Holiday Gift Ideas for Foodies

20 11 2014

Aside from the classic gift card to any number of amazing Bay Area restaurants for the foodie on your list, here are a list of great local(ish) places from which to procure yummy holiday treats for all the stockings you’re preparing to stuff.


TCHO Chocolate

Touting themselves as “The New America Chocolate“, this locally made and conscientiously sourced chocolate is a delicious treat anytime. For the holidays, they have a few great gift options that are as cute as they are yummy.

Lai "Ornaments" Holiday Chocolate Gifts - Starting at $6.95

Lai “Ornaments” Holiday Chocolate Gifts – Starting at $6.95

PureNotes™ Dark Sampler Clear Box 8×8g bar - $7.45

PureNotes™ Dark Sampler Clear Box 8×8g bar – $7.45

Scharffen Berger Chocolate

Ok, you can’t really ever have enough chocolate, right? When we’re talking about local favorites, Scharffen Berger is always another fun one on my list.

Scharffen Berger Tasting Squares Folio Box - $10.35

Scharffen Berger Tasting Squares Folio Box – $10.35

Toffee Talk

If you’re looking for a treat with a bit more pizzazz than plain old chocolate (gasp!), then try a baggie of this SF-made toffee. With just the right ratio of chocolate, nuts, and toffee, and a consistency that’s not too sticky but not too hard, this toffee will surely get an eyebrow raise or two. And rest assured it will be gone quickly — better order an extra bag for yourself. :)

toffee talk toffee pic

Toffee Talk Cello Bag - Starting at $6

Toffee Talk Cello Bag – Starting at $6

Hudson River Popcorn

Made in Menlo Park in small batches, this new-to-the-scene popcorn has been described as “addictive”. Fine, maybe the company itself said that, but it was still said. Either way, this is a yummy snack that’s sure to be fresh to your Bay Area stocking this year.

Hudson River Popcorn Holiday Mix & Match - $21

Hudson River Popcorn Holiday Mix & Match – $21

Rustic Bakery

Oh, Rustic Bakery! Artisanal, organic fine foods and baked goods!! If you’re not able to enjoy one of their cafes in the Marin area, their goods can be found in many specialty shops and they also have a great website for ordering online.

rustic bakery

Rustic Bakery Glazed Gingerbread Tiles - $12

Rustic Bakery Glazed Gingerbread Tiles – $12

Rustic Bakery Handmade Cut Out Sugar Cookies - $7.95

Rustic Bakery Handmade Cut Out Sugar Cookies – $7.95

BBQ Recipe Kit

I know it’s winter time, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get ready for summer again. This tiny new company, Bites with Spice, makes a bad-ass BBQ spice mix right here in SF. Gift it now, get a thank you later when it’s time to grill again.

Bites with Spice BBQ Recipe Kit - $9.99

Bites with Spice BBQ Recipe Kit – $9.99

Kind Bars

Ok, these aren’t local — they’re made by a relatively giant nationwide company. But, they’re healthy, delicious snacks that I like to eat instead of all the other stuff made of unpronounceable ingredients on the grocery store shelves. And, they make perfect stocking stuffers. :)

Kind Bars - Typically ~$2/bar

Kind Bars – Typically ~$2/bar



Figone’s Olive Oil

There are a variety of local olive oil purveyors, but Figone’s is my favorite. Manufactured in a modest, unassuming facility in the Napa Valley where you can watch the oils being created in the Fall and Winter and taste the offerings anytime, Figone’s is a fun place to visit and a great gift for pretty much everyone.

I particularly recommend the Tuscan Blend Olive Oil ($12 for 100mL), the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar ($18 for 100mL), and for the splurge, the White Truffle Mushroom Olive Oil ($26 for 60mL). They also offer membership in their La Visione Club which delivers two 250mL bottles quarterly, and includes a discount on any other purchases.

