For my birthday’s celebration this past September, I chose to drive around San Francisco and stop at some of the many places I have on my extensive go-to (eat, drink, photograph, look, explore, gawk) list. My friend Valerie came with me and we started off with brunch at the fabulous Le Marais Bakery (blog post to follow soon). After we were done stuffing our face, we drove around looking at some of the Victorian homes I have been drooling after. Then, around 2:00 pm, we found ourselves close to Bernal Heights, so I thought it was time I explored this newly opened and very promising specialty food store I had been following on Facebook: The Epicurean Trader.
A quick look at the Mapquest App, and we were soon parked across the street from this San Francisco treasure trove, one filled with an incredible cache of high quality, small batch artisanal foods and beverages personally curated by two very talented and passionate people: Holly McDell and Mat Pond.
Both hailing from Down Under, Holly is from Auckland, NZ and has a background as interior architect and graphic designer, while Mat is from Sydney and used to manage the Levi Strauss’ retail franchise world wide. Theirs is one of my favorite stories: that of two people who dared to take a leap and leave behind a life that no longer fit in order to create a new one that would match the new people they were becoming.
As you explore their store, Holly’s and Mat’s passion, good taste and sense of style are evident not just in the array of goods for sale, but in how they are displayed and the vintage-meets-industrial-chic design of the shop. I had a hard time knowing where to begin, so I started from the beautiful display table you see as you step inside, and went on from there.
I am still amazed at all the goodies I discovered: from farmstead cheeses and charcuterie, to coffee, teas, spices, chocolates and candy, extra-virgin olive oils and vinegars, an excellent selection of organic and sustainable wines, artisanal spirits and craft beers (they also had my favorite one), and also sauces, moles, syrups, pastas, beans, and dog treats. All of it small batch artisan made, most of it organic, and a lot of it sustainable as well.
Each product is carefully hand selected by Holly and Mat following parameters of quality, incredible flavors and fusions, natural ingredients and beautiful packaging. Their mission is to provide a platform for smaller brands to share their products and unique stories, and for San Francisco epicureans to discover and taste the best artisanal foods from across the country and beyond.
San Francisco being the unique self that she is, I am thinking more along the lines of “epicureans from around the world….”, as The Epicurean Trader is certain to mature from local specialty grocery store to food-lover’s destination in no time. As you scroll down the post, you will see why, and if you are in San Francisco, by all means give in to the temptation to stop by; you will be happy you did.
As I photographed around the store, at one point I paused to ask Holly if there were some products that she particularly wished me to capture, as I did not want to miss something special. Among several things, she pointed out the beautiful canvas bag and cutting board, both made of reclaimed materials by Peg and Awl, in the images above, and the “Bailey’s Biscuits” dog treats by Bunches & Bunches in the images below.
Like any business that is borne out of passion, The Epicurean Trader is constantly evolving. For whiskey connoisseurs, they have created a Whiskey Club, and soon they will offer their goods for purchase through an on line shop they are creating within their website. You can follow them on social media, or subscribe to their newsletter to find out when the on-line shop will be up and running, as well as be notified about in-store tastings and demonstrations.
Of course, I had to ooh-and-aah by the Italian wine shelf for a while, which was not extensive, but rich in gems by small producers. And I have been missing those! Have a look at the image above and see if you can guess which bottle I picked to take home.
Valerie and I picked up several other treats, of course, and Mat also gifted us a hot grilled prosciutto panini which he had made by mistake. I still don’t know how that sandwich made it all the way home before Valerie literally devoured it! I managed to get a taste and it was delicious!!
I tell you, if I lived in their neighborhood, I would be at The Epicurean Trader every day!
With the Holidays coming up soon, this will be the perfect place to find gifts for your foodie friends and family members. Besides making said friends and family happy, you will be supporting not only a local business, but many other small, artisanal businesses, who create their products with love.
I am suggesting this to you while reminding myself of the same thing, as it is time for me to take another ride over the Golden Gate and swing by to visit Holly and Mat and pick up a few more goodies.
401 Cortland Avenue, Bernal Heights, San Francisco, Ca 94110 | 415-872-9484 | website | map
I am Holly’s step dad, and I have visited Holly and Matt several times from NZ. They are a very talented and passionate couple, and With them raising two very young daughters and setting up Epicurean Traders in SF, back here in NZ we are hugely proud at what they have achieved. Your article captures the essence of the store wonderfully well, and we wish they had set up ET back here.
Our loss is very much your gain.
Hi Mark: I feel what you are saying, and certainly my mom does. I am also an expat, about as far from my country of origin as Holly and Mat are, as I am from Italy. I am really happy you feel the article has captured the essence of their store and of what they are doing, because that was my intent. I really enjoyed meeting them, as they are two wonderful people. 🙂