Leo likes fish
Leo's grandfather used to make him eat whatever they caught fishing, good or bad. Naturally, he now really appreciates the good stuff. The Christmas décor after the New Year was a bit dated in New World Market, but such things don't take away from the excellent sliced trout, escolar, sturgeon, salmon packaged sampler we found.
New World Market
This staple of Little Russia is the most popular of all the food markets. They have a variety of every ingredient an Eastern European could dream of, and fresh or packaged condiments to complement them. Plus, they always have free samples.
Frozen pierogies were weeknight go-to dinners for Evan and Leo as youngsters. There were four different kinds; we picked the potato and cottage cheese blend to cook back at the restaurant and eat later.
Blintzes and challah
Cheesecake beacon Zanze was closed for the month, so we got these sweet cheese-filled blintzes from the Moscow Bakery on Geary Boulevard instead, where everything is made right in the back of the shop. The blintzes were filled with farmer cheese and golden raisins. We ate some there, and took some to go.
Our third stop was six-month-old Beauty's Bagels across the bridge on Telegraph in Oakland. Owners Blake Joffe and Amy Remsen are good friends of Evan and Leo's. Evan credits Blake with teaching him how to cook when Wise Sons was still just a pop-up at Jackie's Café. Beauty's supplies Wise Sons with hand-rolled bagels twice a week.
Montreal in Oakland
Evan remembers his Canadian relatives bringing bags of frozen bagels back to California, which he loved, because Montreal bagels are the best. Beauty's makes Montreal-style bagels, which means lots of seeds all the way around (not just on top), and no salt in the dough; they're wood-fired and given a honey-water bath.
The bagel sandwich with chopped liver, swiss cheese, mustard, iceberg lettuce, and pickled onion is called the "After School Special" because it's what Blake ate after school growing up in Philly. The veggie bagel sandwich is oven-roasted tomato cream cheese, salted cucumber, capers, red onion and arugula. They're both delicious.
Pickled just right
Evan was really feeling the pickled mushrooms on the assortment of housemade pickles plate which also featured carrots, beets, and cabbage.
Food comas kick in
Evan pauses between, "Wow, that was a lot of liver," and "Those mushrooms are amazing."
Not kosher but really, really good
The whole point of Paulie's Pickles are obviously the pickles, but stuffed as we were, we got Reubens in the same small business incubator. A tough category, because they think the rye bread makes their own Reuben pretty hard to beat. But Reuben-style sandwiches with tongue are hard to find, so we had to try this one. The sandwich is in-house brined tongue, homemade sauerkraut, tangy and sweet Russian dressing, swiss cheese, and marble bread.
Back in San Francisco we visited another friend from their days of sharing a commercial kitchen. Anna Tvelova of Anda Piroshki is known around the city for her piroshkis, and they were looking really good. But we were already feeling pretty fat, and were there for her vegetarian borscht.
It's her Ukranian mom's original recipe, and her mom just happened to be visiting Anna, and making the borscht. The Ukranian version has more vegetables and is served hot, in contrast to the Jewish version Evan and Leo grew up with, which is usually just beets and served cold. Anna's borscht is beets, cabbage, carrots, onions, dill and parsley, and Leo and Evan said it's the best borscht they can remember.
Small feast, again
When we got back to Wise Sons, Evan cooked the pierogies and topped them with sour cream and grilled onion, pan-fried the blintzes just like his mom used to, and plated everything else we'd picked up along the way—like mushroom salad, sauerkraut, and bowtie kasha from New World Market.
We ate a lot
Wise Sons closes at 3 p.m., which gave Evan and Leo some time to sit outside on 24th Street in the afternoon sun and wait out their food comas.