Where Ben Shops

Some of my favorite stores in the San Francisco Bay Area where I find my ingredients, equipment, and special treats:


99 Ranch
Where: 3288 Pierce St. in the Pacific East Mall, Richmond
Why: This chain of Asian supermarkets always draws the crowds to its huge aisles and shelves all stocked with a variety of ingredients, and its produce department with many Asian specialty vegetables and fruits. When I want live seafood like crab or clams, this is the place.

Cafe 88
Where: 388 9th St. (inside the Chinatown mall), Oakland
Why: This restaurant with a Chinese butcher in the front is my go-to place when I’m hankering for some roast duck or char siu.

Nijiya Market
Where: 1737 Post St. in San Francisco’s Japantown
Why: A convenient store in the heart of the city to buy my Japanese ingredients like nori, soba noodles, miso paste and sake.

Richmond New May Wah Supermarket
Where: 707-719 Clement St., San Francisco
Why: One of the largest Asian supermarkets within the city borders, you’ll find all your Asian ingredients for cuisines from Chinese to Japanese to Korean. One half offers up things for your pantry while the other side offers fresh produce and fresh meats and fish.

Tokyo Fish Market
Where: 1220 San Pablo Ave. (at Gilman), Berkeley
Why: An assortment of Japanese ingredients and some amazing fresh, sushi-grade fish. I just wish they were easier to get to for me.

Wycen Foods
Where: 832B Stockton St. (near Clay and Sacramento) in San Francisco’s Chinatown
Why: A nice assortment of preserved meats like lap cheong, all made in their San Leandro factory.


b. patisserie
Where: 2821 California St., San Francisco
Why: Sophisticated pastries and desserts that will make people “oooh” and “ahhh” if you bring some to a party. But there are also a lot of good, everyday treats like the popular kouign amann that you can get all for yourself.

Kara’s Cupcakes
Where: 3249 Scott St. (at Chestnut), San Francisco
Why: My favorite of the various cupcake shops, and with several locations and a truck it’s pretty easy to find these moist and tasty treats.

La Farine
Where: 4094 Piedmont Ave., Oakland
Why: Great French breads but the most amazing fruit tarts, large and minis. And sometimes I’ll indulge and get an éclair.

Where: 600 Guerrero St. (at 18th), San Francisco
Why: Just the classiest of baked goods, comforting and sophisticated all at the same time. I don’t mind the lines because I love the cakes that much.


Cafe Rouge Charcuterie and Meat Market
Where: 1782 Fourth St., Berkeley
Why: When I’m looking for specialty meats a bit harder to find at my local grocer, I head over to here, a small stand behind the long-established restaurant.


Berkeley Farmers Market
Where: Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Center Street, downtown Berkeley
When: Saturday
Why: One of the oldest farmers market, I just like to say I shop just a few blocks away from Chez Panisse.

Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
Where: San Francisco Ferry Building on the Embarcadero at Market Street
When: Saturday
Why: The city’s gem of a market, this high-priced farmers market attract the tourists but also chefs from the city’s best restaurants.

Grand Lake-Oakland Farmers Market
Where: Corner of Grand and Lake Park Avenues in Oakland
When: Saturday
Why: A nice assortment of farmers, crafts, and lunch options with the Grand Lake Theatre as a backdrop

Temescal Farmers Market
Where: 5300 Claremont Ave., Oakland (front parking area of DMV)
When: Sunday
Why: It’s the closest farmers market to my apartment, and while small, it does offer up some key farmers and a dog watching section.


Hapuku Fish Shop
Where: 5655 College Ave. in Rockridge Market Hall
Why: Very pricey, but super fresh and some unusual and sustainable seafood. It’s really convenient for me so that’s partly why I’m here often.


Dean and DeLuca
Where: 607 St. Helena Hwy. S, St. Helena in Napa Valley
Why: It just reminds me of New York strolling through all the amazing gourmet products in this upscale spot. I always stop here when I go to Napa Valley.

