New Saturday Vendor: Craftsman and Wolves
Caitriona Smyth, CUESA Volunteer
May 30, 2013
William Werner’s Strawberries and Cream Bar is a salute to the berries of late spring: an almond cake topped with a dense strawberry pastry cream and decorated with fresh strawberries and a raspberry sablé. It can be found at Craftsman and Wolves, the latest addition to the Saturday Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. But Werner is no newcomer to the Ferry Plaza. He has been shopping here since his days as a pastry chef at Quince, and the market was where he launched his first pâtisserie, Tell Tale Preserve Co., in 2010.
Following the closure of Tell Tale, Werner opened Craftsman and Wolves a year ago in San Francisco’s Mission District. The business gets its inspiration from the elegant bakeries Werner visited when he was working in Tokyo six years ago. “I wanted to bring some of that refinement, those flavors and textures, and that look and feel to San Francisco,” he says. The name Craftsman and Wolves alludes to the pastry chef’s pursuit of perfection in his craft; the wolves are, in his words, “the trials and tribulations that it takes to get you there.”
Art You Can Eat
Werner got his start cooking savory dishes at a vegetarian restaurant in Florida, but he grew to appreciate the scientific aspects of baking and eventually moved to the West Coast to work at the Ritz-Carlton. “There’s an aspect of pastry that my mind identifies with,” he says. “It can be more conceptual.”
A firm believer that “you eat with your eyes first,” he begins by visualizing the final product, including its shape, size, texture, “eatability,” and presentation, and then backpedals into the ingredients and flavors. The results are unexpected flavor combinations like those found in his Thai scone, packed with lemongrass, mango, candied ginger, and coconut.
When Werner first thought up his famous Rebel Within, he imagined a savory, sausage-packed muffin with a hard-boiled egg in its center, not the oozing yolk that it is currently known for. On his first attempt, Werner left the egg slightly underdone, reckoning that it would continue to cook once in the oven. But cutting into the muffin, he found that the egg was still tender. Reminded of molten chocolate cakes, he kept The Rebel as it was. The decision came down to a simple truth: “At the end of the day, people like gooey centers,” he says.
Seasonal by Design
Beyond their high-concept basis, Werner’s pastries often take cues from the farmers market. He attributes this aspect of his business to his time at Quince working alongside chef-owner Michael Tusk, a strong farmers market supporter. “It’s easy to sit back and just make chocolate hazelnut cakes, vanilla almond financiers, and ham and cheese croissants,” says Werner. “But trying to incorporate what’s available at the market into your product—man, that’s hard.”
The farmers market serves both as Werner’s inspiration and as a source of ingredients for the shop’s confections, jams, pastries, and other menu items. “I think we probably hit every farm at different times of the year,” says Werner. “Right now, we’re hammering Dirty Girl Produce for their strawberries and Yerena Farms for their raspberries, and I got a ton of kumquats the other day from Brokaw Nursery.”
For Craftsman and Wolves to make the best use of seasonal produce, planning is key. “We want to work with all of these short-season, big-flavor, fun products,” says Werner. “For us to be creative, we have to be organized. The tighter the shop is, the more we can throw things into the mix.” The prototype of a blueberry coupé topped with Earl Grey cream, which customers only began indulging in last week, was in the works two months ago. When Triple Delight Blueberries returned to the market several weeks later, Werner added their berries to the batter, adjusted the recipe, and voilà.
After a couple years away, Werner is glad to be setting up shop again at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. “I love the energy of it,” he says. “I think it’s really special for customers to come to our stand and buy something, and we’re able to say, ‘It’s made with plums from Kashiwase Farms, which is right there, just a few stands down.’”
Find Craftsman and Wolves next to Blue Bottle Coffee Co.’s stand in the front of the Ferry Building on Saturdays.
Top pastry photo by Tory Putnam. Rebel Within muffin photo by Josh Leskar, Nosh with Josh.