Figone's Olive Oils and Vinegars - 60mL starting at $7, 100mL starting at $12, 250mL starting at $19

Figone’s Olive Oils and Vinegars – 60mL starting at $7, 100mL starting at $12, 250mL starting at $19

Figone's La Visione Club - $48 or $58 per shipment, 4 shipments per year

Figone’s La Visione Club – $48 or $58 per shipment, 4 shipments per year

Bluxome Street Winery

With vines just up the way in Russian River, Bluxome Street Winery is an old school SF-built winery. I have not myself tried the wines, but the place looks rad, and the wines look pretty schmancy. Plus, it’s fun to buy things that are so proudly made in San Francisco.

Bluxome Street Winery 2012 Balinard Vineyard Pinot Noir and Riedel Decanter - $74

Bluxome Street Winery 2012 Balinard Vineyard Pinot Noir and Riedel Decanter – $74

Bluxome Street Winery 53B Wine Club - $200 or $250 for 6 bottles. Shipments 3 times per year.

Bluxome Street Winery 53B Wine Club – $200 or $250 for 6 bottles. Shipments 3 times per year.

Hangar 1 Vodka

This seemingly-innocuous warehouse way out on the tip of Alameda brews some seriously sprightly spirits. Stick with the classic Hangar One Vodka, or branch out to something more exciting by visiting their tasting room…

Hangar 1 Vodka - $35 (four flavors)

Hangar 1 Vodka – $35 (four flavors)

Avital Tours

For the ultimate SF foodie adventure, a guide is always helpful. Take a walk with Avital on one of her food tours of The Mission, North Beach, Union Square, or The Haight. You’ll nibble some of the local neighborhood favorites, listen to tales of all the local legends, and learn a whole heck of a lot more about places you thought you knew.

Avital Tours Walking Food Tours of San Francisco - $68-$88 per person

Avital Tours Walking Food Tours of San Francisco – $68-$88 per person

Happy holidays everyone!

The Square Bar & Kitchen

9 11 2014

I would like to hereby welcome one of North Beach’s most recent additions to the restaurant scene: The Square Bar & Kitchen. Just across the street from Washington Square Park (see what they did there?), and taking the place of the former Bottle Cap (and even more former Washington Square Bar & Grill), The Square opened in March of this year serving upscale, creative takes on classic American dishes.

Delicious homemade bread starter at The Square

Delicious homemade bread starter at The Square


Artistic butter.

The Square is the latest creation of Teague Moriarty and Matt McNamara, owners of Sons & Daughters on Bush ($98 tasting menu, no a la carte options) and Sweet Woodruff on Sutter (20-seat casual counter service and take-out only). The food at The Square appears to fit squarely in the middle of their other two restaurants, offering upscale a la carte dining with a full bar and lounge.




Two awesome things about The Square:

  1. The Farm: The owners run an 83-acre farm in the Santa Cruz mountains — Dark Hill Farm — from which they source as much of their food as possible for all three of their restaurants. This farm is not open to the public, nor does it sell to any other restaurants or stores. Talk about local — I’m certainly impressed by their dedication.
  2. Open Late: If you’re not feeling so philosophical about where your food comes from, what it all means, and double rainbows, you might just be looking for a place to eat in North Beach around, say, 11pm. You’ll notice that your choices start to slim down rapidly as the moon shines on, but The Square offers food until midnight and bevs until 1am every night.
The Square dinner menu June 2014

The Square dinner menu June 2014

The Square dinner menu August 2014

The Square dinner menu August 2014

I’ve now been twice for dinner and both times the service was impeccable, the drinks were great, and the food was worth writing blogs about. It’s not cheap — the bill for two people was around $130 both times — but it’s definitely worth it. You could easily cut back on drinks and dessert to get the price down (we got an appetizer or two, two meals, dessert, and two drinks each… we weren’t exactly feeling thrifty).





Fried green beans with dill aioli ($6), sooo amazing


The menu appears to change often, with some classics staying on all the time. Also, the facility is relatively large for SF — a 90-seat dining room goes a long way on a busy night. AND, they now serve brunch on weekends (score!) and have a good happy hour from 3-6pm every day. So. There’s obviously something here for pretty much anyone, anytime, even all you squares out there.



complimentary lavendar cookies and dessert wine!

complimentary lavendar cookies and dessert wine!


