San Franciscans know how to move. Sometimes Silicon Valley residents zip around in driverless cars, shared Lyft rides or motorized scooters. Today some of that movement came in the form of a 4.4 magnitude earthquake that shook the Bay Area. In light of our recent quake, it seemed like the perfect day to cover one of the newest dessert purveyors we discovered in the city by the bay. CheeseQuakes! is one of the latest additions to the San Francisco Ferry Building‘s constantly expanding arsenal of tasty grub hot spots. There are Sweets Collection’s gorgeous milk-based gelatin flowers that are almost too pretty to eat at La Cocina’s kiosk. Chocoholics won’t want to miss Recchiuti Confections and then there’s the divine ice cream from Humphry Slocombe. Oh, and truffles. Don’t forget the decadent white truffles you can forage for at Far West Fungi. Saying that the Ferry Building is a foodie treasure trove is practically an understatement. The list of yum goes on and on and on…
CheeseQuakes! is notable for a few reasons, not the least of which is their awesome name. We love CheeseQuakes! because, get this, they make mini cheesecakes. What a fantastic novel idea. There’s no need to lock yourself into a single flavor like you typically have to succumb to when you order a ginormous slice over on the East coast. Commitment-phobes will adore the brand’s snackable bite sized three inch individual cheesecakes. CheeseQuakes! also sells babycake trios. These little triplets let you share a flight of cheesecake whimsy with friends, no cutting of the cake required.
Reason #446 we love CheeseQuakes!, well, that would have to be because they sell just the crust bags of their chocolate shortbread crust. Genius.
The team over there gets mad props for crafting cheesecake goodies that are all natural and handmade from scratch with local ingredients. In fact, one of our favorite things about CheeseQuakes! is their crazy flavors. (They tend to source many of their specialty ingredients from other local SF-based vendors like Inna Jam and Far West Fungi.)
Bourbon vanilla bean, candycap mushroom, chocolate fernet, dark chocolate jamocha, old fashioned egg nog, pumpkin spice and snickerdoodle are just a few of the many cheesecake options that are available.
Larger sized nine inch party size cheesecakes are also available and so are cheesecake shakes for those who prefer to slurp up their bites of sweetness. Whether you’re looking for unusual takes on a cult classic cake or just interested in putting your money where your mouth is and supporting a local family owned business, CheeseQuakes! is worth adding to your San Francisco foodie to-do list. If you aren’t able to try out CheeseQuakes! in person, here’s reason #446 we love this little local brand. CheeseQuakes! actually supplies some of its recipes right on its website, so you can test them out in your own kitchen at home.
CheeseQuakes! Address: One Ferry Building
San Francisco, California 94111 *You’ll find CheeseQuakes!’s kiosk located right across from the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant and they are neighbors with one of our other favorite shops to support, La Cocina. Hours: Monday Through Friday 10:30am to 7:00pm, Saturday 9:30am to 6:00pm, Sunday 11:00am to 5:00pm. Phone: (415) 710-1161 *You can text or call ahead to place orders. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Pricing (All in USD): Bags of Just the Crust $4.75, Babycake Trios $6.50
Having haunted many a food hall and marketplaces around the globe, we were over the moon when we heard the news that San Francisco would be welcoming its very own Asian food emporium this year. We love exploring foodie meccas like Torvehallerne Market in Copenhagen and even the many delightful stalls in San Francisco’s Ferry Building, but China Live is different. It’s a foodie temple dedicated to Chinese cooking located near the entrance to the Broadway Tunnel. China Live is nestled in the thick of the action since it’s centrally located on the border of San Francisco’s historic Chinatown and bustling North Beach neighborhoods.
The Bay Area, and San Francisco in particular, has always had an appetite for foreign foodie fare. It’s no secret that there are loads of fabulous Chinese Asian fusion options in SF like Dragon Well in the Marina District and Pejiu Wu Betelnut (often referred to simply as Betelnut) in Cow Hollow. China Live is the brain child of founder George Chen and is a megaplex dedicated to exotic Chinese flavors. China Live isn’t Chen’s first culinary rodeo. He was also the creative force behind Betelnut when it first arrived on the scene with its distinctive Asian style street food back in 1995.
First things first. If you plan on dining at the China Live Market Restaurant making a reservation online ahead of time is a wise decision. Second of all, the best seat in the house hands down is at the dim sum bar beside the service area. We had a tough time not reaching out and grabbing every amazing dish that whizzed passed us.
China Live offers a plethora of craft cocktails. From the honey on the South Side (a mix of Apóstles yerba matte gin, lemon and matcha honey, muddled peppermint and basil mixed with seltzer) to the unbound (made with Paul John whisky of India, Kavlan Taiwanese whisky & Famous Grouse scotch that gets shaken with coconut rum, fresh lemon and a house made ginger syrup), you’ll likely find something that will wet your whistle.
