VACAVILLE — They call Freda Way the ring leader.
That’s how Way, a Vacaville resident, and her group of friends, most of them former co-workers, ended up at Boudin SF in Vacaville on Tuesday afternoon during the business’s “Sneak Peek Eats” event to benefit Opportunity House.
“We will be back,” Way said, as she and her friends left the restaurant after a filling meal and loaded with bags of fresh French bread.
The fabled restaurant and bakery with its trademark Fisherman’s Wharf flagship location is set to open Thursday. The “Sneak Peek Eats” on Tuesday was the second of three sold-out days when the restaurant does a pseudo soft opening while holding an event for a local charity.
Diners, who heard about the event from various sources, hurried to gain one of the 1,500 spots on one of the three days that sold out within a couple of days. Diners were encouraged to make donations to Opportunity House while they enjoyed a free meal and the restaurant employees ironed out any kinks that could befall the opening of any business.
Victoria Montano, the director of marketing for Boudin, said that on average the local chosen charity for each opening brings in about $5,000.
“We do (this) at all the openings,” she said. She said that Opportunity House was chosen because it meets the company’s mission of benefiting women, children and families in transition.
“Opportunity House was chosen because it provides a safe, secure, drug-free and helpful environment for homeless people and families in Solano County,” Montano said.
During the “Sneak Peek Eats” event, diners were given a set of cards that gave them a range of entrees they could order. Cards varied between the diners and changed with breakfast, lunch and dinner, giving the “back-of-house” employees experience preparing all meals.
“It’s the only way we can ensure that ‘back-of-house’ are trained across the entire menu,” Montano said. “It helps manage the flow.” She joked that if they didn’t do it this way, the employees would be spooning clam chowder into bread bowls all day – one of the restaurant’s signature meals.
Vacaville resident Janis Rankin came for lunch with her teenage daughter Sarah Rankin. Janis Rankin said she was excited to find out the restaurant was coming to Vacaville.
“I love Boudin,” she said. “Wherever I find it, I eat it.”
Like Way and her friends, Janis Rankin will be back.
“I told my daughter I’m going to be a regular,” she said, laughing. “They’re going to have a table for me. They’ll know what I want.”
The three-day event is just one of several to mark the opening of the Vacaville Boudin location – starting with a police escort for the arrival Feb. 5 of the “Mother Dough” or sourdough starter, which was first cultured in 1849 to make the famous sourdough bread. Given its mid-1800s start, Boudin is the oldest continuously operating business in San Francisco.
The dough is leavened with wild yeast from San Francisco’s fog-enshrouded air – the original 1849 dough has been replenished with flour and water every day for 165 years, according to Boudin press materials.
Diners at the restaurant can get a bird’s eye view of bakers making the French bread as they stand in line at the brightly lit establishment located in the Nut Tree shopping center at 1620 E. Monte Vista Ave.
The first 100 people who enter Boudin in Vacaville at 9 a.m. Thursday will receive a free loaf of original sourdough bread every day for a year. It comes in the form of 365 bread cards nestled in a tin. The No. 1 spot in line is always reserved for the local food bank. In this case it will be the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano.
But don’t plan on arriving at 8:45 a.m. in an attempt to be one of those 100 people. They start lining up early – like the night before. The 100 mark is usually met by the wee hours of the morning, Boudin representatives said.
Two of Way’s friends, Susan Billias and Danette Williams, plan to be part of that crowd of 100. After lunch at Boudin’s on Tuesday they discussed times and tried to encourage their other friends to join them.
“We’re going to be in line early,” Williams said.
Opening festivities at Boudin in Vacaville will also include discounted lift tickets to the Homewood Mountain ski resort, and a daily 20 percent military discount.
The restaurant will open at 9 a.m. Thursday but regular restaurant hours will be 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.
More information is available on the company’s website, www.boudinbakery.com.
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.