I fell into this one totally unprepared.
I had a standing date to meet a friend at the Ferry Marketplace in San Francisco on a Saturday morning. That happens to be when all the farmers arrive with their treasures and the place devolves into feeding mayhem.
We were supposed to have coffee and some pastries at Boulette’s Larder.
Or, so I thought.
Instead, I ended up with a porchetta sandwich.
Unexpected? Certainly, especially at 9 a.m.
I had just finished a blissfully long run – Bay Bridge to Golden Golden Gate and back – when I arrived at the Ferry Marketplace to meet my friend, La Tache (he’s a bit of a wine geek).*
The market was pretty heavily trafficked already. Boulette’s Larder was overcrowded and out of canelés, thanks to a woman who had cleared the entire case in one greedy go (the production crew of Hoarders will soon be knocking at your door, madame). Long lines were forming everywhere. And between the strollers, eccentrics, and headless tourists, we didn’t quite know what to do with ourselves.
Having both arrived with coffee in hand, La Tache proposed that we to take our party elsewhere. There was someone he wanted me to meet.
We arrived at a shiny food truck parked along the south side of the ferry building. An unusually long queue trailed off into the distance. Instead of getting in line, La Tache walked straight up to a happy, capped fellow standing to one side and introduced us. His name was Thomas Odermatt. Son of a Swiss master butcher, he owned the truck.
The Roli Roti truck was no ordinary food truck. This was a gigantic rotisserie on four wheels. Meaty columns of pork wrapped in bronzed fat rotated slowly on the turning spits along with whole chickens. Their drippings bathed a cache of roasted potatoes in the tray below. I was so mesmerized by it all that I didn’t notice Odermatt squeeze behind the line to assemble a sandwich for us.
It quickly became apparent to me that La Tache and Odermatt were old friends and that this was their weekly ritual.
Pay? Nope, Oderamatt wouldn’t hear of it.
I don’t say this about many things, but I’ll say this about the Roli Roti porchetta sandwich: it was mind-blowing.**
Where do I begin?
The slices of pork – not thin, not thick – were moist and flavorful. They were generously layered with chips of super-crisp crackling. Unspeakably fantastic.***
A forest of baby greens – grassy, herbaceous, and joyously flocked with large, crunchy salt crystals – helped lift what was an otherwise rich fare. In this sandwich, they were not merely trimmings.
(Never underestimate the miracles that large, crunchy salt crystals can work, especially when paired with super-crisp crackling. Commit this to memory.)
The bread they used was perfect for the job. It had a spongy core, which helped sop up the drippings, and a thin, strong crust. Together, it was sturdy enough to contain the over-stuffing, yet soft enough to keep good company with its companions.
Resurveying the line, I now realized why it stretched on like it did. This sandwich was worthy of cult status.
The truck also seemed to be a gathering place for people in the food industry. In the fifteen minutes we stood there, I met at least half a dozen chefs and purveyors.
The rotisserie chicken? Sadly, I didn’t get to try it. It looked great though, served with wedges of lime. Every other order seemed to be a bird.
And those potatoes? I’ll have to catch them on my next trip out to San Francisco. Sadly, I had to save room for more grazing with other friends.
So, where do you find this magical mobile rotisserie? Consult the schedule on the Roli Roti website. It’s worth tracking down. Note: Not all trucks serve the porchetta sandwich.
Thanks, La Tache, for introducing me to Roli Roti. And thanks, Thomas, for making one fantastic sandwich.
* Among La Tache’s edible conquests is the enviable distinction of having had the longest meal at The French Laundry: a celebratory 40-course meal that lasted from noon until midnight.
** Fine print: Remember, I had just run 9 miles, so I might have been predisposed to enjoy anything edible exponentially more than normal.
*** I do question whether, due to La Tache’s friendship with Odermatt, our sandwich was boosted with extra crackling. There was a lot of crackling in that sandwich.