Are you lactose intolerant? If not, then keep reading. If yes, then also keep reading, because torture can be fun. Don't believe me? Then ask most San Francisco Giants fans or the people that work at kink.com. While it has been open for almost two years, Cowgirl Creamery Sidekick in the Ferry Building always ends up being mentioned for their oft-changing grilled cheese sandwiches or the Red Hawk mac and cheese. That's fantastic if you're hankering something rich and homey to eat, but what if you're after something interesting to drink? Do you brave the 30 person long line down the promenade at Blue Bottle Coffee to grab a Gibraltar? Do you dare go around the corner to the Peet's Coffee and walk around San Francisco with a cup that screams your support for a now corporate-owned coffee company? People will snicker at you and talk behind your back, and your boss will probably make note of it for your next review. Instead, try one of Sidekick's milk bar offerings.
This isn't a Clockwork Orange Korova Milk Bar serving up ultraviolence fuel. Instead, it serves up cold and steamed Straus milk, as well as egg cream sodas. The drink to go for is the steamed milk, of which there are five menu options: cafe au lait, Recchiuti chocolate, vanilla, chai spiced, and raspberry. While the chocolate and chai versions are the best choices, an off-menu concoction rises above them in my opinion.
"The Laura Special," only because the employee who introduced it to me, and who for weeks would make it for me, was named Laura. Of course, not having seen Laura working the register there for some time seems to cause confusion when I ask for "The Laura Special," so I have had to stop ordering it that way. If you try to order it that way, you might get a look akin to what a male business traveler gets when he asks for a happy ending at a legitimate massage parlor in an unfamiliar city; I don't speak from personal experience as I always know where the sketchy parlors are when I travel.
What you should do is ask for a steamed café au lait, with a shot of chocolate. Depending on who is behind the register, this can lead to a quizzical look, followed by a behind the counter conference with other employees and maybe a call to the bullpen for further advice on if this is possible and how to ring it up. If you enjoy "being difficult" and identify with either "sauce on siders" Sally Albright or Howard Stern, this moment will give you a moment of sick satisfaction, and perhaps gain you enemies from the ever growing line behind you. Once your order is placed and after a 5-minute wait, you will be rewarded with a unique San Francisco drinking experience. The warm Straus milk is stretched and swirled by one of Sidekick's milk baristas; it is silky and rich, perfect for a cool morning or evening by the Bay. The coffee and chocolate play together nicely as any mocha drinker knows, but with muted flavors.
I have had friends tell me the flavors are very mild and almost resemble a watered down mocha, but that is missing the point. Remember, at its core, this is a 10-oz cup of steamed milk, and the flavors are merely there to add nuance for your taste buds to enjoy, not drown out the flavor of the Straus milk. This subtle complexity is what makes Sidekick's steamed milk a fascinating drink option when near the Ferry Building. It will also win you cool points with your friends when playing the "who drinks the most obscure hot beverage game."