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Coco Puro
Duck into Yum, on Market Street, for Coco Puro’s delicious Kakawa Chocolate-Covered Cocoa Beans.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

STEPHANIE ZONIS is a contributing editor to THE NIBBLE.

 

 

March 2006

Food Fun / Events & Travel

San Francisco Specialty Food Shops

Tasty Treats Around Every Corner

 

It’s easy to leave your heart in San Francisco if you’re dedicated to the worthy pursuit of finding good-quality food. The City by the Bay has legendary restaurants, true; but too many people neglect the many excellent specialty food shops that seem to present themselves around almost every corner. Below is a sampling based on the travels of two NIBBLE editors who had a week to research San Francisco’s best.  If you have recommendations for our next trip, please click here to tell us about them.

Fisherman’s Wharf

  • Oakville Grocery, The Cannery at Del Monte Square (2801 Leavenworth, corner of Jefferson), 1.415.614.1600. A branch of the famed Napa Valley shop, Oakville Grocery carries upscale food of all sorts, from locally made preserves to frozen goods to bakery items (although the latter don’t compete with the best bakeries in town). EDITOR’s NOTE: Oakville Grocery was purchased in mid-2007 and may or may not continue at this location and name.
  • Chocolat, also in The Cannery, 1.415.674.8852. This shop offers a wide variety of chocolates, including some imports. If you’re a true chocolate connoisseur you may find the selection a bit middlebrow; but with a little selectivity you can find some top-quality snacking.

Hayes Valley/Civic Center

  • Blue Bottle Coffee Company, 315 Linden Street, 1.415.252.7535. This hole in the wall consistently draws rave reviews for both its coffee and its hot chocolate. With the exception of the chocolate they use for their hot chocolate (an excellent local brand) and their Yemen Sana’ani coffee (widely considered pesticide-free in the industry), everything here is organic—the pastries, too. These are people who clearly believe in what they’re serving. They’re also at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.
  • Heart of the City Farmers’ Market, 1182 Market Street (U.N. Plaza; the closest cross street is 8th). Wednesdays and Sundays, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Although it lacks the upscale tone of the Ferry Building Farmers’ Market, many consider this to be the only “real deal.” Great produce is always available, especially in summer, but don’t forget to try the baked goods, olive oil and other offerings.
  • Yum, 1750 Market Street, 1.415.626.9866. You never know just what you’ll find in this clean-lined, unusual shop, but you’ll almost certainly be offered a cup of coffee whenever you show up. The offerings include spices, sugars, salts, condiments, and lots more. There is an impressive array of sodas, as well as some good chocolates (try the Cocoa Nuts, made by local chocolatier Ariella Toeman (click here to read our review), or Cocoa Puro’s Kakawa Chocolate-Covered Cocoa Beans. The nice staff will let you “try before you buy.”

Japantown

  • Boulangerie Bay Bakery, 2325 Pine Street, 1.415.440.0356. This local favorite offers what must be the best cannelles (an eggy, cinnamony pastry) outside of Paris. Try, too, their version of flan, which is a smooth custard baked in a pastry shell. Beautiful! A branch of this bakery around the corner makes sandwiches and has a few tables. They have a sister bakery cafe in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City...and based on everything we tasted in San Francisco, we’re headed down there soon.

Marina

  • CocoaBella Chocolates, 2102 Union Street, 1.415.931.6213. CocoaBella does not make chocolates, but it carries an impressive line of chocolates made in several countries. The staff is friendly in this chocolate lover’s paradise, and they’ll happily answer your questions and allow you to pick out exactly the chocolates you want. Try anything from the Belgian Pralineur Van Coillie. The American chocolatiers Christopher Elbow and Knipschildt are also popular. (Click here to read our review of Christopher Elbow.)
  CocoaBella
  CocoaBella sells “The Finest Chocolates From Around The World,” and hospitably provides window seats with a view so you can start nibbling on your purchases immediately.

