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Local Food+Drink Secrets of Chutney Chef Alison McQuade

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Alison McQuade at the Clift Hotel
Alison McQuade at the Clift Hotel

McQuade’s Celtic Chutneys are made by the San Francisco-based “Chutney Chef” Alison McQuade. This writer has seen McQuade’s chutneys used for private and catered events, as accoutrements with cheese and meat platters…and more. McQuade hails from Glasgow, Scotland, and has lived in the U.S. for the past thirty years. BAB contributor Amy Sherman reported in 2005 how McQuade got her start:

“One year I made chutney to give away as Christmas presents. It was my grandmother's recipe and I went online to make labels and get jars. I gave some to my hairdresser and she asked me to bring some more over for one of her customers--I thought that was a wee bit cheeky! This was a gift after all. But it turned out she had a tasting going on and her customer was one of the owners of Cowgirl Creamery. My first paying customer, she said she wanted 60 of each flavor.”

Consumers can find the chutneys locally at Cowgirl, Irish Castle Gift Shop, Falletti Foods, Cheese Plus, and Whole Foods SOMA. This growing chutney business is the winner of a 2006 Independent Food Festival & Awards. McQuade shared with BAB some recent product developments: “I'm currently introducing a new line of jellies -- pomegranate habanero, serrano pepper, pear chocolate jalapeno, zinfandel chocolate and pinot noir.”

McQuade: “I have lived in ‘Tenderloin Heights’ for years and love this area with its proximity to shops, restaurants and the park at Grace Cathedral … only two blocks away!” She’s hoping “at some point in the very near future to start a little soup kitchen with the help of some local neighbors. There are so many aging and sick people around us here in San Francisco. I'd like to pitch in and help a little more. I work with Dinner With Grace, [which is] a Grace Cathedral run service where volunteers cook food on Tuesday night twice a month. On the Wednesday, we deliver the food and eat with the residents of nearby SRO hotels.”

Here are McQuade’s favorite food and drink spots:

I love the Shakshuka from Cafe Zitouna (North African) on Polk Street. It's generally breakfast food, but they serve it all day with lamb sausage and it's just amazing!


Lahore Karahi -- I'm constantly in search for the best mattar paneer. I've found my favorite version yet is here. Unfortunately, they've been closed the past couple of weeks but are about to reopen so I can get my fix.

Farm:Table does such lovely bites for breakfast. I love their daily boiled eggs served on baguette gussied up with bacon and greens, mushroom, radish and even chutney! They tweet their menu every day and it's always mouthwatering! [SFoodie noted McQuade’s curry-gold habanero chutney served with said eggs last year ]

Sugar Café (soups made from scratch every week day by Ignacio the soup king): I crave his cauliflower cheese soup.

The Huntington Hotel for happy hour is one of my favorites. They oftentimes provide appetizers and there’s always something the chef has just whipped up on the spur of the moment.

Zante's Indian pizza: I will often have that delivered on a rainy night (they deliver all over the city). That's all I need … served with a refreshing amber beer!

I have two favorite wine bars -- Hidden Vine (which is about to move to the financial area) but I'm one hundred percent certain something interesting is going to take its place.

Also, the Rosebowl Florist and Wine Bar, a little hidden gem in opera plaza. Deidra keeps this rather small place stocked with an interesting and well-priced selection of wine. She'll often put out little plates of food to keep the regulars happy. A nice lively selection of people frequent this place almost every evening.

I do like to shop in my neighborhood as well as the Ferry Building, where I get all my fresh fruit and vegetables. I like to support the mom and pop stores and the one near where I live, Mayflower Market is the friendliest and best stocked of all the little markets. They have an incredible range of packaged food, organic, juices, [and a] and sandwich counter. Often times, the Mom will be making some delicious meatball dish with spices from scratch and she always insists everyone has a taste.

I also love to shop in Japantown--especially at Nijiya, where they have an excellent selection of fresh fish and sashimi. I always leave with some crackers or little cookies individually wrapped. They make for interesting and well-received presents!

Need a present for yourself? For readers who don’t live near any of the stores that sell McQuade’s, the products are newly available on Amazon.com.

Website: McQuade’s Celtic Chutneys
Twitter: @mcquadechutneys
Facebook: McQuade's Celtic Chutney

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