We opted for a gold mountain which is a mix of Bender’s 7 year rye stirred with Camus V.S. cognac, coconut sugar, house made iron Buddha bitters and a bar spoon full of Greenbar Distillery’s Grand Poppy Liqueur. It was a delightful beverage for watching the dim sum production behind the bar.
If booze isn’t your thing, the tea selection at China Live is quiet lovely. We went with a pot of the 8 treasure tea made with lotus seed, longan, jasmine pearl tea blend, hawthorne, goji, jujubee date, rosebuds and rock sugar. It was so stunning we almost didn’t want to pour it.
For dinner we barely ventured out of dim sum territory. It’s hard not to taste test all of the dumplings and pot stickers if you’re seated at the dim sum bar. Our first foray into China Live’s menu was with the pork belly lotus buns which were served with a delicate pao tsai cabbage and a spunky peanut glaze.
Chen’s mouthwatering buns were so good, we could have just kept ordering more, but we figured we ought to give the rest of the menu a chance.
We were glad we decided to stray. Six of China Live’s xiao long bao (XLB) arrived in front of us piping hot and filled with a rich consommé. A side of vinegar and ginger was provided for dipping.
Next up we tried eight of the Sichuan working hands dumplings bathed in a lovely sesame butter and a spicy peppercorn chili broth. Make sure you scoop up the broth from the bottom of the dish and place it on your dumplings, otherwise you’re liable to be licking your bowl in an effort to savor every last drop.
After sneaking a peek at the dessert menu before ordering our mains, we though it would be wise for us to save room for dessert. We went big and ordered both the durian soft serve ice cream and the passionfruit milk chocolate cream puff. The durian won hands down. Not only was it unique and unlike any other dessert we’ve ever tried before, but those dang caramelized sunflower seeds ought to be labeled as human crack. If China Live sold bags of the caramelized sunflower seeds in its marketplace, we’d be in big trouble.
The passionfruit milk chocolate cream puff was perfectly okay, but if we had to do our dining experience at China Live all over again, we’d likely swap out the cream puff for more of those amazing dumplings.
All in all our dining experience at China Live was excellent and we’re looking forward to popping in again sometime soon. The service was excellent and the decor throughout the building is quite lovely.
From the saucy bathrooms…
…and the elegant art…
…to the peaceful front seating area, there’s a lot to love about China Live. One of our favorite spots in the building is China Live’s marketplace. No visit would be complete without a wander through the massive building’s shopping area.
While we didn’t have time (or the extra stomach required) to partake in any of the tastings that were on offer…
…we did thoroughly enjoy peeking at all the foodie goodies in the shop.
Visitors to San Francisco might opt to pick up some of China Live’s fresh Sichuan small hot chilis or a package of Asian smoked tea rub. Small, compact and not liquid means that China Live’s spices make for excellent souvenirs.
If checking a bag, or having something sticking out of your luggage is an option, the giant wooden spoons sold in China Live’s marketplace are sure to be a big hit with the foodies in your life. We couldn’t resist the adorable, “I’m all that and dim sum,” shirts China Live sells from the quirky Southern California brand Bad Pickle Tees. (In fact, we may just have to add Bad Pickle’s, “Duck duck confit,” tee to our holiday wish list this year.)
Whether you’re in the market for the perfect pair of chopsticks or an enjoyable meal, China Live is a welcome addition to the SF foodie scene for locals and visitors alike.
China Live Address: 644 Broadway
San Francisco, California 94133 Hours: Monday Through Thursday 11:00am to 10:00pm, Friday 11:00am to 11:00pm, Saturday 10:30am to 11:00pm, Sunday 10:30am to 10:00pm Phone: (415) 788-8188 Email: Info@ChinaLiveSF.com Pricing (All in USD): Starters $5.00 to $24.00, Big Plates $12.00 to $60.00, Beer $6.00 to $12.00, Rice Dishes $2.00 to $21.00, Noodles and Soups $12.00 to $19.00, Cocktails and Drinks $13.00 to $15.00, Fine Teas $3.50 to $15.00, Other Non-Alcoholic Beverages $4.00 to $7.00, Desserts and Pastries $6.00 to $10.00
“People want to know where their food comes from and who is making it.” ~Jessica Mataka of La Cocina
If you aren’t familiar with La Cocina, it’s a pretty cool non profit that is dedicated to cultivating budding food entrepreneurs in the Bay Area. We first stumbled upon La Cocina in San Francisco’s Ferry Building. We were mesmerized by the creative culinary dishes they had on display at La Cocina’s little stall. Among the many dishes that look to pretty to eat are stunning gelatin desserts from a food startup called Sweets Collection that look like elegant paperweights. La Cocina’s Ferry Building stall was unlike anything we had seen before, so off we went to class to learn a bit more about this San Francisco based incubator kitchen and one of the successful local entrepreneurs it supports.
