This time last year, I was opting out of $4 toast from The Mill in San Francisco. Since then, the toast craze has exploded nationwide, and people are making ridiculous, delicious, or both, pieces of art on a slice of bread. Granted, the toast at the Mill is mostly $4 for the bread itself (Josey Baker), as the toppings consisted of Nutella and cinnamon sugar. But Bon Appétit made the toast trend their cover story in January. Truly, what’s better than adding a fun combo of foods you’d eat alone onto a crispy slice of toast? Especially when you’ve made the bread yourself! If you didn’t though, that’s cool. Read on for party-starting, trendingly on fleek toast.
To continue my end-of-blogging tendencies, I have run out of time to share all my gastronomic adventures with y’all in a chronologically appropriate time. So it is now the time to conglomerate the highlights of the rest of my endeavors in San Francisco, the night before my flight back to the East Coast, when I should instead be making lunch/dinner/meal for the stingy domestic flight that won’t provide me with one for free. Featured here is the best chocolate chip cookie I purchased in the city, the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market, Tartine Bakery (big deal), and Chile Pies and Ice Cream, north of the Panhandle.
So another As Seen on “Unique Sweets” player here is Goody Goodie Cream and Sugar. This place is tucked away very nicely in what I guess is technically Mission. Nothing much is in the area, except some excellent chocolate chip cookies. I met the woman behind the baked goodness, Remi Hayashi. She was very kind and filled me in on her secret when I asked her what was crunching in the goody goodie cookie, with four different kinds of chocolate: cocoa nibs. Nuts, right? No, not nuts at all. This is all chocolate and almost no batter (once you bite into it). I would say a definite 2:1 chocolate to dough ratio here, no lie. And what’s better than a free milk shot to go with your cookie? Not much.
They’re also just very attractive cookies. Perfectly round and colored on top. Also nice and thick.
This farmer’s market though…the biggest in the city, is up and running Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Saturday is from 8-2pm, and as you can imagine, the chef/restaurant owners don’t fancy wading through the crowd for the leftovers at noon, so the die hards get there right at 8 am for the best pickings and fewest people. One Saturday morning I got up at 7 just to get to the farmer’s market when it wasn’t crowded. I don’t do too well with crowds and grocery shopping: ask my classmates and they’ll tell you I wait until 10 pm to go to Wegmans. Well I got to the farmer’s market and while it was foggy, it was just so pleasant. Also beautiful (note tomato arrangement above). So many stone fruit samples. How else do you pick where to get your $3.50/lb nectarines?
animals for their meat anyway, right?
Check it: the original Umami Burger, with Parmesan crisp (baked Parmesan
chip), tiny shiitake mushroom, roasted tomato, caramelized onions and
truffle butter, and a fried egg. #mushrooms #trendy
you just gotta lol. The fries were for sure tasty though I’ll give Umami that.
I don’t know how to describe the importance of Tartine Bakery to San Francisco, except to say that it’s very important. Everyone knows it, everyone has been there, and everyone probably has their preferred menu item. I have never passed the corner café without seeing a line of this length out the door. I do know that no-lines happen on occasion, though. One Saturday morning I found myself in the Mission and thought it only appropriate to try something.
It’s a very small place, so don’t expect to get a table without waiting. But you go in – or rather line up, get in, order, and find somewhere to stay if you want. I think there may be some wait staff thing going on if you order lunch. Here are some literal sneak peek photos I took in stealth mode/from the hip (I’m getting better maybe?).
Chile Pies and Ice Cream are known for putting chiles in their apple pie with a cheddar crust or some such combo. I say why ruin a perfectly good pie, as does my intern buddy Erin, but I guess I can’t knock it yet since I went with the seasonal white nectarine with raspberries, paired with lemon cookie ice cream from SF’s Three Twins Ice Cream. I think one of those twins went to Cornell! This place is part of Green Chile Kitchen, a fun looking restaurant right next door to their NoPa location (north of Panhandle…does anyone really use NoPa as a neighborhood name?). It has some sort of old-fashioned, maybe rustic vibe to it. Check out that table top.
pie shakes. They will take your pie slice of choice and make it into a shake.
