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Om Nom Nom Nom

Just had the great pleasure of wandering around Semiramis, one of the last bastions of non-Hispanic ethnic grocery shopping I know of near-about where I live. There is also the Lucca Ravioli Company, which I love a fair bit but whose line and number system I adamantly find daunting. (It's usually so crowded.) The Greek store is almost gone -- they're down to selling the fridges inside, last I heard. The Indian Ice Creamery/Bombay Bazaar is very much closed and has been for months, their amazing assortment of whole and ground spices gone for good. I'd never been to Semiramis before, though it has come up many times when I poke around the neighbourhood online for baklava, which I get a craving for.

Not just any baklava, and not the straight up layered filo and ground nuts kind that is fairly easy to find (Little Spot Cafe has it all day next to their pastry case, as does Progressive Grounds), but the bird's nest baklava, that rounded roll of crisp pastry soaked in fragrantly citrus syrup with a teaspoonful of shelled, slightly savoury pistachios nestled in the centre. Or the baklava made with pressed, shredded filo, slathered in more fragrantly citrus syrup, sandwiching even more halved pistachios, possibly with scatterings of finely ground green pistachio powder on top. I go through this stuff the way some people go through boxes of chocolate.

I would go through boxes of chocolate, except my carefully cultivated, unholy love for 65%++ cocoa was carefully cultivated explicitly so I don't eat my teeth off. Also, chocolate, like my beloved garlic, is one of my migraine triggers. I can eventually give myself a headache chomping on nuts, but it takes a pretty darn long while to reach that point.

Semiramis has a shelf full of different baklava boxes, tempting the passing traveler like water in a desert. It's next to the cashier. I asked the lovely gentleman behind the counter if they had, "That rounded baklava, it's filled with nuts," making the appropriate shapes with my hands, and he was like, "Oh, the bird's nest baklava. We don't have that on their own, but we have it with other things." The first box he showed me was way too big (I am told the fat banshee only hits my family's women in their late 40s, but I'm not that keen to laugh in the face of fate). The second box he showed me had two rows of both of my favourite kinds of baklava, so I was all for that.

I did also had to ask the gentleman behind the counter where the haloumi was (tall shelf with the packets faced away from me -- missed it even with much squinting at the chiller), which the other nice store gentleman got for me. I got a large bag of Swiss chards from the Mission Community Market, which I intend to turn into saag paneer for the gamers on Wednesday. With Bombay Bazaar gone, I no longer have quick access to big, cheap bricks of paneer on the fly. And while I've wanted to make some myself for years, I am, as always, magically late on everything. Samiramis has a large cheese and yoghurt section. Looking at it for too long makes one ridiculously happy. They also have bulk herbs, teas and grains -- the herbs come from SF Herb Co. on 14th St. I grabbed a large bag of garbanzo beans, large-grained Israeli couscous (always meant to try this), bulghur and a cheap bottle of grapeseed oil.

I made friends with Oxanna, the store's very friendly cat. She's a lovely grey long-haired who will rub against your ankles and offer much love. I love grey cats.

The back of the store is also full of stainless steel pans of various fascinating sizes. There are round and square pans like the kind my mother uses to steam traditional Malay cakes back there. I've never seen any in the Mission before, and they have a whole shelf of those cute copper coffee stove pots. I am totally coming back at some point to get some pots and pans. And more oil and cheese and yoghurt, and pet the cat. As a bonus, they also have big bags of polenta, which fills me with glee. Did I mention the long-haired grey beauty who rubs against your ankles and loves pettings?

Also, the Mission Community Market. Now, it's not very big, but it is in the area, on Bartlett and 22nd every Thursday, starting at 4PM - 8PM. I went there for the first time last week. I think I must have bought from about 3/4ths of the stalls. There aren't that many, but the selection's pretty nice. When I was there, there were two vegetable stalls and two fruit stands. The vegetable stalls sold roughly the same things, as did the fruit stands, so I'm guessing they sell seasonal produce. I kind of regret not getting more leeks, myself, as I am very fond of leeks indeed. There was at least one dried goods stand, for nuts and legumes, and three baked good stalls -- Mission Pie and Arezmendi, both representing their stores in the Mission, and a place I've not heard of called Sweet Constructions, selling cupcakes. I got Mission Pie's walnut tartlets, because I love their walnut tartlets and get cravings for walnut tartlets, and I'm making the most awful case ever for a person who supposedly doesn't like sweet foods, aren't I? Arezmendi was selling lovely rye sourdough rounds, among other breads. I got their cheese sticks, which I regret. Though it is covered in parmesan and pistachios, they were tough and a little stale, I think, even with a refresher run in the oven. The rye sourdough is very good though. Tender crumb, not too bitter or too sour. But honestly, I have come to believe that if someone in San Francisco manages to sell bad sourdough bread, it would be a scandal.

There were also at least three cooked food stalls, including the La Cocina truck that sold organic tamales. I'm still kicking myself for not getting the organic tamales. Instead, I gravitated next door to the largely unnoticed empanada stall, because I wanted something reheatable for dinner, ignoring all street food instincts I have about stalls people don't frequent much. I was raised in a city where everyone eats street food all the time, and going to a stall which no one else frequents usually means it is bad place from which to eat. But I was like, "Empanadas!" They had tempting flavours too: ham and cheese, cheese and jalapeno, and minced beef. The lady behind the table was talking to people behind the table when I walked up. She greeted a guy behind me, passing by with his bike, just as I began looking through the empanadas. Now, she did notice me when I wanted to pay for my purchase, and she was nice enough to compliment me on my shirt, but it was kind of small talk that failed, I think. I don't know. It was awkward. The empanadas in question weren't terribly good. I wished they were. The pastry was kind of bland and neither crisp nor chewy. The filling had a vague taste of tomato, and possibly cumin, again, somewhat bland. The only good thing about them was that they were warm when I bought them and stayed warm when I opened them at home. These come from Chile Lindo, which I'm not sure I want to try again, but might. It's relatively close enough, I guess.

The best stall there, the one I rather enjoyed the most, was the smoked fish stall. Free samples of excellent smoked salmons. They also have smoked sturgeon, trout and scallops. Charlie, the nice man behind the stall, did not have sturgeon and scallops that day, much as I would have liked either. I got a trout, and came back half an hour later for salmon at the husband's request. Charlie gave me the 2 fish for $24 discount. Yay!

So if you're in the Mission on a Thursday, and want a lovely bite to eat, or smoked cured meats of mmmm, or a little walnut tartlet, you know where to go. I'll probably hang out there one of these Thursdays again. Try the tamales, look at more of their smoked meats. 4505 Meats apparently has a stall there every so often, so there are actual sausages and cured poultry. Chicken beer sausages, anyone?


Apr. 26th, 2011 10:59 pm (UTC)

You are so welcome. ::hugs::