Saturday, November 25, 2006
The British Grocery in SF: It's Brilliant, By Jove!
There is a wonderful store in San Francisco's Portero District that sells British food and other items from England. Established by Evelyn Alexander in 1969, the British Grocery offers everything British -- from frozen food to pharmaceuticals to chinaware, serving items, imports and collectibles. Patrick Alexander and his daughter Simone run the place, and are both very helpful and informed on everything English. The busiest time of year for the British Grocery is Christmas, when Brits in the Bay Area and throughout North America yearn for all the great traditional items -- like Christmas puddings, mince pies, boxed chocolates, English tins and toffees, teas, Devon cream, and gift pack assortments. As they like to say in Britain, "This place is brilliant!" There are a lot of people from Britain in the Bay Area (someone told me 70,000, but don't quote me) and the British Grocery offers them all the things they know and love from the Mother Country. Although I am not British myself (1/2 Italian and 1/2 Irish) I truly appreciate a lot of the culture's food and drink, especially the chocolates, which I'm not supposed to eat. One of my favorite traditions at Christmas revolves around the British cracker, which is 160-years-old and more popular than ever. Crackers are little tubes, festively wrapped, that pop when you pull the string that's attached. Inside you'll find Xmas decorations, jokes, little trinkets and all kinds of special items. They are just so frivolously fun that I never tire of them! Christmas puddings are also a lot of fun -- they aren't like the puddings we eat in this country -- they're more like cakes than puddings, really. They have one that's actually called "Spotted Dick" -- I'm not lying. But, they sure are delicious, especially with some Devon cream, which is thick, clotted cream that is marvelous atop anything sweet. The British Grocery is located at 726 15th Street off of Portrero Avenue. They're open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 am to 5:30 pm. Their phone number is: (415) 552-4399. They can ship you anything they sell anywhere in the world. To find out more about the British Grocery, visit their web site at: http://www.britshoppe.com/. Cheers!