The Pasta Shop
Where: 5655 College Ave. at the Rockridge Market Hall, Oakland
Why: Some of the best specialty items, from pastas, to the deli section, to cheese. I pick up prosciutto and other cured meats and they have the largest selection of Mariages Freres tea (one of the best French teas) in the area.

Oaktown Spice Shop
Where: 530 Grand Ave., Oakland
Why: A quaint neighborhood store dedicated to pure spices, herbs and blends. The owners take care in getting the freshest spices and providing you with helpful ideas on how to use them. Browsing in this cute nostalgic space is a fun way to shop, and then enjoy Lake Merritt across the way.

The Spanish Table
Where: 1814 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley
Why: If I need to find Spanish ingredients to either make paella or some other kind of tapas or Barcelona-inspired dish, this is the place to find it. Unassuming and complete.

The Tyler Florence Shop
Where: 59 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley
Why: A bit of a trek for me, but a handsome store with a few unique finds for the kitchen pantry.

Whole Spice Co.
Where: 610 First St. in the Oxbow Public Market in Napa
Why: Just an amazing spot for spice lovers. I like discovering new spices from around the world, and the owner is helpful in explaining them all.


Piedmont Grocery Co.
Where: 4038 Piedmont Ave., Oakland
Why: Just a few blocks from my home, I can count on this place for quality fresh meats, and unusual cuts like oxtails, short ribs, and specialty sausages like chorizo. A bit pricey but good to find unusual ingredients.

Trader Joe’s
Where: 5727 College Ave., Oakland’s Rockridge area
Why: Who doesn’t love this quirky store? While a lot of people shop in the frozen section, I go for the spreads, cheese, and juice.

Whole Foods
Where: 230 Bay Place, Oakland
Why: Even though it’s pricey, this is close to work and I can stop by on my way home to find quality ingredients if I’m making a special dinner, or if I’m looking for a unique ingredient or just want to buy spices by the bulk.


Crate & Barrel Outlet Store
Where: 1785 Fourth St., Berkeley
Why: Some great kitchen and dinner stuff all at discounted prices from the regular store. I find a lot of plates at low prices to photograph my food on.

Sur La Table
Where: 1806 Fourth St., Berkeley
Why: Almost any device, cookware, or baking utensils that you need for your kitchen. Good quality stuff a tad more reasonable in price than some other specialty shops.


Where: 17 Third St. (at Market), San Francisco
Why: This downtown store is tiny but has some quality stuff, especially whisky and brandy. You know, real men type of liquor.


Five Mountains
Where: Online only at www.five-mountains.com
Why: My newest favorite tea, this San Francisco artisan company sells only to restaurants. But they also sell online. Pricey but quality stuff.

Lupicia Tea
Where: 845 Market St. inside the San Francisco Westfield Centre
Why: Quality tea, including some really aromatic ones, although some specialty combinations can get a little crazy. I stick with the simple ones like muscat.

Red Blossom Tea Co.
Where: 831 Grant Ave. (between Clay and Washington) in San Francisco’s Chinatown
Why: A nice selection of traditional tea from China, including expensive oolong and a few herbal tisane. Nice helpful staff who’ll explain each tea.

Steven Smith Teamaker
Where: 1626 NW Thurman St., Portland, Ore.
Why: In this Northwest city known for its tea houses, Steven Smith is among the premium tea purveyors. I saw the brand first at Sur La Table retail stores, but only select tea bag flavors were sold. I like to buy loose leaves, and the ability to choose from a larger selection. They have a wonderful website, and I make regular purchases online. Their fulfillment team (probably because they’re still small) is quite quick, getting my orders in the mail and to my home typically within four days after I’ve placed my orders. And that’s not even a rushed order. My favorite is the “exceptional iced tea” blend. Perfectly named.


Where: 525 Embarcadero West, Oakland’s Jack London Square
Why: Even though it’s a chain, I just love the variety of wines from all over the world. And I really like the special deals for members and the helpful descriptions.

Note: Some of the above stores may have more than one location, but I list the one that I shop at. So maybe you might spot me there one weekend. 😉


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