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Quest for amazing ingredients in SF

Hi all, I'm on a quest for amazing ingredients I can get in San Francisco. I'll be hitting the Ferry bldg farmer's market, of course, but I'm also interested in non-produce that's available further afield.

For example:

-fresh rice noodles from Kun Wo Food Product (2939 16th St, San Francisco, CA)

-fresh milled flours from Josey Baker Bread/The Mill (736 Divisadero Street. San Francisco, CA 94117 (415) 345-1953)

I'm a bit too squeamish to be looking for live animals, but otherwise am super open to possibilities. (I like these ingredient quests to open new culinary doors for me, so it doesn't matter if I've used it or heard of it before.)

Thanks so much for sharing the delights of your city!

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  1. Mama Lil's goathorn peppers are sold at Boccalone in the Ferry Building under their private label.

    1 Reply
      1. re: mlutsky

        Yum! Now I've got Local Mission Market on my radar. Also added Rainbow and Bi-Rite. Any others I should know about?

        1. re: miss louella

          I found Rainbow market a fun mix of people and products. Was sort of overwhelmed so I didn't end up buying too much, but wanted to report that the Guisto polenta is really wonderful. I don't know how they mill the grain, but whatever they do makes for a really nice (to me) mix of fine and coarse so the polenta itself is amazingly smooth and nicely textured at the same time. Fantastic. Crave worthy. I need more.

      2. I like Hodo Soy's products, particularly their yuba and the braised tofu (if you have the time, their factory tour is really fun).

        Tons of sources for great farm-fresh eggs. I believe this is the most complete thread on that topic:

        Also love Gioia burrata, which is made in the the greater L.A. area, but is available at places like Cowgirl Creamery, Bristol Farms in the mall, and occasionally Bi Rite.

        Oh, also a fan of Sinto Kimchi. You can find it at Whole Foods and Rainbow. Speaking of which, I also like Bubbies sauerkraut from the bulk bin at Rainbow, which somehow seems tastier than the jarred version, but maybe it's my imagination?

        4505 Meats is well worth a visit. They have an outpost near 16th and Mission (easily combined with a trip to Kun Wo) that's open 7 days a week.

        1 Reply
        1. re: possumspice

          Wow, thanks so much! I had no idea there was a Hodo Soy tour. (Turns out they're putting a hold on tours from March to June 2014, so I'll miss that, but some other time!)

          Gonna hit 4505 for sure and will be exploring Rainbow (repeatedly, I bet).

          I better walk to all these places to work off some of the deliciousness. :-)

        2. Some places with products I haven't seen elsewhere:

          Rainbow Grocery - SF
          Le Sanctuaire - SF (appointment only)
          The Pasta Shop - Oakland & Berkeley
          Spanish Table - Berkeley & Mill Valley

          3 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Thanks so much! I'd never heard of Le Sanctuaire--looks like I should bring a couple of friends to make the appointment worthwhile for the store.

            1. re: miss louella

              I believe they're there anyway, handling mail orders and whatnot.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Probably so, but I don't just want to make an appointment and gawk--better to bring along friends who will gasp and purchase while I take the time I need to assimilate what's there. And probably go back later when I have an idea of what to do. Thanks again for the rec!

              1. re: miss louella

                And everything else Russian (and Russian-Armenian) - Royal Market.

            1. Harissa spice mix at Rainbow. Mix it with good olive oil, lemon juice, and minced garlic into a liquidy paste for a fabulous (and hard to find in the States) condiment. Reminds me that i have to get more... Yum!

              Oh - and check out Olivier's butcher shop in Dog Patch. He has French-style everything. Very good!

              2 Replies
              1. re: SFGourmande

                For Middle Eastern stuff, especially spices, Samiramis on Mission St. They have, like, 4 different kinds of Za'atar in bulk and tons of other stuff. (And it happens to be a couple of doors from Old Jerusalem, the best Middle Eastern restaurant in SF by a million miles. Really).

                1. re: davidg1

                  That place never seems very busy. I'm wary of buying herbs and other spices where freshness matters from places that are that quiet.