There were about 20 people in our session yesterday. It started at 3pm and ran until about 4:30pm. Mataka kicked things off by outlining La Cocina’s mission and vision before discussing how the organization goes about helping women, immigrants, low income food entrepreneurs and people of color pursue their dreams of becoming successful business owners.
The idea for La Cocina first emerged in the mid ’90s in San Francisco’s Mission District and it officially launched in 2005, with the support of community organizations and generous building donations.
“I started my business just with a dream cooking under the table.” ~Alicia Villanueva, Chef and Owner of Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas
One of the biggest forms of support that La Cocina offers budding business owners like Villanueva is access to affordable commercial kitchen space. (According to Mataka, a commercial kitchen in San Francisco can cost anywhere from $35 to $50 an hour.) In the span of one year and because of its access to two tables and many other La Cocina resources, Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas was able to net an incredible $1 million dollars in sales.
Prior to working with La Cocina, Villanueva was producing about 1,200 tamales per month and balancing being a mom to her three children. Villanueva initially pounded the pavement going door to door in her neighborhood and selling her tamales at local body shops. Today she’s producing a whopping 40,000 tamales per month and on the cusp of brokering a deal with Whole Foods, so she can get her tamales in front of an even larger audience.
While commercial kitchen access is a huge hurdle for food entrepreneurs, it isn’t the only problem that La Cocina helps budding businesses overcome.
Pay to Play – According to Mataka, Opening a Restaurant in San Francisco Typically Costs Between $500,000 to $1,000,000
La Cocina uses a four prong process that involves:
Training – La Cocina works with volunteers to help owners develop their businesses at low or no cost. Volunteers range from accountants and lawyers to chefs and graphic designers.
Market Access – Getting in front of the right audience is key for any young business. La Cocina helps food startups secure spots at farmers markets, festivals, pop up spaces and other events.
Capital – Money talks. Whether it’s securing a loan or brokering introductions to community development financial institutions, La Cocina works with entrepreneurs to connect them with funding resources.
Savings – Crafting a nest egg and putting funds aside for the growth of their business is critical for food startups. By providing resources via volunteers and doing things like subsiding kitchen rental fees, La Cocina assists business owners by defraying expenses they might not otherwise be able to afford.
Mataka also says that La Cocina assists entrepreneurs with their business plans. Her team works with business owners to figure out what their primary goal is for their company and helps them evaluate the competitive landscape they’re facing.
“Who else is making this …and are they successful?” ~Questions Jessica Mataka and La Cocina Ask Entrepreneurs
La Cocina’s 11 employees and its volunteers also helps entrepreneurs with their permit forms. Since permit submissions are often in English, that poses another issue for immigrant entrepreneurs like Villanueva who originally hails from Mazatlán in Mexico.
“La Cocina changed my life.” ~Alicia Villanueva, Chef and Owner of Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas
Today with the backing of La Cocina, Villanueva has 17 employees, but she still sticks to her grandmother’s original tamale recipe. Earlier this year you may have spotted Villanueva selling tamales at SF Beer Week, the LAUNCH Festival or Outside Lands. If you missed her at those events, you can catch Villanueva’s infectious smile at La Cocina’s upcoming SF Street Food Festival which is taking place on Sunday, October 15th.
If you’re interested in supporting La Cocina, here are a few ways you can help:
Polly Adema, who is the director of the Master of Arts in Food Studies program at the University of the Pacific, and her team do a fabulous job exposing students and the public to the food world through their free Saturday Seminars program. We left our event feeling full (yes, tamales from Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas were served), but also more knowledgable about the food startup scene in the Bay Area and happy that organizations like La Cocina exist to break down the barriers to entry. By inspiring confidence and pairing immigrants and women of color with mentors and support, hopefully groups like La Cocina are creating more diversity in this little valley’s food industry and also giving us access to unique dishes and flavors from around the world. If you’re interested in checking out the university’s list of upcoming speakers, you can find it here.
Recchiuti Confections has been making chocolate by hand since 1997. This local Bay Area chocolatier was founded by Michael Recchiuti and his wife Jacky Recchiuti. One of the reasons that we love their chocolates so much is because Recchiuti Confections often swings by California farmers’ markets to snag local herbs like lavender and lemon verbena for its infusions. Recchiuti Confections sources its chocolate from French based Valrhona Chocolate and Burlingame, California based Guittard Chocolate.
