Saturday, August 9, 2008

We're on a Mission to the Mission: A Half Day in the Gourmet Ghetto

Sometimes life gets so busy with chores and work that you have to call a timeout and just do something for fun. This was our mission a week ago, and we decided to have a food inspiration day in the Mission District in San Francisco- otherwise known as the Gourmet Ghetto. It actually was an easy half day trip with all three stops on the same street: Tartine, Bi-Rite Grocery, and Bi-Rite Creamery.

First Stop: Tartine

This delicious bakery had a line out the door. We have been told it is the best bakery in SF and we believe it. The menu has various pressed sandwiches, desserts and cakes. We had to have the open-faced Monsieur Croque with Niman Ranch Ham and a pressed sandwich of San Daniele Prosciutto and Provolone with arugula. But we couldn't miss out on the beautiful pastries so we took a croissant (a true test of a bakery- which it passed with flying colors) and a scone to go. Sitting at the community tables, we had a splendid brunch.

The Croque Monsieur was exceptionally wonderful- the crispy crust, the soft center soaked with bechamel sauce and melted cheese. It was outstanding.

The prosciutto sandwich was also a delight as well as a surprise to find three sandwiches instead of the usual two.

We are including our afterfood photos as inspired by Laura Letinsky, artist and professor at the University of Chicago. We actually ate the Croque Monsieur first while waiting for the sandwich- which left us unable to eat the whole three sandwiches. It was a good choice.

Second Stop: Bi-Rite Grocery

All of my SF friends rave about Bi-Rite Grocery, which sounds like Rite-Aid to a non-San Franciscan. Nothing could be farther from the truth. This small market sources local produce and artisan food, and makes its own sauces, baked goods, ice cream and more. A pillar of the Gourmet Ghetto community, this tiny market is a delight to explore. We were most intrigued by the Bi-Rite products themselves (local meats, sauces) as well as the unusual ones like crafted caramel chocolate tiles with sea salt and snacks like popcorn with curry. We bought the tiles for a foodie neighbor ( I already but the popcorn for a work tasting) and some aged gouda that looked like saenkanter. What a lovely place to shop and just the right size to browse for interesting items.

Third Stop: Bi-Rite Creamery

Mmm, ice cream was just what we needed after our delicious brunch. We somehow found the room to try a "double" which was three flavors of ice creams that Bi-Rite makes on site. They let you preview any flavor you like with a taste on a metal spoon (a sustainability move). After great debate over salted caramel vs. honey lavender, we accidentally created a modern neopolitan of balsamic strawberry, Mexican chocolate and honey lavender. And it was fabulous. The honey lavender was by far the best. The Mexican chocolate could have had more cinnamon and the balsamic strawberry could have had more balsamic. In case you are more of sundae person, they have those as well with housemade chocolate sauce. We gave this place two thumbs us as we sat on the benches outside the creamery eating our modern trio with a classic wooden stick. A perfect juxtaposition.

After that we composted our ice cream bowl and stick and rolled ourselves and our pastries home...saving a few other places in the Gourmet Ghetto for another Mission in the Mission.