Had "A Gourmet Experience" lately?
I am looking for examples of food (and even non-food) shops -- NOT full-serve restaurants-- that provide a truly gourmet experience. I'm taking some folks on a food tour and want to show them the most chichi, upscale, premium, and delicious things that SF has to offer... ideally off the beaten path. In other words, off the tourist path, into the neighborhoods of The City.
This might be considered touristy, but I don't think you can do a complete food tour of SF without visiting the Ferry Building, esp. on Farmer's Market day. It's all upscale, all premium, and mostly delicious.
I'd also add Lucca's and Molinari's delicatessens. And the kitchen store on Divisadero whose name I always forget, but that smells like an attic and is packed full of used kitchen equipment.
Check out the Bi-Rite Market on 18th Street between Guerrero and Dolores. Killer gourmet specialty market with killer prepared foods. It's also on the same block with Delfina, Delfina Pizza, and the spectacular Tartine bakery, which makes that block the up-scale gourmet epicenter of the entire Mission/Noe swath of the city.
The most chichi upscale places are mostly not off the tourist path.
And probably 85% of the most delicious things that are off the beaten path are the opposite of upscale.
focaccia warm out of the oven at Liguria
slice of porcini pizza at L'Osteria del Forno
pastry or apricot-ginger breads at Noe Valey Bakery (but you can hit them at the Ferry Plaza on Saturday)
taco al pastor at Taqueria San Jose
schwaerma at Truly Mediterranean
taste flight at WINE in Embarcadero Center
free meatballs at Schroeder's
burger at Zeitgeist
bahn mi at Saigon Sandwich
Does is really have to be gourmet and chichi?
I take most of my 'out of towners' to Clement street for the SF crazy food scene. Kamei for the housewares, Tokio for the fun and weird candy, Good Luck Dim Sum ,Burma Superstar or Troya for lunch.
As other posters suggested, can't beat Ferry Plaza on Saturday for the creme de la creme of chichi.
Cowgirl creamery or the cheese shop on 24th St. in Noe Valley for cheese
Red Blossom Tea Company in chinatown for tea tasting and purchasing
Egg custard pies at Golden Gate bakery in Chinatown
Best hummous and mediterranean spices at Haig's on Clement. Great halvah cut to order as well.
Pasta Shop in Rockridge mall in Oakland. The best foodie shopping mall. I know you want SF but I can't not mention this place.
The Japanese grocery store in Japantown is always fun
Bombay Bazaar on Valencia for Indian goods
Tartine of course for baked goods.
I'm sure there is so much more in my head, but those are the first things that are coming to mind!
A kind of off the wall suggestion for a non-food gourmet related store is Cookin', Judith Kaminsky's antique and used cooking utensil shop. Judith visits France often and carries lots of interesting and unusual cooking items from both Europe and the U.S. There's more info here:
For cheese, the Cheese Board in Berkeley is worth the trip.
While there, you could go across the street to visit Epicurious Gardens, developer Soheyl Modarressi's reducto ad absurdum effort to part the most foodies from the maximum money with the least service in the minimum space. Spend $2 on half a bite of chocolate! Perch on a stool at Taste and wash down your $23 roast chicken with a $10 ounce of wine! Or just laugh at the scene, go across the street for a $2.25 slice of Cheese Board pizza, and hit the free wine tasting at Vintage Berkeley.
If Berkeley is not too far, there is a lot of stuff there in a small area. In North Berkeley there is Cheeseboard and Epicurious gardens.
Kermit Lynch, Acme bakery and The Spanish Table are all within a block or two of each other.
Down on 4th Street there is Cafe Rouge meat market and the new Napastyle store. Vik's Indian grocery is near there too.
I'm sure there is more...Scharffenberger Chocolate, Tokyo Fish, Sketch ice cream...but this is all I can think of right now.