Monday, February 20, 2017

Saltroot Café

"Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside." ~ Sammy-boy Clemens

(They still have to update their current web-site to reference their actual brick-and-mortar shop, but at least it is already started.)

Place: Saltroot Café
Location: 2960 Clement Street (on the corner of 31st Avenue)
Hours: Now Open 8:30am Every Day
Meal: two Cheese Popups (one of which was um brinde with the cuppa Coffee ~ I like this idea muito); one Mushroom-Gorgonzola empanada; one Spinach-Feta empanada; and a cuppa Intelligentsia Rayos del Sol Peru

Well, I must say (or type, or keyboard), this has been one great (three-day) weekend for new breakfastary finds! Just two blocks away from my apartment (luckily, for me, because the deluge is still on-going here in Northern California) there is a brand-new (as in brand-newly opened just one week ago on Saturday) café/bakery place named Saltroot Café. I happened to walk by it last weekend in the afternoon when they were open, but I was not hungry at the time, so I made a mental note () (which always seems to be more of a "retarded rumination" in my case) to check them out in the future to see what I might be able to piece together for some kinda breakfast meal. Well, the future is today (just don't tell that to Buck Rogers) and there were more than enough interesting ideas for me to make a decent breakfast out of ("... out of which for me to make a decent breakfast" is probably grammatically correct, but grammar has nuthin' to do with eating good).

Saltroot Café is located in a space that has seen many incarnations over the past thirty years that I have lived in the neighborhood. This is not the busiest part of Clement Street (that would be about twenty-plus blocks to the East of there), so it is usually hard to maintain a good business in that location. There are only a few tables inside at which to sit and eat (I think I counted just two tables for two, one larger table for four, and three or four seats at a counter-table area), but I can see this being a "take-to-go-with" kinda place for locals. After eating there this morning, I really hope this place has a Vulcan salute-like existence in the Outer Richmond. 

The first question that I had for the owner guy-person (who was just opening up for the day when I arrived) was what the name of the restaurant meant. He explained it to me that "Saltroot" simply refers to the "root" of the cassava/manioc/yuca plant, because their Cheese Popups are not made with any wheat flour, but from cassava starch. The owner guy-person also told me that they were originally going to call the place "Cassava Café"; however, there is already a little Japanese bistro (for lack of a better term) in our neighborhood that is called "Cassava" (see 'silly-little 'blog-entry from Saturday, March 29th, 2014). Unless they started serving Sushi Popups at Cassava, I doubt that there would have been any confusion, though.

But "What exactly are 'Cheese Popups' (ou 'pão de queijo'[1], in Portuguese/Brazilian), Brian?", you might ask. (Of course, I doubt that you would be asking this with the inserted parenthetical Portuguese/Brazilian nomenclature and footnoted-number.) Instead of me trying to explain it (and, more than likely, badly), here is some information from the friendly folks at WikipediA: 

Saltroot Café makes their version of Cheese Popups with Parmesan cheese. And, for any of you that like to pretend that you are still living in the Paleolithic Era, Cheese Popups are 100% gluten-free, and are also sugar-free if you get them in the original form. (However, I am pretty sure that ol' Caveman Joe did not know how to make any Parmesan cheese yet.) I mention "original form", because, while not yet available, they are working on offering a few variations of Cheese Popups: filled with Gorgonzola (Oh, yeah!), filled with guava puree (this is one that I know I will also like), and a few others that the owner guy-person told me, but I have already forgotten. (H*ck. He told me his name just before I left, but I have already forgotten that, too!)

They also have two other empanadas that they are currently offering: Sweet Potato (which is 100% Vegan, not that it mattered to me) and Vegetarian Breakfast (however, they were out of this type this morning, or I might have ordered that one instead of ~ or, more likely, in addition to ~ one of the empanadas that I did get). They do not bake their own empanadas, but get them from a local empanaderia (if that is such a thing) in the Mission. (The owner guy-person also told me the name of the bakery...  but please see the above paragraph's last parenthetical sentence.)

The poor owner guy-person had to put up with my inane conversation the entire time that I was eating there (there had been only one other walk-in customer during the half-hour that I was there, so it was not as if I was really bothering him that much... just a little). We talked about everything from "cassava" (and "manioc" and "yuca" and "tapioca") to "Coffee"[2]. (Hmmm?! Looking at it that way, we really only touched on the letter "C" from the dictionary. Looks like I need to get back twenty-five more times... and bone-up on a plethora of useless information for the letters "Q" and "X".)

