Table Talk: Fun Bites at a Chinese Bakery and Old Oakland’s Swan’s Market

Just a few of the many bready and baked selections you'll find at Harvest Wheat Field Bakery in the Inner Richmond. (tablehopper.com)

This week’s Table Talk will hopefully inspire you to have fun eating your way through Harvest Wheat Field Bakery (an affordable Chinese bakery in SF), and to pay a visit to some of the female-owned businesses at Old Oakland’s Swan’s Market. You also won’t want to miss Nopa and Nopalito’s upcoming trio of dinners for The Civic Table Project.

No Carb Left Behind at Harvest Wheat Field Bakery

431 Clement St., San Francisco
Open daily 7am–7pm
Cash only

The shaggy ham and pork sung roll. (tablehopper.com)

If you’re trying to avoid carbs or sweets, you may want to avert your eyes and start reading the next item…otherwise, let’s dive into the shelves at Harvest Wheat Field Bakery and have some fun. This bakery is part of a local chain (Fancy Wheat Field Bakery), with five locations in the Bay Area, and one in San Gabriel.

The carb carriages, laden with baked goods inside. (tablehopper.com)

The most recent location to open is on Clement Street in the Inner Richmond, and you’ll be greeted by two quirky carriages inside that are full of Chinese breads, from classics like char siu bao (baked BBQ pork buns, and honestly not quite notable here), pineapple buns,  and pillowy and golden ham-onion buns, to the new-to-me pork sung roll (see above) that was rolled inside, with an exterior coated with rou song (pork floss), ham, green onion, cheese, and a sweet custardy cream inside (with the texture of mayo). The pork sung roll was over the top and the spongy texture made it really satisfying to eat. Pork floss is almost like a savory/porky cotton candy, and you’ll also see it on the hot dog–bun shaped roll called the falafel roll (a total ESL misnomer), with green onion on top, and there’s the seaweed pork sung bun as well (I liked the saline flavor note). 

The baked coconut tart has an irresistible dense and sticky texture that is such a pleasure to bite into. (tablehopper.com)

Since most of the baked goods are $1.25–$1.45, you can indulge your whims and taste whatever catches your eye (just make sure you have enough cash on you)! Some aren’t exactly top-of-the-line, but they certainly over-deliver for the incredibly affordable price, and they’re freshly made. Grab a tray and tongs on the right side of the shop, and start selecting. There are also sliced loaves of milk bread on top of the carb carriages, a favorite for toasts and sandwiches.

The fluffy cheesecake (for just $1.80!). (tablehopper.com)

As for the sweets, you should definitely check out the Hong Kong-style baked coconut tarts, and in a cool case along one of the front windows, you’ll find trendy oval-shaped and fluffy soufflé cheesecakes (just $1.80 for a little cloud!). (Another Japanese-inspired treat includes a rolled matcha sponge cake, so it’s not just about Chinese baked goods here.) There are a few tables inside where you can sit over some Hong Kong milk tea, but you’ll definitely want to bring a hot pink and lime green box home full of goodies.

Three Female Chef-Owners Who Will Feed You So Well at Old Oakland's Swan's Market

Cosecha
907 Washington St., Oakland
Miss Ollie's
901 Washington St., Oakland
The Cook and Her Farmer
907 Washington St., Oakland

Fried fish taco blue plate special at Cosecha. (tablehopper.com)

While attending a three-day conference in Old Oakland, a big perk was being able to head to Swan’s Market for a meal each day at three fabulous female-owned businesses. Dominica Rice-Cisneros has a big fan base at her beloved Cosecha counter in the market, known for her quality homestyle dishes, including tacos with tortillas made to order, and a strong message of social justice on the side. 