Currently Recchiuti Confections’ Ferry Building shop is closed so it can get fresh new look, but during that time (from August 6 – 16th) you can visit the pop up shop they have set up across from GlassyBaby‘s location in the Ferry Building. You should be able to fulfill your chocoholic cravings at Recchiuti Confections revamped space in about a week.
Recchiuti Confections signature flavor is a burnt caramel, but we went bananas for their limited edition passion fruit habanero flavor.
It’s tough to walk out the door without a package of Recchiuti Confections’ decadent s’mores bites. Recchiuti Confections takes its fluffy vanilla bean marshmallows, places them on homemade graham crackers and then drenches the whole darn thing in pure bittersweet chocolate.
If you don’t plan to be in Silicon Valley anytime soon, Recchiuti Confections will ship these yummy bites right to your front door. Just beware, according to Recchiuti Confections’ site, “These bites ‘pop their tops’ in high altitudes and are shipped via air. So if you are sending them as a gift, please keep in mind they will arrive slightly cracked on top.”
Recchiuti Confections Address: One Ferry Building, Shop #30
San Francisco, California 94111 Hours: Monday Through Friday 10:00am to 7:00pm, Saturday 8:00am to 6:00pm, Sunday 10:00am to 5:00pm Phone: (415) 834-9494 Email: email@example.com Pricing (All in USD): S’mores Bites $8.00 (Four Pieces), Boxed Chocolates $12.00 to $168.00, Caramels $20.00 to $35.00, Sauces (Caramel, Chocolate, etc.) $11.00, Chocolate Bars $7.00 to $8.00
San Francisco is known for many things: the Golden Gate Bridge, Haight-Ashbury, the fun loving Castro neighborhood, a plethora of cute shops in the Ferry Building (like Sweets Collection and La Cocina) and, of course, everyone’s favorite summertime companion, Karl the Fog.
While visitors eagerly buzz around fun tourist spots like San Francisco’s Chinatown (the largest Chinatown outside of Asia by the way) and San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, there are plenty of other lesser known ‘hoods that are worthy of a wander. One such place is San Francisco’s Design District. Nestled between 7th Street and 16th Street, SF’s Design District is frequented by designers and interior decorators who know where to go. One example of a design district gem, located on Townsend Street in San Francisco, is Studio 695.
Studio 695’s concept store features unconventional furniture as well as a lovely little library space with covetable books from the likes of Assouline and Taschen. Inside the store beautifully hued urban commuter bikes from Martone Cycling Co. dangle from the wall alongside carefully curated rare art objects.
In addition to home goods from high profile European design houses, you’ll also uncover an array of accessories, gifts and jewelry. At Studio 695 there are chic bad hair day defenders (okay, some of us call them hats) from Palo de Yucca and even stunning warrior chain chokers from Bex Rox London.
Studio 695 is conveniently attached to another San Francisco Design District favorite, Roche Bobois Paris, making it easy for you to knock two fun design hot spots off your list. Whether you happen to be on the hunt for the perfect psychedelic colored Gufram cactus for your home or just ambling around San Francisco’s Design District, you won’t regret popping in for a peek at Studio 695. Just prepare to be inspired.
Is it a paperweight? Is it glass? Nope, it’s gelatin dessert art!
Upon first glance, Rosa Rodriguez’ gorgeous Sweets Collection creations look like they’re meant for a museum not a refrigerated case. I first stumbled upon her beautiful blooms while wandering past La Cocina inside San Francisco’s Ferry Building. (La Cocina is a hip incubator kitchen that helps talented low income food entrepreneurs cultivate their budding businesses. Sweets Collection is just one of the dozens of whimsical small businesses that La Cocina fosters.)
Rodriguez, who hails from Mexico, originally worked with more traditional artistic methods like oil paint before she shifted her focus to floral gelatin. The sweet treats are created out of a milk-based gelatin (often strawberry with a vanilla base). The consistency ends up being similar to that of a panna cotta, but much lighter and more delicate.
In addition to being able to procure these pretties at La Cocina’s Ferry Building location, you can also special order bunches of blossoms for special events like birthdays, bridal and baby showers, etc. if they happen to be in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sweets Collections’ jelly cocktails, domes and cakes are sure to make more of a lasting impression on your guests than your average bouquet of flowers.
La Cocina‘s Non-Profit Kiosk (Offers Sweets Collection Items for Sale)
One Ferry Building
San Francisco, California 94105 United States of America
Hours: Sunday Through Friday – 10:00am to 6:00pm and on Saturday – 9:00am to 6:00pm
Phone: (415) 200-5808 *To Order Directly via Sweets Collection (415) 824-2729 *To Reach La Cocina’s Headquarters and Learn More About Their Work Supporting Small Business Owners