One of the items of (enthralling) conversation that came up was that their front-counter cooler (See? "C"? Another "C"-word.)/refrigeration unit was purchased from one of the now-defunct La Boulange's surplus equipment (Thanks a lot, St*rbucks![3]).

The Cheese Popups turned out to be a great (and tasty) find! Not being quite sure what was the preferência tradicional brasileira for eating Cheese Popups, I asked the owner guy-person, and he said that you can eat them plain or with jam. They provide both a strawberry jam and mango jam to use. I went with some mango jam on one and ate the other one sem molestar. I really enjoyed how both went perfectly (a little sweet, a little salty) with the strong Coffee (unsweetened and unsalted, of course). I am looking forward to trying these filled with Gorgonzola and guava paste (well, each separately, but I bet the two flavours would be a great match-up... [see above Marky-Mark Twain quote]).

I liked both of the empanadas, too. Surprisingly, I liked the Mushroom-Gorgonzola better than the Spinach-Feta. This does not mean that Feta is not still my favourite of the cheesy comestibles. ("Everything's betta with Feta!", after all.)

I have had Coffee from Intelligentsia before, but I am not sure if I have ever had this particular roast/blend. This was a very hearty and robust (or, more likely, Arabica ~ sorry, that is a little Coffee humour there) roast. Coffee was one of the topics with which I bored... er... discussed with the owner guy-person in depth. He said that he settled on providing 
 Intelligentsia after trying a few other local roasteries. I think he made a good choice here. The owner guy-person told me that the beans that they use for their Espresso drinks is a Brazilian bean, but I did not get which specific one (I think  Intelligentsia 
offers three or four different types of beans of Brazilian-origin for their Espresso beans). Saltroot Café is not selling any of their Coffee in pre-packaged bags (... yet?). This seems like a no-brainer (even to someone like me with no brains), but the owner guy-person told me they are mainly focusing on marketing the Cheese Popups for now.

Not that it was needed any, but Saltroot Café does have bottles of Tabasco® Brand Pepper Sauce 
(Original Red Sauce) for use as a condimentary supplementation. Not knowing exactly what they might be offering on their menu, I even came prepared with a few hot sauces of my own; however, I did not see fit to use any this morning.

Personal retarded rumination: I really need to get back there again (soon) for an afternoon snack.

Glen Bacon Scale Rating
Cheese Popups (Pão de Queijo) ~ 7.4 
(this was a tough one to rate, as I only had a small sample from which to decide, but I really liked the flavour and texture ~ it's a yuca thing, man[ioc]!);
Mushroom-Gorgonzola empanada ~ 7.0;
Spinach-Feta empanada ~ 6.9; 
 Intelligentsia Rayos del Sol Peru ~ 7.3


1. Stupid, useless cunning linguist pointer of the day, número um:

"Pão de queijo" simply means "cheese-bread" in Portuguese. As best as I heard it from the owner guy-person, these are pronounced something like "pon de kay-joe". Not really knowing much Portuguese, I assumed (incorrectly) that the "j" was pronounced like an "h" as they do in Spanish. 

Sometimes I can be such a "herk" linguistically.

2. Stupid, useless cunning linguist pointer of the day, número dois:

"Coffee" in Portuguese is simply "Café".

See? Sometimes this linguistic stuff really ain't cirurgia cerebral ou ciência de foguetes.

3. Long-story-short:

The bastages at St*rbucks saw fit to buy a small, local chain of French bakery/café-restaurants several years ago. Of course, once the bastages at St*rbucks (and just for simplicity purposes, I will refer to them from here on out in this mini-rant as "tb@S"; of course, with the time and words spent explaining that abbreviation, it would probably have been much simpler to just keep typing [keyboarding, whatever] "tb@S"... or you get the idea), had made their money exploiting these local restaurants, they decided to have the recipes disseminated throughout their ubiquitous cr*p-houses (not to be confused with actual coffeehouses; I am ashamed to even use the term "coffeehouses" in the same sentence as tb@S) and have since closed all of the locations now in the Bay Area. 

Yeah, these guys are such a great company!

The good news is that the original owner of La Boulange has since re-purchased some of the locations from tb@S and has renamed them La Boulangerie. From what the owner guy-person of Saltroot Café told me this morning, the original owner got them back for a song, too. Maybe now I can finally check out their restaurants (free of guilt from knowing that tb@S will not be profiting from me), but I will probably still give it some time before going to any of these cafés. (What is the half-life of contamination from tb@S, anyway?)

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