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Apr 22, 2007 05:31 AM

What ever happened to Blum's?

Athough at a risk of dating myself, I must confess to remembering with fondness a San Francisco institution located across from Union Square on Geary. Blum's was not only a regular stop for many shopping ladies, men, and families for coffee and a slice of the infamous Coffee Crunch cake but also had a great luncheon menu with terrific clubhouse sandwich, welsh rarebit, and what I remember most fondly, a sweet mix of peppers with onion condiment for sandwiches. The decor and dessert display always delighted me and was an oasis away from the hectic pace of shopping especially during the holiday season. I wonder why this type of restaurant has disappeared from the San Francisco landscape? Can Chowhounders recommend somewhere else similar to the feel of Blum's? I long for a sit down luncheon spot with a similar menu and sweetness of Blum's. It doesn't have to be in the Union Square area, for a walk down memory lane I will travel great distances. Many thanks in advance.

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  1. The Rotunda at Neiman Marcus? Citizen Cake?

    3 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      You can all get the Blum's Coffee Crunch Cake recipe for FREE on the Martha Stewart website! Delicious memories..

      1. re: larryskim

        Yes, it is listed on her website and I saved it, thank you.

      2. re: Robert Lauriston

        Agree. The Rotunda is the only restaurant I can think of that fills the gap. Lunch or afternoon tea at one of the **** or ***** hotels might be a good choice, too.

      3. Other Niemans or tea at one of the hotels, I can't think if any public place with that kind of atmosphere.

        FYI - the coffee crunch cake was famous, not infamous.
        1 : having a reputation of the worst kind : notoriously evil
        2 : causing or bringing infamy : DISGRACEFUL
        3 : convicted of an offense bringing infamy

        1 Reply
        1. re: larochelle

          I stand are right it was famous not infamous. Sorry.

        2. Sears was like that. Maybe still is? (Haven't been there in years.)

          14 Replies
          1. re: Sharuf

            The Blum's I recall going to in the 50s was the one on Polk, a block or two South of California. I don't remember the Union Sq one.

            BTW there's a lil' bakery located inside a lil' grocery just North of the SF Japan Ctr that makes a very, very good copy of the famous (or infamous if you're on a diet) 'Blum's Crunch Cake'. I forget the name. Only know it by sight. I'm certain other CHs will come forward w/ the particulars.

            1. re: Bookmark

              A shower has cleared the cobwebs.

              Yasukochi's Sweet Stop, 1790 Sutter, 415 931-8165.

              I think he got the crunch recipe from a Blum's candymaker he worked with in the 70s.

              1. re: Bookmark

                Thanks for pointing me toward the Coffee Crunch cake must find an event to celebrate now.

                1. re: foodseek

                  I think there's a dentist's office next door.

              2. re: Bookmark

                I think you can also get the coffee crunch cake at a Bakery in Chinatown. A lot of Chinese immigrants got jobs at Blum's back in the day and when it closed, they moved on and started their own shops.

                1. re: ML8000

                  The version at Eastern Bakery in SF Chinatown is lousy now, used to be much better.

                2. re: Bookmark

                  "The Blum's I recall going to in the 50s was the one on Polk, a block or two South of California. I don't remember the Union Sq one."

                  In the 70s, there was a Blum's occupying what is a part of Macy's today. I found the desserts too sweet and the soda-fountatin pink palace setting too cloying.
                  I vaguely remember PamPam's good burgers. Then I moved to Paris and was told by an old expat that Paris had a PamPam too, the first resto in the city to serve American food. It was called PamPam East. Or maybe West, depending on which part of the glob you come from, I guess, :-).
                  Fantasia had truly wonderful and not too sweet desserts.
                  The places I miss most from old SF are US Café, where I discovered pasta al pesto, and House of Piroshki, whose old Russian owner used to speak Mandarin to me.

                  1. re: Parigi

                    You'll find many posts here lamenting the passing of the House of Piroshki. But we have a worthy successor, not the same of course but quite good, at Golden Orb in San Rafael.

                    Golden Orb
                    811 4th St, San Rafael, CA 94901

                    1. re: Mick Ruthven

                      Hey Mick I put this an another thread and I guess you missed it but Scott M says no more Golden Orb.

                      Golden Orb
                      811 4th St, San Rafael, CA 94901

                      1. re: wolfe

                        Wow, so sorry to hear that. They were the only source of good piroshkis that I know of in the Bay Area.

                      2. re: Mick Ruthven

                        Pardon me, but is Corey's or Modern Eve, or Sarrae's or Netboy's or Macy's still on Fourth Street? What about Tarantino's at Bolinas Beach? Pete's Pier near the Canal? When I was 16 I signed a check at Blum's and without their batting an eye they opened an account in my name. Those were the days.

                        1. re: ccprescott

                          Corey's, Modern Eve, Netboy's and Sarrae's have long been gone--maybe over 40 years. Macy's downtown has been closed for maybe 15 years; branches are in Corte Madera and at Northgate. Pete's Pier is now Pier 15.

                        1. re: Parigi

                          Montreal had a PamPam Room restaurant run by a Hungarian lady with black hair on Stanley Street between Ste-Catherine Street and deMaisonneuve. Known for their pastries, coffee and goulash, crowded on weekends. (back in the 60's & 70's).

                    2. The man who invented the Coffee Crunch Cake, Ernest Weil, put out a book last year called "Love to Bake." It's a great book. I have a good friend who is a very high-end pastry chef and looks at baking books with an extremely critical eye--even he thought the book was wonderful.

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: Atomica

                        Thanks so much for rec. regarding Weil's book. I love cookbooks-actually a hobby of mine to collect- especially ones that are related to San Francisco. Will go out in search of book today. Thanks again.

                        1. re: foodseek

                          I meant to include the website. Mr. Weil self-published the book. Unfortunately, I see that the book is sold out. Maybe he will have more printed . . . Write to him and see.

                          ETA: I looked on bookfinder and found 1 copy for $40.

                          1. re: Atomica

                            You can download the entire cookbook in pdf (Acrobat) format at the site for $21.65.

                            1. re: Nancy Berry

                              Thanks so much for information. Hopefully, baked goods will be half as good as Mr. Weil's.

                            2. re: Atomica

                              I just looked at that website and he was the founder and owner of Fantasia. Wasn't that the high-end bakery on California St. in Laurel Heights in SF?

                              1. re: Atomica

                                I bought a copy of the book a few months ago at - I think - Books Inc in Burlingame on Burlingame Ave.

                                The recipe was published in the San Mateo Times a couple of years ago.

                                1. re: Atomica

                                  The book website has a donate-to-a-nonprofit then download-the-PDF-book deal. Has anyone done that?

                                  I can view the website properly in IE8 but not in Firefox 3.6.3 (all images are missing).


                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      Isn't software fun! All the images are still missing for me in Firefox 3.6.3.

                                    2. re: Mick Ruthven

                                      I made a donation and Mr. Weil's daughter emailed me back with the password to download the book. There are some colored photos and lots of receipes. Haven't baked anything from it but donated for nostalgia's sake.

                              2. The original comment has been removed