I’m not sure, either. Next time.
I’m leaving this city with more questions than answers, but at this point, with one semester to go and future choices to be considering, it’s not a bad thing. This time tomorrow I will be on the hustle side of things for one more round. Stay tuned for ridiculous senior(itis) endeavors, and thanks for reading this far! Keep your rubber scrapers handy for a fun cupcake recipe from weeks ago too…
If it hasn’t caught on around you yet, let me tell you about the latest sweet treat fad: salt.
It’s not even that it’s new, or that Hooker’s started something completely radical. But I’ve found it everywhere in the city: on top of chocolate chip cookies, in fancy grinders showing off fancier colors (Himalayan pink, anyone?), ice cream, and soap. Kinfolk Magazine has even written a letter (from pepper) to salt, to slow its roll. Here, Hook is using salt to truly enhance the flavors coming out of his confections. And it works.
Again, I actually walked past this small and adorable place on my way to it. Very hole-in-the-wall, grab-your-coffee-on-the-way-to-work kinda place (they sell SF’s Sight Glass coffee here too).
“We’re about aesthetics.” That’s what Matt told me when we discussed a potential photo project with Hook, the owner and creator of Hooker’s. This is clear. Check out the cocoa nibs on top of that white-chocolate dipped caramel.
The original gangster, right here. This is where it’s at. If you’re going to buy a $2 caramel, go straight to the source of inspiration/the most caramel you can get in one go. No extras, no fillers. Just caramel and chocolate. And salt.
I would call Hook’s flavors and combinations…thoughtful. There are a lot of different things going on with his caramels, but not so many things in one caramel that you can’t appreciate the flavor of the caramel itself. But I like me a good classic treat. Especially if I’m a n00b to the game and need to know what I’m getting into.
The one thing I knew I had to try when I went though was the caramel bar, where they flatten a cookie base onto a baking sheet and throw a bunch of original caramels on it so they melt right onto the cookie. It was just as good as it sounds. If you’re wondering how I think that sounds, SO GOOD.
Definitely at the top of my list. If you’re into San Francisco-priced dessert. $2 for a caramel and $3 for a bar. But hey, it’s a treat-yoself kinda place.
According to tvfoodmaps.com, there are actually THIRTEEN locations visited by Unique Sweets in San Francisco. This does not include the two locations that have since closed. I knew it had to be more than six…exciting that Brenda’s French Soul Food is also one of these locations, that, again, I already wrote about. Seems like I’ve made some good progress here.
I could smell this place before I laid eyes on it. I’m serious! Sickly sweetness leading me to their door.
Here’s a place you don’t want to go when you’re fasting. When I told the girl behind the counter that I couldn’t sample anything after grilling her with descriptions of half the flavors, she gave me a confused “ohhhkay…” response. SMH – don’t worry about it…
You step into Z Cioccolato and become overwhelmed with the color and abundance of salt water taffy, and much more candy. But they don’t exactly stop at the candy. Z Cioccolato doubles as a toy store, with obscurely large googly eyes and classic tin lunch boxes.
Barrels of salt water taffy take up the whole second half of the store. I don’t know many people who are into this stuff, but if you are, this is the place to find your strange and unique varieties.
Did I mention Ghirardelli is from San Francisco?
These guys have some odd flavors going for them, but I guess that’s how they made it to Unique Sweets. I kept it simple with White Tiger.
White chocolate with a strip of milk chocolate in the middle, and sea salt caramel drizzled over the top.
