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Secrets of a Curator: Omnivore Books' Celia Sack

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Celia Sack - Omnivore Books
Celia Sack. Photo: Courtesy of Celia Sack

The stock of new, antiquarian and collectible cookbooks at Omnivore Books in Noe Valley is legendary, and the one of a kind store continues to be successful after opening in November 2008. One sweet touch is the blend of books coupled with fresh eggs for sale and occasional free apples from owner Celia Sack. Sack is often on duty at the store, where she offers friendly but knowledgeable advice based on her years as a book collector. Alice Waters cited the store as a culinary favorite in a recent Bay Area Bites interview, and industry and home cooks flock to the store to stock up and attend in-store events ranging from punch contests to edible art and a recent talk that included a Colorado whiskey tasting with Buzzio sausage. Sack also owns a pet store with her partner, Paula Harris, and the two stores have a connecting passageway. The two live in Corona Heights. When she isn't working or testing recipes for her selections for Williams-Sonoma stores nationwide, or upcoming "curated recipe keeper" book with a working title of The Omnivore's Recipe Keeper, Sack says she enjoys the following joints for shopping, eating, and drinking.

Celia Sack and Paula Harris
Celia Sack and Paula Harris. Photo: Courtesy of Celia Sack

Sack and Harris had their first date fifteen years ago in the Haight at Kate's Kitchen. "We got slap happy, on a sugar high, and rolled into bed together," Sack says, adding confirmation that yes, we can quote her on that last part. The two share what Sack calls "our secret thing" from Mill Valley, which is a guilty pleasure: In-N-Out Burger for double-doubles. They stop on their way to Tomales, where they have a home. "We stop in on a Saturday night, after we are exhausted from work. Eat our double-doubles and watch all the clean scrubbed teenagers" digging into their own fast food fare. Staying in Tomales is a way to rest and recharge on days off, and the eggs that Sack sells in the store are from there.

Petaluma is home to other favorites for the duo. "We always go to Dempsey's. Also, there's a tea place called the Tea Room Café. It's just so wonderful, and I’m going there with my sister soon."


For what she calls a "calm grocery store experience" with a "fantastic liquor selection," Sack heads to Mollie Stone's, in the old Tower Market space in Twin Peaks. "There are three shelves of spectacular bourbon," she says, and that the parking is easy. "They have a parking lot in the back, that no one uses, or seems to know about."

New May Wah on Clement Street is Sack's resource for Asian ingredients, in the Richmond District. "It's a store that has space that is half fresh goods, like fish, meat and vegetables. The other half is full of dried goods, that are awesome."

Down the street on Clement, Sack likes to get "the best pho in the city," at Mai's Vietnamese Restaurant, which tends to not be as crowded (ever) as the nearby Burma Superstar.

After work, Sack and Harris "love to go to Range, and sit at the counter." The cocktail drink of the day is something Sack says she always orders, along with a mix of the restaurant's appetizers. "They change (the apps) a lot, and I prefer to eat any of their appetizers" as a meal, says Sack.

La Ciccia, which is a few blocks away from Omnivore Books, is a go-to spot due to "their pastas, which are all wonderful. The whole fish dish is really nice. They have an amazing Sardinian wine list."

Sack shares a secret for getting a table at the popular Gialina Pizzeria, in Glen Park. "If you call ahead, they will put you on the list." Upon arrival, it's a pizza--the nettles with pancetta is a draw--and "all the pizzas are awesome," adding that owner Sharon Adriana's strengths are her salads and cheesecake. Sack says the salads are so good that "she should do a restaurant just around salads," a concept that could gain traction in the green-friendly Bay Area.

Back at the shop, Omnivore is set to have a busy October, with a schedule that Sacks calls "so insane and great" and definitely worth checking out. Diana Kennedy, Madhur Jaffrey, Rajat Parr & Jordan McKay, Michael Chiarello, Tyler Florence, Dorie Greenspan, Rene Redzepi, are among the highlights.

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