Having posted my restaurant roundup I thought I'd go ahead and "empty the tank" as I like to do and share everything else I've learned during my food-obsessed years in SF. Emptying the tank is a way of giving myself some sense of closure so I can move on to other interests. But for some reason, belly simply refuses to be ignored...
OK so I'll keep this simple with a set of ranked lists. Starting with overall groceries, in descending order of preference, then going through a variety of specific areas of interest to me at least.
I'm ranking based on value; which takes quality and cost into account. These are the places I go plain & simple. Since trendy "California cuisine" is more shopping than cooking, this is my recipe as far as that goes.
I would especially love to learn of new places...I live in SF so these are all SF-focused.
2) Berkeley Bowl
3) Draeger's San Mateo
4) Whole Foods
5) Good Life Bernal Heights (where I live, so biased)
1) SF Ferry Plaza (for quality)
2) Alemany (for price)
1) Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market
2) Monterey Market Berkeley
5) Whole Foods
1) Cheese Board
2) Rainbow Grocery
3) Say Cheese
4) Cowgirl Ferry Plaza
1) K&L Wines
2) SF Wine Trading (on Taraval)
3) Vineyard Gate (Millbrae)
4) Premier Cru
5) Jug Shop
6) Wine Club
7) Tower Market (Twin Peaks on Portola)
8) Wine House
2) Sakai (on Post, Jtown)
3) New May Wah (10th & Clement, learn how to fillet)
4) Whole Foods
1) East Coast West
3) Whole Foods
1) Hoffman Farms (Ferry Plaza, Cafe Rouge)
2) Happy Dan's (Bryans and Good Life)
GAME & VARIETY MEATS
BREAKFAST/BAKING GOODS (flour, maple syrup, cereal, etc.)
1) Trader Joe's
1) Imperial Tea Court (Powell & Broadway)
2) Far Leaves (Berkeley)
3) Ten Ren (SF Chinatown)
4) Rainbow (in bulk)
1) SF Herb Company
2) Rainbow (in bulk)
1) Rainbow (in bulk)
2) Made In France Open Houses
1) Made in France Open Houses
2) Williams-Sonoma Union Sq. (shocking I know)
1) Lion & Globe (@ New May Wah)
So there's some basics from memory, and there's plenty of other stuff to be found at the places listed. Some areas I've left out since I haven't determined a ranking.
The best retail places let you taste before you buy (hygienically) and when they do that they usually have good stuff for obvious reasons. I think all retailers should have regular tasting events on a published schedule like the better wine stores do, and gradually taste through their entire inventory.
As it stands I have to do things like Fancy Food Show or just waste plenty of dough determining what's the best product. I guess the stores want me to waste the money, but all it ends up doing is making me lose faith in their buyers.
As you can see, getting the best value stuff requires quite a bit of zooming around. It's not as hectic as it looks, since lots of these things aren't all that perishable.