Scoop SF: The Fatted Calf
One rainy afternoon in San Francisco, I walked from the Mission to Hayes Valley in search of lunch. Hayes Valley has a good assortment of restaurants, cafes, and to-go spots all within a few blocks of each other, varying from a neighborhood Italian restaurant, to a wine store-come-cafe, to a bread pudding shop set up in the style of an ice cream store—complete with 108 different flavors of bread pudding! The rain that day was heavy and there were even a few strikes of lightning. I overheard several—presumably East Coast—transplants say it reminded them of home, claiming to miss thunder and lightning. My friend Becca and I were meeting for macarons and tea at Chantal Guillon, and I wanted to eat some lunch before having sweets. The weather had dipped below 55° F during the day for the first time in what seemed like months and I decided that I needed some soup.
One of my favorite places to go for soup is actually a charcuterie and butcher shop called Fatted Calf. Fatted Calf sells cuts of meat, cured and smoked bacon and ham, sausages, pâtés, salumi, house made beef jerky, a good number of cheeses, as well as pantry items including wines and Italian pasta. They have a rotating menu of seasonal sandwiches, salads, and soups. When I walked into the store, I set my umbrella in a bucket near the door, and immediately ordered their soup of the day—faro with mushrooms. The soup was tasty, filling, and well-seasoned. Faro is a type of wheat grain that cooks up a lot like barley. It’s popular in Italy and works well in soup because it thickens the stock slightly and is quite hearty. The soup also had small pork meatballs. The meat added good flavor without overpowering the faro and vegetables. They garnished the soup with parmesan cheese and fresh herbs.
I also bought a roll to break and dip into the soup. I was pleased to note that Fatted Calf sells Acme Bread. As a Berkeley native, Acme is a favorite of mine. In the 1980s, Steven Sullivan taught himself to bake bread when he was a busboy at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse in what has been come to be known as the “Gourmet Ghetto” in North Berkeley. Sullivan became a baker in-house at the restaurant and eventually started Acme Bread Company with his wife Suzie Sullivan. Go to any well-respected restaurants in the Bay Area that serve pain au levain before the meal, and chances are you will be eating Upstairs Bread from Acme.
Fatted Calf is also a Northern California establishment, with an additional location at the Oxbow Market in Napa as well as a stand at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market on Sundays. I would recommend Fatted Calf to those who consider themselves omnivorous, want a lunch within the $8-$14 range, and are in close proximity to VanNess Muni station.
After the soup, we went to Chantal Guillon whose macarons I can say are better than most of the ones you’ll find in Paris. And you don’t have to wait in line for these. Their offerings include classic flavors such as pistachio and chocolate along side more inventive selections such as lavender cassis, red velvet, and Ispahan—which is rose, lychee, and raspberry à la Pierre Hermé. Chantal Guillon offers macarons at $1.85 each, with discounts if you buy several at once. They also feature Mariage Frères tea, often acknowledged to be the best tea in Paris.
If you find yourself in Hayes Valley, stop by Fatted Calf and Chantal Guillon and try a few things. These are only two of the many excellent food places in the neighborhood! I highly recommend Hayes Valley if you’re looking to find some of SF’s best eats.
Zahra Axinn is a Bay Area native living in San Francisco. She studied English and Theater at Stanford and currently works as a video editor.