Looking for SF consumable souvenir recommendations, especially avocados
February 20, 2014 9:48 AM   Subscribe

I'm in San Francisco and would like to bring back some avocados and/or Bay Area edibles to New England next week. What should I look for, and where?

Going back east next week and I want to bring some consumable souvenirs. People have specifically asked for avocados and I am also interested in other food options.

It's not too hard to beat New England in February on produce, but these would be for gifts so I'd like to get some particularly nice ones. I'm sure I could order online somewhere but I'm also going for the personalized element of picking them up and delivering them in person.

So - where in SF or the East Bay should I shop for souvenir-quality avocados? Should I get the Haas kind or look for something more obscure?

Best case scenario is, like, an avocado specialty store with surprisingly great prices.
But if it turns out that I should just to go Whole Foods or whatever, that's good to know, too. (I don't really eat avocados, so I'm pretty clueless about this.)

Also interested in recommendations for local consumable specialties - I have been enjoying various artisanal cookies as well as candy made by Annabelle's in Hayward, neither of which I saw much/at all back on the east coast. If there's something really evocative of the area - particularly it it's not nationally distributed - I'd love to hear about it.

Thank you very much!
posted by Signed Sealed Delivered to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I always go to Andy's Orchard Farm Stand, it's in Morgan Hill, CA so it may be out of your way. Fresh fruit and high-quality dried fruit.
posted by melissam at 10:07 AM on February 20, 2014

Hi thee hither to the Ferry Plaza Building. There are many local food stores there, including an organic grocery where you can no doubt find avocados although it's true that Whole Foods has some really good ones right now.

But spend time at the Ferry Plaza (not on a weekend if you can help it). Visit Cowgirl Creamery for cheese. Check out Boulette's Larder's shop for prepared foods (yum!) And there's even a specialty store specifically for local mushrooms! Stonehouse Olive Oil is the only brand I use any more -- their Lisbon Lemon is fantastic on steamed vegetables.

If you have time for a meal, Slanted Door is one of my favorites, and if you're in a hurry, check out Delica.
posted by janey47 at 10:16 AM on February 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

I believe Haas are out of season, but I've seen Bacon/Fuerte avocados at Rainbow Grocery Coop. The Ferry Terminal likely has them too, as would Bi-Rite Market.
posted by mamabear at 10:18 AM on February 20, 2014

The avocado guy at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market on Saturday is where I go. He's in the back of the building, on the south end. Just a few booths away from Sur La Table. Bonus: while you are at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market, you can buy Blue Bottle coffee Beans, herb slab bread from Acme, and cherry strawberry jam from Dirty Girl. Cowgirl Creamery's cheeses are amazing, especially the Red Hawk (kind of stinky, though) and Mt. Tam. Get there during the first half of the farmer's market, since avocado guy sells out.

(I just had a few avocados from Whole Foods last week and was surprised with how bad they were.)
posted by soleiluna at 10:18 AM on February 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Maybe some artichokes too? The best artichokes are in the Bay Area, specifically Monteray.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:29 AM on February 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do check with the state you're entering. California confiscates certain fruits and veggies coming into the state out of concern for native plants and traveling pests and diseases. (Basically, forget about brining citrus fruit into the state). Some states may have similar protections (especially if they grow the same type of produce.)

Maybe some artichokes too? The best artichokes are in the Bay Area, specifically Monteray.

Acutally, the best place to go for artichokes is Castroville.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:33 AM on February 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

CJ Olson cherries? Schurra's candy?
posted by JDC8 at 10:49 AM on February 20, 2014

This question has been up for over an hour, and now one has said sourdough bread!? Bring back sourdough bread! Sorry, it's been so long since I have been there that I do not have a source.
posted by kellyblah at 10:55 AM on February 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

kellyblah is right, sourdough is definitely the way to go. Boudin is kinda touristy/obvious but damn they make good sourdough.
posted by radioamy at 11:07 AM on February 20, 2014

You can get sourdough bread at SFO right on your way out of town :).
posted by elmay at 11:09 AM on February 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

See's Candy too - also available at the airport. Sourdough and See's are what I get whenever I visit (and I grew up there, so it's not just a tourist thing... probably.)
posted by moonmilk at 11:11 AM on February 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

This question has been up for over an hour, and now one has said sourdough bread!?

I don't like airport bread. I prefer Toscana, but only the late bake, on my way home from work. To my mind, it won't keep well.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:40 AM on February 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

have'a corn chips! they're more of a southern californian thing, but you can get them in SF. make sure to bring an extra bag for the plane.
posted by [tk] at 11:45 AM on February 20, 2014

See's Candy is a must. That's what people ask for who used to live in Cali but moved away. So much better than Ghirardelli.
posted by janey47 at 11:48 AM on February 20, 2014

Skip both See's Candy (available everywhere) and Ghirardelli (not a local company and available everywhere) and get TCHO instead, which is made on the Embarcardero in San Francisco. The tour is fun (and free) too.

