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Fresh Eats 

Our weekly roundup of SFoodie news

Wednesday, Dec 1 2010

The Mission's New Old Kitchenware Shop

By John Birdsall

Give a former Williams-Sonoma employee 250 square feet of retail space and what does she do? Open a kitchen shop, naturally, filled with new and used stuff. Donna Suh Wageman rolled out Pot + Pantry recently on 22nd Street, the home, briefly, of clothing boutique Leisure Birds.

Suh Wageman spent two years at Williams-Sonoma as a merchandise coordinator and inventory management person, then spent the next year keeping an eye out for a storefront of her own. The used stuff she sells? She prefers to call it "gently used" or "vintage," pretty much anything but appliances (apart from the shop's prop range) and cutlery. Plus, she says, "I'm not a huge fan of single-purpose tools," i.e. clunky monstrosities like the Margaritaville. "They take up a lot of space in people's kitchens, and then they just want to get rid of them." Starting this month, Suh Wageman hopes to begin offering trade.

Pot + Pantry: 3412 22nd St. (at Guerrero), 206-1134. Tue.-Thu. 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 12:30-7 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Follow on Twitter at @potandpantry.

EAT THIS: Pop! Desserts' Agar Puddings

By John Birdsall

Marielle Nuval's knife roll must've still been new when, months after graduating from CCA, she got a job in the pastry department at Michael Mina. She stayed on in September when the place morphed into Bourbon Steak, plating desserts on the line mostly, and doing a bit of pastry production. Then a few months ago she and a friend checked out a Hapa Ramen pop-up at Bar Tartine, and something clicked with Nuval, who'd worked at a Japanese cafe in Seattle. She approached Hapa's Kitty Gallisa to see whether she and Richie Nakano might want to offer some Japanese-style sweets. They did.

The pastry chef called her moonlighting venture Pop! Desserts and began making agar-thickened puddings in Hapa's production kitchen. On a recent Thursday at Ferry Plaza, Nuval offered four conservatively sweetened puddings, all $2: matcha green tea, black sesame, coffee, and chocolate. Nuval is quick to say she's still playing around with ingredients and flavorings. The matcha skewed too bitter for my taste, and the chocolate was slightly grainy. But the black sesame offered up nicely rendered bass notes and an airy texture, and coffee (made with Blue Bottle's Three Africans blend) was pretty much the perfect thing to follow a bowl of Nakano's deeply satisfying broth.

Seeing where Nuval takes Pop! Desserts should prove almost as satisfying. She says she'll continue tweaking her pudding recipe and hopes to add a completely different kind of dessert in the New Year. "I don't want to be known as the pudding girl," she says.

Pop! Desserts: Sold by Hapa Ramen, Ferry Building Farmers' Market, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tue. and Thu. Follow on Twitter at @popdesserts.

Ken Ken Ramen at the Corner

By Luis Chong

On a recent Thursday evening, the first night of Ken Ken Ramen's pop-up at its new location at the Corner attracted many Mission residents (and a few neighborhood restaurant owners) eager to sample the goods.

Meals start the way they did at Panchita's #3 (site of Ken Ken's summer pop-up), with complimentary edamame, though the ice-cold pods were in stark contrast to the warm, spicy garlic ones of Ken Ken's former incarnation. The taste revealed that they'd been boiled in garlicky broth.

It didn't take long for my bowl of miso ramen to arrive. It was different than the one at the old Ken Ken, from departed chef Kenzi Miyazaki, which was much like the gentle, balanced broth at Suzu Noodle House. New chef Taka Hori created a broth closer in style to Katana-ya's: more traditional, a bit saltier.

Other changes: The two strands of thin bamboo shoots were replaced by a single strand split in half. And the mizuna had vanished, replaced by pan-fried sweet corn, a good choice since the peppery greens would have been a mismatch for Hori's subtler broth. The slow-cooked egg was just as good as before.

Hori's fatty and rich pork belly chasu was delicious, a step above the old shredded pork. But the single slice in our bowl left me yearning for more. Also missing was the ubiquitous fishcake, probably an opening-night glitch. And I kindly suggest that, in future, Ken Ken use at least three slices of chasu pork per bowl. Pretty please?

Ken Ken Ramen at the Corner: 2199 Mission (at 18th St.). Thu. (except holidays) from 5:30 p.m. until the food runs out.

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