The seasonal and freshly made salsas at Cosecha are always a highlight. (tablehopper.com)

Her pozole verde is a favorite, but a close second for me are her fried fish tacos, with sustainably wild-caught cod sporting the lightest, laciest breading, topped with dollops of a rich crema de chipotle. And the tortillas! So soft and full of sweet corn flavor. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, two fish tacos are available as a blue plate special for $12.50, with a side of beans and perfectly ripened avocado. You’ll also want to see what the seasonal salsa is (the salsas and sauces really are next-level here), which will be ideal on top of the beans, and especially with their excellent housemade chips. Cosecha means “homemade,” which shines brightly as an integral quality of the fresh and lovingly made food here.

A perfect lunch at Miss Ollie's: tropical salad and skillet-fried chicken. (tablehopper.com)

Another master of the fry is chef-owner Sarah Kirnon at the neighboring Miss Ollie’s. Her skillet-fried chicken is legendary, enough to pull San Franciscans across the bay to answer its siren call. I was tempted by the Friday and Saturday chicken-and-waffles special but knew I needed something lighter for lunch. Fortunately, you can order the fried chicken by the piece (an expertly fried juicy thigh for me, $4.50, thanks), which proved to be a magic accompaniment to their beautiful and vibrant tropical salad ($10), which rotates with seasonal fruits (like stone fruit, persimmon, or mango), plus pomegranate, radish, cucumber, the freshest greens, avocado, and a sweet sherry vinaigrette—the acidity ended up being the perfect foil to bites of the burnished fried chicken. Add in a highly personal and soulful soundtrack and a sunny corner location, and you’ve got the perfect lunch spot.

A closer look at the expertly fried chicken at Miss Ollie's. (tablehopper.com)

Looking for a happy hour bite? Hopefully it’s a warm fall evening like I experienced, and you can snag a seat at one of the red metal tables on the patio at The Cook and Her Farmer, sipping on one of their well-selected, food-friendly, natural, and organic wines while you wait for your oysters to come out. They were exquisitely shucked, full of their liquor and nary a shred of shell, and tasting so fresh and plump and briny. The rotating selection may include local selects from Tomales Bay Oyster Company or Barron Points from the Pacific Northwest. 

The generous grilled cheese of your dreams at The Cook and Her Farmer. (tablehopper.com)

Maybe you need something with a little more sustenance? Hopefully you have someone to share the Big Sur melt ($15.50) with, because it’s a beast. Chef-owner Romney Steele knows how to make grilled cheese aficionados so very happy: with thick and golden slices of Acme levain stuffed with gooey dry jack and Gruyère, baby Gulf shrimp, arugula, mostarda, and green onion, and there were even a couple pieces of dry jack frico tucked in there (a crisp piece of melted cheese from the grill is such a treat, it’s like the cooks are spoiling you), plus pecorino shaved on top, and pickled vegetables and Castelvetranos on the side. Life can be so good.

Come Together for Dinner and Discussion at Nopa and Nopalito’s Civic Table Project

Tickets and dates: October 25, November 15, December 6
Sliding-scale donation of $50+
6pm–9pm
More info
Nopalito
1224 9th Ave., San Francisco

Gather around the table at the next Civic Table Project dinner at Nopalito. (Chandler Sowden)

Nopa and Nopalito have announced the fall programming for their Civic Table Project, a trio of dinners and discussions about “our changing country, city, and what that means for us as a community.” Guests gather over a four-course, family-style meal at Nopalito (including wine and margaritas), cooked by Nopa and Nopalito cooks and staff who volunteer their time. All event costs are donated by the restaurants so that 100 percent of ticket proceeds can be given to a not-for-profit organization related to the topic being discussed that evening.

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Prior to the event, guests will receive materials to review (or not — your choice!) related to the topic that will be discussed that evening. Community members, researchers, activists, and thought leaders will be present at the dinner, and diners can engage in conversation as much as they desire. The project was founded in 2016, and director and moderator Caitlin Dizinno believes we can connect and restore our communities through the power of food. Read more about the three-series here, which will offer a deeper look into the history and psychology of partisanship and political thought in America.

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