Tuesday, March 19, 2013

San Francisco: Buyer's Best Friend in the Haight

In August I spent a few weeks in California, starting in San Francisco. I started telling you about it a while back, but other projects started to take priority. I figured with this recent snowfall, now is as good a time as any to harken back to sunnier, warmer days. I hope you enjoy re-living my trip with me!

On a sunny afternoon while walking through the Haight district, I saw this sign: 

Of course I followed the directions of this sign and went inside! I was greeted by a cute and friendly clerk named Alex, who quickly showed me the many food samples I was permitted to enjoy. As she told me about the store she was also nice enough to recommend some restaurants in the area. I love being a tourist because people are so forthcoming with ideas of what to do next! 

The store that I had ventured into was (and is) called Buyer's Best Friend Wholesale & Mercantile. It's a wholesale artisan food shop that carries over 2000 different products, all made by small shops, entrepreneurs and artisan food producers. The store also carries health products and beauty products, and they have a few different locations throughout the city. They also have an extremely comprehensive e-commerce system on their website for wholesale buyers and sellers. If you are an artisan food producer or you make organic beauty products, check them out! (I'm not entirely sure if it's exclusive to the U.S., but you could ask!)

The owner, Joyce (pictured below), showed me great hospitality, touring me through the store and introducing me to her team in the back warehouse/office area. She insisted I take home some samples to try and it was clear the passion she and her team had for the handmade food products in store.

The first thing that appealed to me about Buyer's Best Friend (besides the sign outside, of course), was the design of the store. These days many of us love that antique, old-timey feel, and in this setting it worked well to highlight the products. They used old suitcases, antique wine barrels, kitschy lamps, gramophones and velvet chaise lounges to decorate the store and create a very homey feel.

I purchased some Stumptown Coffee and a gorgeous-smelling handsoap from Clean Getaway Soap Co. for my cousin and his wife whom I'd be visiting in Oakland in the next few days. I was tempted to empty out the ice cream fridge pictured below but I figured I'd better hold off. People say that calories don't count on vacation...I'd like to know who these people are!? Trust me, I made up for this sacrifice later in the trip.

Examples of the aforementioned artisan food samples included: caramel corn, dark chocolate, a whole shelf full of artisan balsamic vinegars, granola, nuts and other delicious snack food items. It was great to see such a selection of healthy, handmade, gourmet, artisan and/or unprocessed foods available for sale in one place! I love it when you turn a product over and there are only 4 or 5 ingredients listed on the back.

I took my bounty home to the cute spot I was renting in Cole Valley — packed some for the road, stowed the gifts safely, and chowed down on the rest over the next few evenings. Thank you, Joyce and Alex, and to everyone at Buyer's Best Friend. Without a doubt my favourite snack was the Boulder Granola which made a perfect breakfast the morning I left Oakland for wine country.

Stay with me as I continue to post about my California journey! More San Francisco to come, as well as wine country, Big Sur and more! 

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