Nob Hill

  • Cheese Plus, 2001 Polk Street, 1.415.921.2001. A small shop packed with terrific specialty foods. As you might guess from the name, cheese is the focus, and the staff knows what they are about in that realm. But don’t miss the other offerings: chocolates, olive oils, mustards, vinegars, wines and much more. Great fun and nice people. Try the Harley Farms goat cheeses—especially the apricot-pistachio—or the lovely Sottocenere, with bits of black truffle.
  Cheese Plus
  You could be happy singing the blues at Cheese Plus. There’s a lovely selection of specialty
foods and chocolates as well.

North Beach

  • XOX Truffles, 754 Columbus Avenue, 1.415.421.4814. Don’t miss this tiny coffee bar and chocolaterie, where you can purchase any of an interesting selection of petite handmade truffles of excellent quality. Truffles include liqueured varieties, those without alcohol and even vegan soy flavors. There’s a larger branch in the Montclair Village section of Oakland if you’re headed out that way.

RichartUnion Square

  • Richart Design et Chocolat, 393 Sutter Street, 1.888.RICHART. An ultra-pricey, ultra-swank chocolate boutique where you can shop by flavor family (Herbal, Spiced, Roasted), by occasion (Celebrate, Birthday, Wedding), or by collection (Joyous Memories, Simply Dark). The chocolates are visually stunning and of top quality.

Financial District

  • Ferry Building and Ferry Building Farmers’ Markets, 1 Ferry Building. The scene here is on Saturdays at the Farmers’ Market, when the place is packed (even in January), the energy level is high, and you’ll find everything from Flying Disc Ranch dates (in more varieties than you’d believe possible) to June Taylor preserves to organic eggs to smoked fish to breathtakingly beautiful produce. If you are wise, you’ll head to the very back of the market, where you’ll find the Aidell’s Sausages kiosk, which offers great grilled chicken sausages on seriously gourmet buns (potato-rosemary, anyone?). There’s a smaller Farmers’ Market on Tuesdays, as well. In between market times, hit the permanent shops inside the Ferry Building, open most days of the week (many are closed Mondays, however). Among them are Acme Bread, McEvoy Ranch Olive Oil, Ciao Bella Gelato (go for the hazelnut!), Cowgirl Creamery, and the fascinating Far West Fungi, a boutique devoted entirely to mushrooms. If you’re in need of chocolate, Recchiuti Confections can come to your rescue (the vanilla bean marshmallows are standouts); if you require seafood, stop in at the Hog Island Oyster Company. There are a few casual eateries, too, in addition to more “serious” restaurants such as the famed Slanted Door.
  Far West Funghi
  It’s mushroom paradise at Far West Fungi in the Ferry Building. Each cardboard box is filled with precious morels, chanterelles, maitakes (hen of the woods)...things to make a foodie’s heart flutter. The truffles are in the refrigerator case in the center.
  • Fog City News, 455 Market Street, 1.415.543.7400. It’s a newsstand—that is, a lovely shop that sells magazines and newspapers—but a newsstand that happens to stock a great variety of chocolate bars, from Michel Cluizel to Christopher Norman to more than a few top imports like Amedei and Chocovic, and unusual bars like Zotter. Essentially, Fog City News has amassed the best selection of fine chocolate bars we’ve come across; and if you’re into chocolate, it’s hard to get out of here quickly. Open on weekdays and the first Saturday of the month.
  • Sellers Market, the official address is 388 Market Street; the physical address is the corner of Front and Pine Streets, 1.415.956.3825. It’s lunch hour. You haven’t time to wait with the crowd at Yank Sing for dim sum, but you still want something good. Head to this glorified sandwich shop. Even if the line is out the door, you won’t wait long. The few tables inside are usually occupied, but the turnover here is speedy—though take-out is encouraged. Tasty, super-fresh salads and sandwiches, with fair prices for good-sized portions. The proprietors understand they live in a great place for food and spotlight talented local producers. The only disappointments here are the desserts. Open weekdays only. 

Know of other great specialty food shops in The City by the Bay? Click here to tell us about them.



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