Union Square is one of San Francisco’s main retail and cultural centers. There’s something here for everyone. It’s also a terribly pretty place, and I say terribly, because it’s one of those places that make me stop in awe and just … breathe. Cookware giant Williams-Sonoma has their flagship store here ”“ three levels of kitchenware gluttony. I walk around in a daze. I may as well be in a trance.
At the food court in the giant Macy’s here, my sisters and I (that’s us on the left) have lunch at a bakery called Boudin ”“ pronounce it ”˜bo-DEEN’ because that’s what it says right on their drinking cups, as you can see in the photo below.
I’m actually ashamed to say that this was the only time during my trip that I ate clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. San Francisco is famous for both, and many will say that I haven’t been to San Francisco if I haven’t eaten clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. This one was creamy without being cloying and the bread had just the right temper of tang and dough. My sisters and I, bread lovers all, scraped at the bread made moist by the soup until it was all gone.
“If they had salads like this in Manila, I’d be happy to eat salads for the rest of my life,” my sister sighs in content as she works on this salad: assorted greens with pecans, cranberries, and feta cheese. That’s a turkey sandwich you see sitting off to the side.
This is what I had ”“ a turkey sandwich on croissant that would taste better on a sourdough roll. Still, the way the sandwich is stuffed can’t be denied.
A few feet away from where we are is Tom’s Cookies, the one store that sells the widest variety of cookies, brownies, scones, and cupcakes that I’ve yet to see on this trip. I’m tempted to buy a few cookies but I give up because there are just too many to choose from. For shame. My sister, Charley, however has her sensibilities intact and comes away with a good bagful. Now that’s decisiveness!
Over yonder, I set sight on a Ben and Jerry’s, maker of what I consider to be THE best ice cream in the world. Upon the prodding of my sisters (“it’s so good, Lor!”)I decide on a scoop (yes, just a scoop) of the Oatmeal Cookie Chunk, a flavor that has yet to reach Manila’s shores. Cinnamon-y and chunky to a fault, which is what I love about B&J, this was just too good. Here’s a photo of it with my sister’s cookie from Tom’s ”“ a peanut butter cup cookie, which was equally good.
Bittersweet the chocolate café
I see this café from a distance as I walk along Fillmore Street. It’s still closed so I cup my hands around my eyes, peering into the place. Chocolate bars from around the world, a chocolate menu and a hardwood interior, I am smitten.
Bittersweet specializes in chocolate drinks , from the classic to spicy. I guess I should order one of the house specialties but I have my eye on the bicerin (bish-uh-reen). The official drink in Torino (Turin), Italy, which locals there have been sipping for more than two centuries, a bicherin is molten chocolate, espresso, and cream layered in a tall glass, the better to admire the individual layers. Bicherin actually means ”˜little glass.’
At Bittersweet, a shot of espresso and 4 ounces of melted chocolate are blended with water and topped with a floater of whipped cream. The barista tells me that the drink should be consumed warm so the complexity of the flavors merge. (I prefer my hot drinks scalding, by the way, and I can drink them like that. Asbestos tongue, I guess).
I remember this drink to be thin, and I see in my notes that I have written ”˜chocolate with water.’ The whipped cream is quite thick, providing a “cushion” that the liquid passes through before sloshing in my mouth. There is a final burst of creamy flavor and then the acidity of coffee sets in. Frankly, it doesn’t taste very different from the mocha that I get at Starbucks, but then again, this is all about the experience.
Bittersweet the chocolate café
2123 Fillmore St
San Francisco CA 94115
With the exception of one other bakery further on in this trip, Citizen Cake is where I am most happy, almost giddy. I’m always happiest in bakeries, but this one had something unique about it. It must be that “Have Cake, Eat It” sign on the wall, or the way the mocha is served in a bowl, or the vanilla bean flecks on the cream cheese frosting atop my vanilla cupcake; or it might be the way my chai tea is served in a heavy stoneware teapot, the contents of which I’ll later pour into my glass of steamed milk. See these photos and decide for yourself why I couldn’t stop smiling when I was here.
399 Grove St
San Francisco, CA 94102