This month my small cooking group decided on an expedition to Clement Street in San Francisco.
Our primary destination: Kamei, a Japanese kitchen and houswares store with a mind-blowing assortment of affordable kitchen tools, cookware, and dishware. Four hours and only four or five stops later, we’d barely scratched the surface of all Clement Street has to offer.
We met in front of Green Apple Books on Clement between 6th and 7th Avenues (and across the street from Kamei). Green Apple’s huge collection of second-hand and new cookbooks drew us inside. We shared favorites and then found one after another we wanted. Of course. By the time I left, my bag was already heavy with an extra copy of The Tra Vigne Cookbook I wrote with Michael Chiarello as well as The Salpicon Cookbook of Contemporary Mexican Cuisine, bought as a Father’s Day gift for G.
Eventually, we tore ourselves away from the books and crossed the street. But before we went to Kamei, we stopped in next door at Schubert’s Bakery (521 Clement) to admire their reasonably priced and beautiful cakes and tarts piled high with glistening seasonal berries. We exercised restraint of a sort-—let’s come here for dessert—-and moved on.
People come from all over to shop at Kamei because, as a woman from California’s central valley exclaimed, “There’s nothing like this at home.” And there’s nothing like a successful shopping spree—bread knife, fine-mesh chinois, new hot pads (time to toss out the singed ones), and more—to work up an appetite.
We arrived excited and hungry at Burma SuperStar Restaurant (309 Clement) before the crowd and commandeered a comfortable table. None of us had been there so we accepted all the advice of our waitress (except to order less) and had a great meal.
After lunch, we charged into Haig’s Delicacies to check out its collection of Indian and Middle Eastern ingredients. I bought some Aleppo pepper—what a delicious aromatic scent—and a large, very dark colored, egg of Jaggery Gur. The sales clerk was not much help with just what it was beyond a type of sugar, but that could have been a language thing.
The Internet told me jaggery is made from boiled-down sugar cane juice or palm sap. Unfortunately, I could not find many details about how to turn the hard lump into a usable ingredient. I still don’t know but did take out my fine grater and easily grated some onto a plate to taste. It has an exotic caramel flavor and I can now understand how it would add an extra dimension to both sweet and savory dishes. Now to cook with it: pad thai? Horchata? Fun.