Yes, I did say simple. I didn’t say reasonable.
|See Dandelion Chocolates back there? Yeah, they were on the same episode.|
Unique Sweets is truthfully my favorite TV show, period. It’s on the Cooking Channel, the hipster and unconventional teenager of the Food Network, and it’s full of national gems. A spin-off of the original “Unique Eats”, this show exhibits different cafés, bakeries and restaurants in the country with crazy cool desserts and sweet treats. What’s better than offbeat confectioneries? The only thing I can think of is being in a city with so many! I’ve counted six locations in San Francisco that “Unique Sweets” has been to, talked about and aired on their show. Dynamo Donuts, which I wrote about before, happens to be one of these places. Another of these places is Craftsman and Wolves, in the Mission District. They’re known for “The Rebel Within”, which is a soft-boiled egg inside of an asiago sausage muffin. But once you walk up to their counter, you’ll see why else they’re famous and unique.
|Caramelized hazelnut financier (French cake). $3.|
|Cashew curry and Valrhona (also French) chocolate chip cookies. $3|
|Chocolate croissant stack. $3.50|
Everything they make is beautiful. Look at that chocolate stack. Would I buy it for $3.50? Maybe not. I had a grand old time in there fangirling behind my camera, though.
|The Rebel Within. $7|
Look at that muffin. This I might shell out 7 bucks for if just for the experience (if not for the sausage part). Inside your asiago muffin, you get a soft-boiled egg. Whoa. What an adventure to bite into.
|Savory tart: Charred eggplant purée, quinoa, smocked almonds and raisins (sic?). $5.50.
They omitted the “fromage blanc” on the little card there, but seen on their online menu.
Also, if you know that smocked is a real term, please fill me in.
Moving left towards the cash register, we see potential lunch contenders. A garden of choices. A display of attention to detail.
|Hard hitters corner. Proceed with caution.|
|Haute Dog: Beef frank, mustard seed croissant, salt & vinegar beet chips. $6.50.
Now they’re just getting ridiculous. Or no? Maybe it’s incredible.
|“Sandwich”: Shitake, bok choy, kimchi savory cake, peanuts (sic). $8.
I’m not even sure what some of that means. Was the kimchi baked into that toast?
There’s where the “crazy cool” comes in, sweet or not. These could just as well be life-like ceramic sculptures of very talented artists, but this is really what these lunch menu items look like. I don’t know that I would ever go for the toast set up, but I would consider the haute dog.
|Coupe: Blueberry, Earl Grey. $4.50|
|Tart: Sweet corn, blonde chocolate, coconut, caramel. $6.50|
I would buy this spherical tart just out of curiosity on how to eat it. Seriously, how do you eat that? Is it soft and moussey? Hard and fudgy? But you have to applaud how they put these things together to make them look like bird nests. And that petal of whatever it may be.
|(Mini) Black Frosting: Blackberry, vanilla, semolina, lavender. $8, $27.|
|(Mini) Cube Cake: Strawberry, honey, yogurt. $8, $30.|
Their cakes are also other-worldly. They change varieties every so often as well.
I went for a morning bun, because it was “only” $4. It was nothing particularly special, but it had a nice flavor of vanilla like I was eating ice cream. Morning buns seem to be more of a west coast thing, and definitely a San Francisco thing. No crazy citrus flavors like most morning buns have, though. The center was soft and chewy and the outside was crunchy from the sugar and maybe salt coating. I don’t think you can really go wrong at Craftsman and Wolves: anything you get will be really good, or at least an experience.
If you ever get the chance, do make it to Craftsman and Wolves. They made it to Unique Sweets for a reason. Apart from the occasional typo, they know what they’re doing. Check out their website, or better yet, their Instagram for more ridiculousness. Whether you get a Rebel Within or a bird’s nest, CAW will have something to spark your curiosity.
Editor’s note: I have since consumed six dollars worth of the Valrhona chocolate chip cookies for free (serious perks of interning for one of the best food photographers in the city). Surprisingly, I found the Valrhona chocolate to be too dark…I guess my palate hasn’t grown up as much as I thought. Which would explain the reactions of all the adults around who fell in love with the cookies. Don’t get me wrong – apart from the chocolate, I did really enjoy the cookie. It was chewy and thick. But seriously, I could have eaten one for breakfast – so dense, so big!
