HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >


SF customs-friendly food treats

So, my darling husband (henceforth referred to as rat-bastard) will be heading to your lovely surrounds on Monday while I toil at home (outside of Toronto) in the mixed blessing that is the "feast" of the feast or famine state of being a freelancer. As you may guess, I am not pleased to be left behind (perhaps because I am staring at the snow, yes snow!, outside in disgust right now). Soooo....I am hoping you fine chows could make some suggestions as to some quintessential SF treats that the rat-bastard could mollify me with upon his return.

Along the same lines, since the wine selection in Ontario is decent but corporate (because the LCBO typically buys for all 688-ish stores), are there any wines you suggest that rat-bastard can get and bring home that would "capture" a SF food outing. Yes, I realize this is a tall order. Perhaps a higher end suggestion and a cheap and cheerful one?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Do you get good ripe avocados there, and if not are they allowed?

    The 2000 Galleron dry-farmed Aves zinfandel (aged by the winery) is delicious and a great value even at full list of $28. K&L has a few bottles for $17 in their Redwood City store, best to contact them and ask them to hold a bottle at the SF store:


    2 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      You can't carry it on. Will they allow you to pack it in your suitcase?

      1. re: Carnitas

        Yes. Wine in a checked suitcase is fine. K&L sells cardboard/styrofoam things that check really well.

    2. Haven't been there myself but many special jams and olive oils have gotten raves on this board - from the ferry building farmers market - but also from the shops inside if he can't go on the day/hours of the farmers market. I'd suggest a search of the board for more info since I'm an "incomplete" source.

      These items shouldn't have any customs problems - plus you can enjoy them over a long time :)

      18 Replies
      1. re: estnet

        Frog Hollow and Babette's Larder have lots of unusual items every day.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Scharfenberger (?spelling) chocolate would be a nice thing to bring. I'm not sure but I think they may have been bought out by a large multinational
          Sciabica Olive Oil from Modesto (don't laugh too hard the stuff is amazing).
          Whole bean coffees- there are so many kinds (Peets, one of the fair trade coffees roasted locally, other nice things).
          Tea- something locally prepped would be nice.

          1. re: drmimi

            I agree tha Sciabica is wonderful. After all the olive oils I tried, they are still the best to me. However, in SF only available on Saturday at the Ferry Plaza Farmers market. Will rat-bastard be here on that day? If so there are more sugggesions.

            Rat-bastard might consider a trip to Ferry Plaza any day of the week and pick up some Cowgirl Creamery Cheese.

            1. re: drmimi

              Scharffen Berger is now owned by Hershey's. Ghirardelli is owned by a large mulitnational, Lindt-Sprungli.

              1. re: Gary Soup

                This is depressing news-- are there any small chocolatiers left in the Bay Area?

                Sciabica can express mail you stuff from their Modesto shop to the Bay Area.

                1. re: drmimi

                  If by "chocolatier" you mean someone that actually MAKES chocolate, E. Guittard is local, but not really small (both See's and Michael Recchiuti use Guittard for couverture). E. Guittard is considered a master of the 60-65% cocoa range, and does make some bars under its own label.

                  For confectioners (e. g. people who like to play with other people's chocolate), XOX Truffles is good, the aforementioned Recchiuti makes righteously foofy chocolates, and there are others which I can't judge since I seldom go for anything but pure chocolate.

                  1. re: Gary Soup

                    XOX and Recchiuti are superior and you probably won't find them elsewhere.

                    Scharffen Berger's not in the same league and Ghirardelli is a step down. Both of those as well as Guittard are distributed internationally and you could likely find them in Toronto.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      XOX's truffles are probably great for lovers of traditional sweets (which I'm not) but I think I would rather eat liver-flavored fortune cookies (currently marketed only to dogs) than half of Recchiuti's god-awful flavor combinations, plebian that I am.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Heck, I'm always pleased when someone gives me a box of Sees (preferably truffles). But if someone needed to buy his way into my good graces, a more high-end product would be called-for.

                      2. re: Gary Soup

                        The last time I was in SF I came across a chocolatier there - a friend took me to the shop but I don't remember the name. I bought a box of chocolates that were more like works of art really. They were so absolutely beautiful that I didn't even want to eat them. I imagine there are more than we know of - hidden treasures.

                        1. re: tiamarty

                          Could have been Christopher Elbow chocoaltes from CocoaBella...

                2. re: Robert Lauriston

                  At the Saturday market, June Taylor jams are available. These are the most exquisite, handmade jams you'll ever find. They cost a bit, but they are truly wonderful. I was fortunate enough to visit her kitchen a month ago and it was a real highlight of the trip because we could see the high quality ingredients, handmade nature of her product, etc.

                  As an aside, I realize that Scharfenberger is now owned by Hershey, but they are still making their chocolate in the same factory, using the same equipment, and same ingredients. I don't see anything particularly tragic about Hershey's acquisition. If nothing else, it will allow Scharfenberger to reach more consumers around the country, which is a good thing.

