You know that right after those Halloween pumpkins appear, it won’t be long until those Hallmark specials seem to be playing on every cable station and garland and boughs are adorning every shop window. And while the release of three effective vaccinations since last Christmas has put a little hope in peoples? hearts early this year, the emergence of the delta variant still hasn’t allowed the world to return to business as usual.
Supply chain shortages, ongoing distancing at indoor settings, labor shortages and intentional Postal Service slowdowns still pose ongoing challenges to businesses.
And ongoing hate crimes against Asian Americans add another barrier to living through the COVID-19 pandemic.
So my message remains the same as last year, buy early and support local, especially those in the Asian American community. An online retailer coined the term ?shipocalypse,? as retailers may not be able to produce products in a timely manner due to labor and supply chain shortages, and shippers may be backlogged in getting these products to you.
Food is a Good Start
Restaurants were hit hard by the pandemic, first with mandatory shutdowns, then with indoor seating limitations and finally, with both supply chain and labor shortages. That’s why most of my Christmas gifts this year will once again be gift cards, specifically from smaller, locally owned restaurants. In the Bay Area, you can do the same, including by supporting these establishments:
Chef-owner David Yoshimura first started with a pop-up restaurant, serving 10-course tasting meals around the Bay Area in 2019, then eventually partnered with Mister Jiu’s, selling gourmet bento while also providing charity lunches to the senior community via the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California in San Francisco’s Japantown. Three months ago, he finally opened his brick-and-mortar restaurant in the Russian Hill neighborhood.
2316 Polk St, San Francisco
Chef-owner Mitsunori Kusakabe, who hails from Kyoto, opened Kusakabe in May 2014, featuring Kyoto kaiseki (multicourse) cuisine in Jackson Square, and was awarded a Michelin star just five months later.
584 Washington St.,
San Francisco, CA 94111
Owned and operated by the husband and wife team of Ritsu and Suemee Osuka, Sozai has served typical izakaya small plates, yakitori and ramen in the Inner Sunset for more than 10 years.
1500 Irving St.,
San Francisco, CA 94122
State Bird Provisions
While not owned by Asian Americans, the top three positions in the kitchen, including Sous Chef Nancy Vo, Executive Pastry Chef Kathleen Kwuan and Pastry Sous Chef Lisa Chan are all Asian American women. Plus, Executive Chef and Hawai’i expat Gaby Maeda, is one of Food and Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs of 2021. The cuisine also reminds me of Cal-American dim sum, as servers rotate through the dining area with small plates.
1529 Fillmore St.,
San Francisco CA 94115
While not a restaurant itself, Goldbelly does ship food created from many destination restaurants on most foodies? food lists. I have ordered succulent ham from arguably the most successful female pitmaster, Melissa Cookston, who is a two-time Memphis in May World Grand Champion and five-time Whole Hog Champion, via her Memphis Barbecue Company, as well as pulled pork from six-time Pork Shoulder Champion Chris Lilly’s Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q. I’m even willing to ante up for the additional $20 to $35 extra shipping cost to the 50th, which is a lot cheaper than a round- trip ticket. Late last year, Goldbelly also highlighted foods from Asian chefs:
Dinnerware for your take-out
If you decide to support local restaurants by ordering regular take-out, you can dine-in straight from the take-out containers or you can zhuzh-up your meal by dining from handmade ceramics. Two of my favorite locations are right in the heart of San Francisco’s Japantown. Ever since I found those aluminum rice pots that only Mom Tatsumoto still uses, I always make a trip to Soko Hardware (1698 Post St.) to either purchase omiyage or a new cooking implement for my own kitchen. Another obligatory stop is Sanko Kitchen Essentials (1758 Buchanan St.), where I always brought back another happi coat for home use. While they just sell kitchenware now, I still make that last visit before returning to the 50th.
For handmade pottery where you actually meet the artisans, Thomas and Kathy Arakawa create vases and dinnerware in San Jose. If you’ve been confined to working from home during the pandemic, nothing brightens the day more than a simple flower arrangement in a handmade vase.
5588 Sweigert Road,
San Jose, CA 95132
The husband and wife team of Mikio Matsumoto and Cheryl Costantini have been creating vases, dinnerware and home d’cor out of Sebastopol, Calif. for more than 35 years. Due to the ongoing pandemic, they are currently selling their pottery through Etsy.
1991 Burnside Road,
Sebastopol, CA 95472
And since you might visit their Etsy page, I’ll also give a shameless plug for my niece; Amy Kealoha Hiraki, who creates scrunchies from her HelloStitched Etsy page: https://www.etsy.com/shop/HelloStitched.
And while I’m shamelessly highlighting family, I’ll also shamelessly plug the two publications that I write monthly food, wine and nutrition columns for:
Nichi Bei Weekly
1832 Buchanan St., #207,
San Francisco, CA 94115
917 Kokea St.,
Honolulu, HI 96817
Both publications offer both print and digital subscriptions that make EXCELLENT gifts and because the Nichi Bei Foundation is a nonprofit, any donation is likely tax deductible.
So even with Ebenezer COVID still with us, we can still make Merry!
The Gochiso Gourmet is a column on food, wine and healthy eating. Ryan Tatsumoto is a graduate of both the University of Hawai’i and UC San Francisco. He is a clinical pharmacist during the day and a budding chef/recipe developer/wine taster at night. He writes from Kane’ohe, HI and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.