Ramadan has officially commenced around the world, so it’s a good thing I ran around the SF food scene early in the game. But don’t think a month of daylight fasting will deter me from the restaurant tables; I’m already making plans to visit Candybar Dessert Lounge *rubs hands*.
I guess I like doughnuts; enough to find the best of the best in town according to Google. That’s probably one of a handful of things I got from my Uncle Banji – shout out for sacrificing the trans-fat-full Krispy Kremes. Brenda’s French Soul Food is a cute restaurant in the occasionally dodgy Tenderloin neighborhood, where Chef Brenda Buenviaje brought her New Orleans culture and cooking to share with San Francisco. We came for the beignets, but left with the intention of trying the shrimp and goat-cheese omelet or cornmeal-fried oyster po’boy. I’m a sucker for seafood and deep frying, so I think I could do some real damage here.
This place gets packed. Lines out the door, and extra cozy dining rooms. This is a good sign, right? So is this one: “house rules”. They need a whole frame – I’m in. And luckily, literally. The 2pm Friday crowd was minimal, and my roommie Megan and I were seated within 5 minutes of entering.
Check out the silverware cans and condiment buckets. True southern feel? I would think so, but I’ve yet to make it to Louisiana. What I do know is that some of these cans came from the famous Café du Monde in New Orleans. Authentic!
Casual yet classy. Check out the mirrors on that wall. Check out the wall.
So beignets. Megan and I were kinda in over our heads here…after some consideration, we went for a plate of traditional beignets, and a plate of Ghirardelli-stuffed beignets to split. Three beignets of each, three beignets each to consume. Totally doable, right? Maybe, but the real question is always “should it be”, isn’t it? We could barely move after enjoying the dense fried dough mounds and dark chocolate chip pockets, doused in powdered sugar.
What exactly is a beignet, though? You could call it the French version of a doughnut, but for us, it’s closer to a “fritter”. I call it a ball or square of fried dough, that is always be covered in powdered sugar in this country. What may make it particular is the dough itself. The “choux” pastry is light and has butter, egg, and flour. Without yeast, these treats expand when steam is created from all the moisture and heat. In this traditional beignet, you can see the pocket of air. But don’t be deceived: these beignets pack a heavy punch. After one, you’re trying to calculate how you will finish the other two waiting on your plate.
So much beignet…so little room. Here we have a lovely chocolate-stuffed beignet, where the middle is made up of Ghirardelli chocolate chips. Did I mention Ghirardelli originated in San Francisco? And this thing was chock-FULL. We instantly reevaluated our choice to order two plates among consuming our first one of these. I may have preferred shooting it than eating it – you really need to enlarge these images to get the full experience. The chocolate chips hadn’t even melted fully…there IS such a thing as too much chocolate, and I think we were in sight of a limit at Brenda’s. In any case, it was an excellent experience and I have no regrets. Only next time, I’ll be trying at least one of their different varieties: Granny Smith Apple (with honey butter!!) and Crawfish. A la prochaine, Brenda!
As literally as that modern idiom could be used. And as incomplete as that last sentence was. San Francisco is one of the best cities to be in as a foodie. It’s full of French boulangeries and pâtisseries, so in that sense it’s also the best place to transition oneself to a return to American life & cuisine from France. Vive la baguette. And vive le food truck, because there are easily 50 food trucks in San Francisco, and 50 more in the surrounding Bay Area. There are so many ways to get your food truck fix here, but one I learned about my first day here is called Off the Grid. Seriously check it out because it is super cool. They’ve created more than 30 locations in the Bay Area where 5-40 food trucks/tents will set up shop for either lunch or dinner and you can have your choice of yummy nummies. Food trucks/carts from crêpers to crème brûléers to gyrators to SPECULOOS COTTON CANDYMEN all get together to serve us, with the frequent local band playing live music on the side. Off the Grid gets it. The coolest party to date. So without further ado, let me introduce you to some noms, and how also, not all options are good options here in food-truck land.