Be aware when buying avocados that you're almost certainly going to have to buy avocados that are pretty firm. If they're ripe at all, they'll bruise and be black inside by the time you give them away and eat them. However, you're going to have to wait for them to soften up before you give them away, or the fruit will be chewy and not very good. Ask the vendor when you buy.

@janey47 and @soleiluna have great suggestions.
posted by cnc at 11:56 AM on February 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

Coffee beans from Ritual, Blue Bottle, Four Barrel, Sightglass, or Phillz. Whole Foods and places like it will have some or all of these on the shelf together for one stop shopping.

Local cheese is also a great suggestion, check out Humboldt Fog or anything from the region.
posted by outlaw of averages at 12:22 PM on February 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

For avocados, go to Will Brokaw at Will's Avocados stand at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market on Saturday morning. Tell him what you want the avocados for, and he'll pick out the ones that are the right degree of ripeness.

Then head a few stands down, and find the guy from Flying Disc Ranch. If he has Barhi dates, buy as many pounds as you are willing to carry. They're AMAZING, and really really hard to find.

Meyer lemons are a beloved CA citrus variety that is uncommon in other parts of the country. Thought to be an orange/lemon hybrid, Meyer lemons are a bit sweeter than other lemons, thin skinned, very juicy, and a bit floral. My favorite citrus, hands down. Hamada has my favorite citrus at the FBFM.

The Saturday morning market starts at 8a. It starts to get crowded by 10ish. It's huge. Don't be fooled by the dozen stands out front--most of the market is in the rear of the building. The info booth in the front of the building has a map, which can be helpful. If you're a coffee drinker, the Blue Bottle coffee stand in front of the building quite often has a shorter line than the one around the side of the building. 4505 Meats is in the far back corner. Their cheeseburgers are AMAZING. You'll think that they're kind of small, but then you eat it and can't imagine it being any bigger. If you have fancy jam people in your life, June Taylor preserves are stunning, as is her candied citrus peel.
posted by mollymayhem at 2:54 PM on February 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

If they're going to travel, I think that avocados are best bought from and directly shipped by the growers. I'd get something else that travels well and won't spoil (some nice suggestions above) and if you really need avocados, consider ordering them to be shipped from a grower like

my link isn't coming up, so here's the address: www.morrocreekranch.com
posted by quince at 3:05 PM on February 20, 2014

To satisfy both artichoke and bread needs, go down to Pescadero (south of Half Moon Bay on 1) and get the artichoke garlic herb bread at Arcangeli's. You can get it parbaked so it can be finished and eaten hot at home.
posted by littlemisslaika at 6:35 PM on February 20, 2014

If you go to the Ferry Plaza, Miette's gingersnaps are justifiably famous.
posted by cali at 10:54 PM on February 20, 2014

You can get most of what I'm about to suggest, and a bunch of other stuff I'm forgetting to suggest, at Bi-Rite Market, so basically, go there. Between there and the Ferry Building Marketplace, you'll be set.

4505 Meats' chicharrones are always a big hit with my friends and family back east. I know it sounds weird that I'm recommending pork rinds, but they're like no pork rind you have ever had. Contrary to my advice in the previous paragraph, their actual shop is the best place to get them--they don't always have them at Bi-Rite or the farmer's market. (But it's in the same part of the Mission, so you won't be going far out of your way.)

If your people drink, and you're comfortable traveling with alcohol, something from St. George Spirits would be a great gift. Around here you can find their stuff at nearly any decent liquor store; they have a fairly limited distribution in the rest of the country.

Amazing local jams (and other fruity goodnesses): INNA and June Taylor.

As for chocolate, I definitely agree with the folks steering you away from See's and Ghirardelli and toward TCHO, which is fantastic, but since TCHO is nationally-distributed (you can usually find it in Whole Foods across the country), I recommend Dandelion Chocolate instead. Hyperlocal, beautifully packaged, and insanely good. You can definitely get them at Bi-Rite, but visiting their store and cafe (just a few blocks away) is a lot of fun.

If your gift recipients enjoy coffee, definitely bring back some whole coffee beans from Blue Bottle, Four Barrel, Sightglass, or Ritual. Or if they're the sort who think "fancy" coffee is too weird, pick up some beans from Philz (which is still excellent, I've just found it appeals more to the people who drink a lot of coffee but find the "fancy" stuff too, well, fancy).
posted by rhiannonstone at 5:33 PM on February 21, 2014

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