Spicy beef noodle soup at Yuanbao Jiaozi. (tablehopper.com)
Warm up with spicy beef noodle soup and made-to-order dumplings in the Outer Sunset, enjoy authentic Greek baked goods (and much more) in an unexpected location, and have you ever eaten a Danish tebirkes? To do: the new food zine, California Eating, is throwing a release party, and The Cheesemonger Invitational returns.
The weather has turned chilly in SF, and it seems like everyone has a cold. Spicy beef noodle soup to the rescue! And Yuanbao Jiaozi’s handmade dumplings, too! This Outer Sunset spot is tiny and popular, so you should definitely expect a wait. Come in a pair or as a four-top — larger parties will be challenging. I was dining solo and ended up sharing a table with a friendly couple — space is not wasted here.
The Northern Chinese menu is very concise: there are eight appetizers, like garlicky cucumber salad (good to fight your cold), tofu skin salad, and shredded pig ear in chile oil, all $7.99 and under. You can nibble on these small plates while you wait for your dumplings, which are made to order by the fab ladies in the windowed room in the back of the restaurant (be sure to head back and watch after you place your order).
The rustic dumplings come with your choice of fillings, like green pepper and fish (which some customers who were waiting outside with me recommended, try them!), pork or shrimp with three delicacies (chive, egg, and shrimp), shrimp and zucchini, napa cabbage and pork, and more (eight kinds in all, all $8.99 for 12). You have the option of getting them in a light soup, but I say get them plain and freshly boiled — you can dip them in your own combination of soy sauce, vinegar, and more. The wrappers are silky and not too thick, and the fillings are delicately savory and feature a balanced ratio with the wrapper. Everything tastes really clean and simple and fresh. Made-to-order dumplings, such a tender treat.
The only other item on the menu is the beef noodle soup that you can order regular or spicy, which comes with a big spoonful of chile and oil in the middle of your bowl — it will clear your nostrils promptly, but it wasn’t too spicy. There was a trio of beef cuts (thin slices and cubes) and cilantro, baby boy choy, green onion, and a flavorful and lightly sweet broth that wasn’t salty or too strong. The noodles were a little softer than I prefer, but it was a hearty and cold-busting bowl for $10.99.
The place is immaculate, and the busy staff is kind but will definitely hustle you out once the bill hits the table.
An Authentic Taste of Greece in an Unexpected Location
There’s a new Greek café, bakery, and retail shop that recently opened on Sixth Street in the Tenderloin/SoMa, The Argentum Project, and it’s a special little culinary oasis from a couple, the vivacious Katerina and her baker husband Dimitrios Kalessis. The front counter is stocked full of housemade baked goods, ranging from the well-known, like spanakopita, and tiropita triangles filled with cheese, and the sesame-studded bread rings you see on the streets of Greece (koulouria thessalonikis). But then there’s the rustic-looking hortopita with wild greens and feta and a braided edge, a specialty from the Northern Greek area where Dimitrios is from (Serres). There’s also the rectangular cheese bougasta with tangy feta that they cut into slices, or get a slice filled with spinach and cheese, and then there’s a version with sweet custard cream inside (bougatsa me krema) that gets chopped up into squares, with cinnamon on top and it’s simply incredible. You have to try it—the layers of the crisp pastry that contrast the custardy filling are a delight.
You can take home a little tray of pastitsio that you can warm up later for dinner, which comes with layers of Greek tube pasta, seasoned ground beef, cheese, and it's covered with béchamel on top. Let me tell you, after you warm that baby up in your oven, and get the top all nice and golden, you will be happy with your life choices. (There’s also moussaka you can bring home.) They are both $15 and offer two hearty portions.
The counter is full of sweets under glass domes, including baklava made with walnut, koulourakia (a classic citrus-butter cookie), loukoumi, molasses cookies, and I was so lucky to try some holiday cookies. (Don’t let the lack of signage deter you—Katerina is happy to tell you what everything is.) In the case, there was also a semolina-coconut cake soaked with syrup, revani. And don’t miss the tahinopita: a breakfast roll with a layer of sweet tahini crumble on top—it’s marvelous with your coffee.
They have two imported frozen strained Greek yogurt flavors, either original (tart) or vanilla, which you can top with honey syrup, sour cherry syrup, or baklava crumbles. There’s full Greek or Italian coffee service (including a cappuccino freddo!), a bunch of pita sandwiches, salads, and Katerina made me her favorite snack (which is not on the menu): fluffy pita topped with caramelized onions and feta that gets warmed up in the oven, and then finished with a glug of Greek olive oil. (They should really put it on the menu.)
The lovingly curated retail offering includes imported feta, olive oils, wines, beers, jams, honeys, candy, yogurt, juices, and all kinds of nostalgic treats. Anyone who is Greek is going to be in heaven here, while food lovers have a lot to explore and stock their pantry with. There’s a counter up against the brick wall where you can perch, or you can get your treats to go, and they also offer catering. The weekly hours can make it tricky to visit, but it’s a worthy mission.
The Scandinavian-inspired Kantine on Market Street has a variety of baked treats and breads from chef-owner Nichole Accettola, and there’s a special danish she’s making that you won’t find anywhere else in the city: terbirkes. (If you have seen it somewhere else, please let me know!) It’s about the size of a typical pain au chocolat, but the flaky pastry is topped with a full blanket of poppy seeds, and inside is a creamy almond filling, ever-so-lightly sweet. It offers a unique pairing of flavors and textures, one that will keep you mulling as you nibble. This is a classic pastry from Denmark, but the only place I’ve ever had it in the U.S. was in New York, from Bien Cuit. So here’s something delicious for you fellow poppy seed and almond lovers to track down to enjoy with your morning coffee. (Just be sure to check your teeth after you eat it.)
Local writer Tamara Palmer took on the hefty task of launching a new quarterly publication, California Eating. She’s describing it as a small-batch food zine, and she's doing her own photography as well. It’s fun, quirky, and highlights dishes, people, and food culture from all over California. She's holding a release party on January 5, where you can pick up the inaugural issue, get some cute merch (some for free and some for purchase), and enjoy bites by Dario Barbone, Jake Godby (of Humphry Slocombe, making his infamous duck fat Chex mix), Jasleen Kaur (paneer in different flavors), and Luis Villavelazquez (dragon beard candy).
The event is free, bites are free, and the magazine is $20 for the first issue. Or, you can get Issue 1 for free if you pre-order Issue 2 and a special California Eating x Charles Chocolates collaborative candy bar on Kickstarter while at the event.
If you can’t make it, you can pick up a copy at Vinyl Dreams (593 Haight Street) and Douglas (1598 Sanchez Street), or order it online. Look for Palmer's second Kickstarter campaign in January to produce the limited first edition (100 copies) of the second issue, which will include that collaborative chocolate bar. A monthly podcast is also coming in 2019.
Cheese fans, this event is for you: The Cheesemonger Invitational returns to San Francisco on January 13, and this year’s competition (the sixth) will be in a bigger venue (The Midway) with the doors opening earlier too. Cheesemongers from around the country will compete on a variety of tests (like cutting, wrapping, blind taste tests) and then guests get to enjoy the fruits of their labor starting at 3pm: unlimited cheese bites, pairing bites, and perfect bites.
Award-winning cheesemakers will be featured throughout the event, including Cowgirl Creamery, The Cellars at Jasper Hill, Neal’s Yard Dairy, Vermont Creamery, Essex Street Cheese, and many more. There will also be fondue, grilled cheese, arancini, and many other cheesy bites.
21 and over. Drinks are not included in the ticket price.