been here for a few months! Needless to say, these have become somewhat of my guilty pleasure...
Until I found those saffron snickerdoodle cookies that are now served at Blue Bottle. THOSE ABSOLUTELY BLOW MY MIND!! They are so fantastic I can't even begin to explain.
I assume that you are the mastermind behind those as well, and just wanted to tell you that they are incredible, and you should be very, VERY proud of those!!! I may be a little addicted.
Can't wait to buy your book when it comes out! Hope all is well :)
All the best,
This time: no reply.
That is, until over a month later, when I found the following in my inbox:
“Thank you so much, Josh! Feel free to send me a note anytime you have
something you love - it makes my day!
I'm sorry it has taken me such a long time to get back - constant
travel has my email inbox all backed up!
Have a great Thanksgiving week,
Little did she know, I’d be sending her another note in just about a year…
When I was offered a writing position with SF Weekly merely two weeks ago, I had little doubt as to the subject of my first article. Caitlin graciously sent me a copy of the book before its release, and invited me into her home for an interview. I was finally face-to-face with the woman behind the cookies over which I have been salivating. We spoke for over an hour, during which I had the opportunity to pick her brain about her inspirations, her background, and ask the questions that had been bottled up inside of me for months.
In some ways, I had the chance to meet the woman who sold me on San Francisco.
And it all started with a single cookie.
You can find my article on Caitlin Freeman and her fascinating, delicious pastries HERE.