The Square on Urbanspoon

News: Michelin San Francisco Bay Area 2015

27 10 2014

Michelin has recently released their annual listing for star rated restaurants in San Francisco and the greater Bay Area, and once again my mouth waters with desire. The only place I’ve been on the SF list is State Bird Provisions, though I’ve certainly perused many of the other winners’ websites longingly in the past.

Deliciousness from State Bird Provisions

Deliciousness from State Bird Provisions

Two questions:

  1. Is is a requirement to have a $100 minimum per person tasting menu to get more than one star?
  2. Should Sir and Star be getting pretty close to making the list?

Ok, that’s all my editorializing for now. If anyone wants to sponsor me to try any of these restaurants, I accept. :)

Benu, San Francisco
French Laundry (The), Yountville
Restaurant at Meadowood (The), St. Helena
Saison, San Francisco

Acquerello, San Francisco
Atelier Crenn, San Francisco
Baumé, Palo Alto
Coi, San Francisco
Manresa, Los Gatos
Quince, San Francisco

All Spice, San Mateo
Ame, San Francisco
Auberge du Soleil, Rutherford
Aziza, San Francisco
Bouchon, Yountville
Boulevard, San Francisco
Campton Place, San Francisco
Chez TJ, Mountain View
Commis, Oakland
Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant, Forestville
Gary Danko, San Francisco
Keiko à Nob Hill, San Francisco
Kusakabe, San Francisco
La Folie, San Francisco
La Toque, Napa
Luce, San Francisco
Madera, Menlo Park
Madrona Manor, Healdsburg
Maruya, San Francisco
Michael Mina, San Francisco
Plumed Horse, Saratoga
Solbar, Calistoga
Sons & Daughters, San Francisco
SPQR, San Francisco
Spruce,San Francisco
State Bird Provisions, San Francisco
Terra, St. Helena
Terrapin Creek, Bodega Bay
Village Pub (The), Woodside
Wakuriya, San Mateo

Short Review: Padrecito

23 09 2014

I had dinner at Padrecito last weekend — a newer, stylish Mexican restaurant in Cole Valley. My experience was so-so. While the decor, atmosphere, and menu are well done, I simply wasn’t terribly impressed with what I ordered, nor with the service. As this was my first time in the restaurant, I’ll give the latter the benefit of the doubt, but my lack of enthusiasm probably won’t have me returning terribly soon.


The menu is contemporary Mexican, with a focus on local and organic (welcome to San Francisco), which is great. There are a variety of interesting tacos, enchiladas, salads, and ceviches. We ordered the fish ceviche ($14), kale salad ($12), and salmon tacos ($13) with chips and salsa/guac for the table. While it was a bit pricey, at least the portions were reasonably sized, as compared to La Urbana, for example. The food was decent, but nothing extraordinary.

As for the service: our waitress was kind though unenthusiastic, but our order came out totally backward (entrees first, then chips and salsa, then appetizer), which was disappointing. The drink menu is cool, showing a little icon of each drink indicating the type of glass it comes in and the proportions of the drink. The drinks are pretty stellar, actually, and they have an attached unit with a bar, which might be the more desirable spot for me in this particular case.


Upcoming Event: The PopUp Dinner SF

7 09 2014

Have you heard of pop up restaurants? This is usually where a small gathering of people share a meal cooked by a well-known or amateur chef in a temporary location. They are often relatively impromptu, and generally focus on community and hospitality. The PopUp Dinner hosted by Handmade Events takes this concept to a whole new level by gathering thousands of people together to share in a picnic dinner for one evening of the year. The catch? The location is not disclosed until 3pm on the day of the event.


I was cordially invited to attend this year as a VIP guest and will be waiting patiently to hear where I’m supposed to go this Friday September 12, 2014. All tables and chairs are provided, but guests bring all the rest including food, drinks, and table decor. Everyone is required to wear all white attire to symbolize the simplicity of the event and a the blank slate of new opportunities. In addition to this massive picnic-party, there will also be a live performance by Ben Folds!!

The event is sold out this year, so unless you know someone with tickets (they’re transferable — ahem — Craigslist — ahem), you may have to wait until next year to attend. I’m not entirely sure what to expect, but it certainly looks like a good time!



