San Francisco, Paris of the West, part 1
Posted by G.A. Matiasz on October 13, 2013
I live in San Francisco, when I’m not visiting Paris. SF is a much smaller city than Paris, but both are comprised of distinct neighborhoods that are easily walkable, and that offer its residents a myriad of interesting non-corporate experiences. My intention here is to describe the area where I live in SF and compare it to Paris. To reiterate, my three rules are simple:
1) What I experience must be in the context of a neighborhood. My neighborhood.
2) My experience should be comparable to Paris, good or bad.
3) My experience should not be corporate in nature. No fucking Whole Foods or Starbucks, please!
I live at the intersection of two SF neighborhoods; Noe Valley to the south and Eureka Valley to the north. The Haight-Ashbury is just over the hill. First, let’s start with Noe Valley, and let’s begin by talking about food, something omnipresent in Paris.
24th Street Cheese Co. This is the equivalent of a Parisian fromagerie, with the variety of cheeses from around the world as well as the necessary accoutrements such as crackers, breads, olives, etc. The smells here are wonderful, and you can sample what you wish to buy. There’s a chalk board high up on the wall where what’s in and available is listed. An excellent little shop that has managed to withstand the competition from nearby Whole Foods.
Drewes Meats. A boucherie in the Parisian sense, but one that hasn’t done well in competition with places like Whole Foods. This neighborhood establishment is barely holding on, and deserves to be patronized. Wonderful meats, sausages, fish, marrow bones, etc. cut and prepared to order. You can order your Thanksgiving/holiday turkey or ham here.
Noe Valley Bakery. Okay, there’s nothing like a real Parisian baguette, but this bakery comes pretty damned close to a Parisian boulangerie. Lots of fresh baked breads, baguettes, croissants, scones, eclairs, tarts, etc. When La Boulange moved into the neighborhood, everyone thought Noe Valley Bakery was doomed. Not so. Now La Boulange has sold out to Starbucks, and this place is still rocking.
Chocolate Covered. This dude is world famous. No, he’s not a chocolatier, in the Parisian sense, since he doesn’t make his own chocolates. But he does find gourmet chocolates from around the planet and sell them at his shop. All that’s missing here is a constantly swirling dispenser of chocolat chaud. Then there’s his walls of tins featuring prints of SF street signs and famous city landmarks.
Pasta Gina. A deli like this properly belongs in NYC, although Paris did have the occasional Italian food shop, by no means as extensive as this one. This one isn’t quite as stocked as a Lucca or UltraLucca, nor nearly as cheap, but most of the prepared food here is homemade and wonderful. Homemade pastas, meatballs to die for, even black-and-white cookies. Yum.
Next, neighborhood bookstores.