                  1. re: glutton

                    Scharffen Berger is not really in the same league as, say, Dagoba in Portland, and the review of their latest bar by my most trusted chocolate website is not encouraging. Do we have a spy out there who can confirm if they are dutching*?


                    *Using alkali to reduce acid content, leading to a smoother taste but destroying flavor complexity. So-called because it was invented by the Dutch firm Van Houten.

                    1. re: Gary Soup

                      Dagoba is wonderful chocolate and I agree that it is better than Scharfenberger. However, Dagoba was also purchased by hershey's.

                      Scharfenberger is quite adamant on their factory tour that nothing has changed since Hershey acquired them. They simply have access to hershey's much larger distribution network and marketing reach. Obviously, I am always a bit skeptical of the company line on something like this, but when you tour the small factory, it is tough to see what Hershey's could be tinkering with.

                      1. re: glutton

                        That's especially distressing that a Fair Trade company would allow itself to be scooped up by Hershey's.

                        1. re: Gary Soup

                          Why? This would appear to be validation of Dagoba's business model. And the more they grow, then the more fair trade there will be. It's better for Dagoba's partners, provided that Hershey does not change the business model.

                          1. re: glutton

                            Looks more like image-polishing by Hershey's to me, like Barry-Callebout has done (offering SOME Fair Trade products). To me, it's like Domino's buying Cheeseboard Pizza.

                      2. re: Gary Soup

                        I lived with someone who worked for Scharffen Berger during the sale. Hershey bought it (and others) not to dumb it down but as a way to get into the premium market. *Supposedly* the sale absolutely will not change the quality of the chocolate or how they source.

                3. If it's any consolation, it's raining here now, but your hubby might want to go to Trader Joe's and get a selection of dried California fruits.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Judith

                    They might have that at the Costco in TO.

                  2. Have Rat-Bastard find Ceja Wines http://www.cejavineyards.com/ . I've had them down here in my neck of the woods and they are becoming my favorites. Also Rat-bastard would be pleased with some Paso Robles Zinfindels -- Pipestone immediately comes to mind. A small husband and wife team that treat the earth with respect while producing their lovely wines http://www.pipestonevineyards.com/

                    Rat will probably also like some Chardonnay from Chumeia (also in Paso Robles) http://www.chumeiavineyards.com/chume....

                    Each of these have a very good representation of California wines. Your man will be known henceforth as one Happyrat-bastard.

                    Hope Rat is able to track these down -- I'm telling ya -- you both will be happy campers. (or you can surprise him and order them if your Mounties allow it, and surprise Rat with your treasures when he gets home!)

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: martasiete

                      THANKS Chows!! I have forwarded rat-bastard my list of desireables to rat-bastard. He is unfortunarely not going to still be there on Saturday, but today is his mini "eat-his-way-around-the-bay" day that will include only a select friends who will not weigh him down with their, no-fish, no-gluten, no-meat, no-spicy, no-weird things, only-hotdogs type diets so I expect he will be picking up some goodies along the way. My sister (henceforth referred to as hosebeast supreme) will be out there in May, so she can finish off where rat bastard leaves off! You guys are awesome.

                    2. I hope it's not too late for RB to get you some nice SF food treats - but I got the name of the chocoloate maker I was thinking of: Joseph Schmidt Confections. Specialty chocolate maker and the only store they operate is in SF. Their specialty are the chocolae truffles and the slicks and the mosiacs - you will be happy he picked some up for you. You will be plenty mollified.

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: tiamarty

                        Hershey bought Joseph Schmidt and you can buy them in lots of stores like Macy's across the country. The original store remains though.

                          1. re: tiamarty

                            It is but nothing supposedly has changed. Just Hershey trying to break into the high-end market. Time will tell...

                            1. re: chaddict

                              I guess they've adopted the George Steinbrenner approach.

                              I'd say they are just trying to contain the high-end market.

                          2. re: rworange

                            I didn't know that. I thought they were exclusive to San Francisco. I think I still like the idea of buying from them only when in San Francisco...maybe I'm just kidding myself but I'd like to think I'm supporting 'the small guy'

                            1. re: tiamarty

                              Yeah, I like to think that too. I was never too thrilled with Joseph Schmitt in terms of tastes except for the bark and the pumpkin truffle. However, when he was running the place, I shopped there often because the chocolate and boxes were beauiful and fanciful. He used to be another early shopper at the Ferry Plaza farmers market ... my understanding was he was buying produce for his employees ... he would trade boxes of truffles for produce.

                              However, you are no longer supporting 'the small guy'. You are supporting Hershey's ... nothing wrong with that though .. I'm a fan of Hershey's.

                              1. re: rworange

                                Joseph Schmidt's compensation from Hershey's is tied to sales through 2007.

                                Is he really no longer working there?

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  Don't know. But if he's still the force there, I'll make an effort to stop by more.

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    OK, just got an email from Joseph Schmidt (the company, not the man himself). Joseph Schmidt, the man, is still very much there, in the office and factory, everyday. Hasn't worked the store in more than 10 years.