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Fresh Eats: Gooey Caramels at Barbary Brix, and a Free Lunch at Comstock Saloon 

Wednesday, Jun 1 2011

Guilt Reduction Through Gooey Caramels

By Jonathan Kauffman

When the Upper Haight farmers' market started up last month, Melissa Scheiderer and Rob Ray began making public appearances, luring customers over to try Barbary Brix caramels with old-timey names like the Salty Dog (salted caramel) and the Distinguished Gentleman (flavored with cocoa bean).

The pair began testing recipes and sourcing ingredients more than a year ago, looking for sustainably sourced, organic sweeteners: local brown rice syrup (the primary sweetener), coconut palm nectar, and evaporated cane syrup (aka sugar). "We experimented with a lot of syrups," says Scheiderer, "but we found the brown rice syrup worked the best with the flavor of the caramel — it already has that creamy quality to it, and didn't add too much extra sweetness like honey and agave did." The pair still makes each batch by hand, twisting the caramels into compostable plastic wrappers. At the farmers' markets, one-ounce bags (with four caramels) sell for $4 and quarter-pound bags, the much better bargain, sell for $8.95.

While the Barbary Brix sweets are as sticky as conventional sugar caramels, the rice and coconut sweeteners give them a deeper, most complex flavor — similar to the difference between a piece of toast smeared with butter-flavored Crisco and one slathered in Irish cultured butter. For now, the two are primarily selling at the farmers' market, to corporate clients, and online — their website is

Upper Haight Farmers' Market: Waller and Stanyan, Wednesdays 4 to 8 p.m.

Just How Good Is Comstock Saloon's Daily Free Lunch?

By Lou Bustamante

On weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Comstock Saloon is offering a meal on the house with the purchase of two full-price drinks. SFoodie has a hard time resisting the allure of a free lunch, especially one that provides an adequate excuse to enjoy a few cocktails.

We were surprised by the enormous plate. Our large-and-in-charge lunch came with a chopped lettuce salad, roasted potatoes, and a nicely sized hamburger. There was only one condiment, a hot tomato-soup-like sauce, and we drenched our whole meal in it. The whole thing was filling, tasty, and of the same high quality chef Carlo Espinas always serves. It wasn't a dumbed-down version of something from the menu — it was something from the menu.

When we first reported about Comstock's new lunch deal on the blog, a reader commented that the heavily salted free lunches of the past were offered by bars so patrons would buy more thirst-quenching and/or profitable booze, inspiring the adage, "There's no such thing as a free lunch." But if you end up buying more than two cocktails at Comstock, it won't be because of the saltiness of the food, but because of the hospitality of the staff and the great drinks. In fact, the amazingly refreshing Cherry Bounce (bourbon, sparkling wine, angostura, lemon, juice from homemade brandied cherries, $10) is the reason we bought a third.

Comstock Saloon: 155 Columbus (at Kearny), 617-0071.

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