Californians are proud of their produce. They take great delight in letting you know who their local providors are: their baker, brewer, butcher, creamery, market gardener… and none more than San Franciscans it seems. While not the only city to embrace buying seasonally from within its provincial boundaries, it was the first to give it a name, in fact, two names: in 2005 a group of San Franciscans challenged Bay Area folk to become ‘Locavores’ – to source food from their ‘Foodshed’ – the area within a 100 mile radius of their home. The idea soon spread, becoming so popularised that ‘Locavore‘ was Oxford’s New American Dictionary word of 2007. San Francisco menus are a ‘who’s who’ of local artisans and growers, for the visitor, their urban and rural locales become familiar, neighbourly, and inclusive.
Berkeley’s Acme have been baking organic artisan bread since the early 80s. We were lucky that our closest store, Alpha Market in Cole Valley, not only stocked Acme’s bread but had a great deli. Marin Cheese Company’s Jalapeño Jack, Acme’s Walnut Sour-dough, and Anchor Steam Beer.
Jo found and booked Frances a couple of months before we left New Zealand; Frances is small and popular, so reservations are a necessity. Applewood Smoked Bacon Beignets with the local Magnolia Prescription Pale Ale from the tap.
Blue Bottle Coffee
At Heath Ceramic’s tile factory and shop (a re-invented industrial laundry), a glass wall separates Blue Bottle’s espresso bar and lounge from the factory. In quirky alignment with Edith Heath’s very cool signature ceramic styles (made in small batches since 1948 across the Bay at Sausalito), the shop’s gallery-like display mixes an eclectic range of objects – from vintage cook books to artisan food products.
We had to visit Tartine. After graduating with a visual arts degree, our daughter then studied and graduated as a pâtissier; she has worked as a baker ever since. When she first become interested in bread, we got very used to the Tartine Bread book lying around.
So, while this was somewhat of a wee homage, we did anticipate the coffee and baking of Tartine as we walked from our stay in Mount Olympus, through the Castro, and toward the Mission – because it was Sunday morning. We joined the queue that slumped lazily around the corner of 18th and Guerrero, and like the others we chatted, read the paper, and contemplated the snatches of surrounding conversations – because it was Sunday morning.
Tartine’s terrazo foyer is a link to a former bakery; originally established in 1950 by Carl and Mabel Reichmann, Carl’s Pastry Shop closed in 1998.
Mission Cheese hand-pick a Californian sideshow of artisan produce to match their cheese selections, they enthusiastically present simple food with style, humour and little fuss. A place so laid-back you buss your own table; yet, if you can spare 20 minutes they will bake you a fresh batch of cookies. A place where they have individual cloth hand-towels in the bathroom, where a green salad is finished with seasonal fruit and a champagne vinegarette, and where a sandwich is named ‘Ched or Alive’.
Sparrow Bar and Kitchen
Describing their self-styled ‘Haight Cuisine’ as ‘Modern American’ Sparrow Bar and Kitchen clearly revel in the history and future alike, of their iconic locale. Casually efficient, serving largely organic local produce from a roomy, handsome place – where floor to ceiling windows up-front let fractured light splash about sweeping timber floors and white walls – while providing a casual distraction outward onto the street-scape of Upper Haight.