Photos courtesy of Handmade Events

Plow: Brunch

31 07 2014

Sometimes I feel like there should be a sign as you enter San Francisco that reads: “SAN FRANCISCO: WE LIKE BRUNCH”. That would pretty much cover it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: brunch is like a sport in SF. Good places are swarmed with people every weekend, especially Sunday. There’s probably a dozen places I could name off hand that will have over a hour wait if you saunter in for brunch around 11am on a Sunday sans reservation. Plow is one of these places.


As Plow does not take reservations, we had to engage one of the many common SF brunch tactics. But this time, we had a trick up our sleeve: daylight savings time. On daylight savings day (the one in the Spring), you can get there at 10am, and it really is kinda like arriving at 9am. What does this do? Well, it doesn’t get you any more sleep than arriving at 9am, but, it does seem to get you the same wait time as if you arrived an hour earlier. Everyone else is sleeping! And you’re eating awesome brunch. Good work!

Arriving so early meant we had about a ten minute wait, and then we were seated in their long, narrow, daylight-filled dining area. The menu is sort of old-fashioned meets modern — the only coffee is the kind that is held in a bulbous glass coffee pot and poured periodically into your thick-walled ceramic coffee cup, but the food menu puts a little twist on a variety of favorites, and offers a few yummy unique items.


Despite my inclination to order absolutely everything on the menu (ex: raspberry glazed donut $4.25, chocolate banana bread $4.25, avocado toast $8.25, cold-smoked salmon toast $10, dungeness crab scramble $17), I went with my old favorite, eggs benedict with cold smoked salmon ($17). And, at the recommendation of a friend, my two lady friends and I shared two lemon ricotta pancakes ($5 each, or $13 for a meal of three), which were just as amazing as they were reported to be.

My friends ordered two very similar egg dishes (I can’t exactly remember which was which…):


And my benedict was pretty much as good as it looks. The hollandaise was homemade, and was more vinegar-y than I’m used to, but was dang good:

eggs benedict

Oy, and that little lemon ricotta pancake? So. Good.


And by the time we left, this was the line outside. Thank you daylight savings.


Plow on Urbanspoon

Eat Drink SF: An Epic Foodie Festival (+ Ticket Giveaway)

28 07 2014

Yes, it seems that every other weekend there is some amazing food or beverage festival in this grand city of ours, and next weekend is no exception. The Eat Drink SF festival (formerly SF Chefs) will be taking place at Fort Mason August 1-3, 2014, with a huge variety of events from classes to dinners to parties spanning the three-day event.

eat drink sf


As B&C loves to give away tickets to SF food events, there is one pair of tickets ($100 value) up for grabs to the event Up Close and Personal with Fabio Viviani on Saturday August 2 at 2pm! Leave a comment below or email me for deets. (Update: The tickets have been given away, thanks for all the emails!)

eat drink sf viviani


As they describe it, “Eat Drink SF is a food and wine event celebrating the unique flavor, diversity and bounty of Northern California. The Grand Tasting is at Fort Mason Center where chefs, winemakers, brewers and distillers will offer an exploration of taste. Classes, seminars, demos, dinners and parties will offer interactive opportunities for the public to participate with local farmers, ranchers, chefs, winemakers, distillers, media, authors, brewers, mixologists and culinary experts in an entertaining and delicious forum.”

eat drink sf food1


eat drink sf chefs

And, a variety of local restaurant favorites will feature sips and tastes, such as A16, Central Kitchen, CHAYA Brasserie, Commonwealth, Delfina, Frances, Flour + Water, Fog City, La Urbana, Park Tavern, and Tacolicious, not to mention the plethora of chefs including Dominique Crenn, Michael Chiarello, Tyler Florence, Charles Phan, Martin Yan, and Top Chef’s Fabio Viviani.

If I weren’t out of town this weekend, you know where I’d be. If you’re fortunate enough to be in the City this weekend, leave a comment or send me an email ( to snag some free tickets to be entertained by a Top Chef star as he teaches you how to make fresh Orecchiette Pasta with Pesto Sauce. And, check out the rest of the events to see what else tickles your fancy!




eat drink sf collage

(All photos courtesy of the Eat Drink SF Facebook page.)


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