Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Drewes' bacon-wrapped scallops with romesco sauce

On Saturday, the husband and I ran a few errands, ending up in our old neighborhood, Noe Valley, which is where we still like to grocery shop.

There's a wonderful bodega-type market, which has nearly everything you could want for very little money, all the more impressive given that it's about the size of our living room. They have a mind-boggling array of produce (fresh green almonds? check. kumquats? check. cardoons? check.), as well as a tidy assortment of cheeses, breads, olives, oils, baking supplies (from flour to almond paste), and canned goods. For years we lived within two blocks of this delightful place, and five years later, I still miss it. When I need dried porcini or oil-packed Italian tuna at the last minute, there's no place to go that doesn't require a drive or an uphill trek.

The other reason we really miss this neighborhood is that one block from the produce market is Drewes Brothers Meats, which I've written about before. We used to shop there nearly every day, when we would walk Frances together after work. The ongoing joke was that we never had any food in our refrigerator, except half and half, beer, and a few leftovers, because every night we shopped for dinner, depending on our mood.

In addition to having an excellent selection of naturally raised meat, sustainable seafood, and free-range poultry, Drewes will always hold a special place in my heart because the guys who work there were always very kind to Frances. When one of us would go inside to order, the other usually stood outside with the dog, and nearly every time, one of the butchers would come out with a piece of turkey, or on really good days, a whole hot dog. Gulp. Frannie said her thank yous with licks, but we said ours by being loyal customers, and we still try to, even though it requires getting in the car.

When we went on Saturday, we ended up talking to Josh, the owner, who we have known for a long time. He seemed a bit discouraged about business. We wondered aloud if the declining sales had to do with the monstrous Whole Foods that opened last year not too far from the shop. Surprisingly, he said it was less Whole Foods (although that didn't help), and more the change in the way people live. It used to be that neighborhood residents took the Muni train, which runs up and down Church Street and right by Drewes, to work downtown. People would get off the train after work and stop in to buy groceries. Now, Josh told us, more and more people living in the neighborhood are working on the peninsula--for Google, Yahoo, Facebook. Each of these companies has shuttle buses that pick up employees at designated points and drive them to work. So, fewer in-city commuters, less foot traffic, dwindling revenues for small businesses.

The husband and I both felt sad. We try to do our part in supporting the local businesses we cherish, and we know many others who do the same. Yet, somehow, even in progressive San Francisco, the little guys are having a trouble making a go of it.

That day, we bought pretty white snapper, sweet Italian sausage, thick-cut bacon, and some plump little scallops. I saved the sausage for the next night (this old favorite) and decided to pan-fry the snapper with some capers and lemon. The scallops were to be an appetizer: wrapped in bacon, broiled, and placed carefully on a bed of romesco sauce, which turns out to be good on practically everything.

The scallops (and the snapper, for that matter) were delicious. I don't make scallops too often--I tried a similar method in Santa Cruz last year with poorer results and had trouble browning them when I served them atop a sweet pea risotto. This time, they were an unexpected treat.

I'm glad we got to Drewes on Saturday to see some old friends and pick up such lovely ingredients. We'll keep shopping at Drewes for as long as they're open and as long as we live in San Francisco, both of which I hope are measured in decades.


  1. Cheers to you for shopping with the little guy and sustaining the local businesses. I am drooling reading about the local availability....I live in the Northwest panhandle of Florida...a/k/a po dunkville. I miss city life especially city food and the availability of all the wonderful local food options.


  2. Good on you for shopping with the locals. We see the same thing happening in our suburb. Also, I don't think a lot of people shop daily anymore. My mum used to cycle to the markets every morning to pick up what was fresh. I'm doing well if I go to the shops every second day (and these shops are actually within walking distance!).

    The scallops came up mighty fine, they look amazing!

  3. Love Noe Valley and will have to check out the produce shop (sounds like my kind of place). Dewes is also on my list to check out. Love what you made with your loot. :) Anything wrapped in bacon is great

  4. Velva: well you probably have the chance to support some local vendors too...and you get to skip the big city prices!

    shaz: every time I make scallops, I think I should make them more often!

    ALY: Yes, check out both. And I agree on your bacon philosophy (clearly).

  5. I love Drewes Brothers and definitely don't get to go as often now that we live further away. I love reading your posts about them. Plus, those scallops with bacon look delicious! Yum ...

  6. It might not be your fault that you couldn't get your other scallops browned on top. So many of today's scallops are injected with solution to keep them plump. But the result is water-logged scallops that you just can't properly sear. Even chefs say that. So, it's not you. Next time, look for dry-packed scallops. ;)

  7. It really is a pity when local businesses struggle or lose foot, I just visited a hundred-year-old pub in Berlin that is about to become a Starbucks only because some huge developer purchased their block.

    p.s. Baked a batch of those Pierre Hermes salted chocolate sable cookies you posted about a while back. I only have two words: HOLY SMOKES.

  8. Rebby: So nice to see you here! Hope you, B, R, H & M are doing well and see you soon?

    CJ: thank you for the good tip!

    Connie: Oh, that's painful. How can we stop the Starbucks, Walmarts, and Whole Foods of the world from completely taking over?? As for the sables: dude, I know. They are awesome.

  9. how very fancy and utterly sophisticated! glad you're doing your part to support the little guy. :)

  10. That makes me so sad to hear about struggling small businesses. Hopefully the loyal customers, like you!, will keep it afloat.

  11. grace: thanks!

    Jessica: we're trying...

  12. Unfortunately, we are finding the same thing here....all our little stores are going out of business. The little book store we loved is gone, so many gift stores we loved have left. We still have farmers' markets and several small grocery stores that do well, so our Whole Foods has not caused too much damage. I also think a lot of these mom and pop businesses don't have a son or daughter who want to carry on, so they close when the parents want to retire. Change, unfortunately happens. And progress, if you want to call it that.
    Anyway...I'm a scallop lover too and this dish is marvelous!

  13. Even though we live in a smaller city-well, we live in the country, but the town we are closest to has chain grocery stores, Target, KMart and a handful of fast food restaurants. We can't get a good restaurant in this town no matter how many people try-it is depressing. We do still have one family owned butcher shop that we get a our meat from, but have to use the chain grocery stores. We have lost most of our small stores that made our town so unique in years past. Sad.

    The scallops look good-we tried them for the first time about a month ago, and we really enjoyed them! Of course, they have to travel quite a ways to Minnesota :)

  14. Sounds like a great shop, and they really deserve your business. You're doing your part by getting the word out. :)

    On an unrelated note, how many more weeks until your trip to Paris?

  15. Barbara: yes, there is definitely a place and need for progress--I just don't like when it involves squishing the little guy.

    tamilyn: glad you tried scallops and liked them! When done well they are unique and delicious.

    camille: hey! I'm going to email you. We arrive on the 18th.

  16. wow, once upon a time I lived on 24th Street, in a flat above Streetlight records and I shopped everyday for whatever I happened to need... I love Noe Valley! Brings back such lovely memories. I remember Drewes too, amazing it's still managing to hang on...

  17. foodhoe: Ah, Streetlight. I was so sad when they closed, too.