                  If you want really amazing za'atar, get fresh herbs and grind your own.

              2. For a cook, Brundo in Berkeley is a good source for all the North African spices you'd need to make your own harissa.

                Some generally well-stocked spice shops are Lhasa Karnak in Berkeley, Penzey's in Menlo Park, Oaktown Spice Shop in Oakland, and for Indian spices Santos in San Leandro or Milan International in Berkeley (same owners).

                1. While at the Ferry Building, be sure to see what is in the Larder at Bouli Bar (formerly known as Boulette's) - here is a not very current listing: http://bouletteslarder.com/menus/menu...

                  1. I am sure I will think of other things.

                    Like Marin sun farms

                    I love Poco Dulce chocolate squares. Local. Not overly sweet (poco dulce translates to a little sweet). The chili flavor is my favorite:


                    Lots of good foodie stuff in the East Bay:

                    Fifth quarter charcuterie:


                    Phoenix pasta:


                    Berkeley cheeseboard:


                    Mushrooms from the Monterey market:


                    Seafood from Tokyo fish market:


                    9 Replies
                    1. re: Ridge

                      Speaking of pasta, if you make your own, Monterey Market has 00 pasta flour in bulk. Most places don't know the difference and stock only 00 bread flour.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        I haven't made my own before, but I've been tempted... may just do it now. (I didn't know there was a difference between the pasta 00 and the bread 00...)

                        1. re: miss louella

                          00 is about how the flour is milled. 00 bread flour is made from higher-protein wheat than 00 pasta flour.

                      2. re: Ridge

                        You will enjoy the Saturday ferry building farmers market. A couple of things to check out there:

                        Near the back of the market there are these people that make the most amazing lox and smoked fish. It's extremely pricy, so much so that I only buy it a couple of times a year. But it's amazing stuff. Haven't gotten it in a while.

                        On Saturday I got some Tierra hot sauces. These folks are in the middle of the market next to Marin sun farms. Their hot sauces are complex and full of flavor and last Saturday you could taste them all. They had several different kinds made with different peppers. We purchased the Aji which was peppery with passion fruit notes and the Jamaican habanero which had had carmized sweet potatoe notes.

                        1. re: Ridge

                          Tierra is tops for dried chiles and in season fresh ones.

                          1. re: Ridge

                            Yum! I will make a point of finding the amazing lox and smoked fish. I'm generally a cheapskate, but happily splurge for amazing.

                            I've sampled the Tierra sauces at the well-stocked home of friends, but would LOVE to sample the lot. My middle name could be side-by-side taste comparison if it wasn't so unwieldy.

                            1. re: Ridge

                              Biked to the farmers market today. I went toward the end of the day, hoping to find bargains and sparser crowds. Sadly, no end-of-day bargains.

                              Located the smoked fish and lox place you were talking about; I will save those purchases for when I have (dear) friends coming.

                              Also went to Tierra and wound up getting some Rio Zape beans to cook up to go with my home ground/home made corn tortillas. And some White Gold Tepary Pebble beans because I've never seen them before. They're small--look kind of like oblong lentils--and are supposed to really hold their shape and have a sweet/nutty flavor. Anyone ever sample them?

                              Thanks--so fun to explore the City one bite (ok many bites) at a time!

                              1. re: miss louella

                                Well, I think the Rio Zape beans were pearls before swine (oink oink). Yes, they had a nice creaminess and a smooth beaniness and an all-over richness. But I'm not sure they're worth spending 5-7 times what beans cost at my local market...

                                But glad I had the experience and I'll keep hunting/harvesting!

                            2. re: Ridge

                              Wow, Poco Dulce sounds riiiight up my alley! Thanks. In fact, your recommendations could be the basis for a pretty fabulous dinner... Not sure I want to explain to my dinner guests that the Ridge dinner is inspired by an invisible food friend though. Thanks again!

                            3. And of course Sunset Super on Irving or on Vicente, and New May Wah on Clement are the big Chinese supermarkets in town.