As you scour the Internet for deals on Cyber Monday and generally partake in the holiday shopping rush, it’s worth remembering that local small businesses could use your support — and some may even have items in stock that you can’t find online or trust will arrive on time. So when you’re making your list and checking it twice, keep in mind that San Francisco’s go-to knife destination Bernal Cutlery has added a pantry to the Valencia Street store, and it’s stocked with gift ideas for the food and drink lovers in your life from purveyors including Queens, Queer Wave Coffee, Corn Mafia, and Diaspora Spices.
The idea for the pantry, which has taken over the store’s tiled lobby space, came from co-owner Kelly Kozak, who describes the project a “light at the end of the tunnel” that is the pandemic. Kozak recently earned a Master’s Degree in Food Studies from University of the Pacific and says she’s sourcing products that reflect sustainability. And though the pantry features both locally made items and ones from international names like Iio Jozo’s brown rice vinegar, it’s also serves as a way to support the San Francisco food community. “We’re still a small business but we have a little bit more of a platform and stability than other folks,” Kozak says. To that end, one dollar from every transaction will also be donated to Zero Foodprint, the SF-based nonprofit aimed at funding renewable farming practices to fight climate change and founded by Mission Chinese Food’s Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz.
The shelves of the new pantry are stocked with books, spices, coffee, and other non-perishables — all from brands Kozak is genuinely excited about. “I’m not a fangirl of very many people but I’m definitely a fangirl of Michael Twitty,” Kozak says, explaining that she worked hard to get some of the culinary historian’s West African spice blend made with Spice Tribe. The pantry also has a limited selection of Corn Mafia’s masa (“It completely blew my mind,” Kozak says); several varieties of Rancho Gordo beans, corn, and chiles; and both red and green chile sauce from Shed in Santa Fe.
Bernal Cutlery is also the very first wholesale account for Queens, the Inner Sunset Korean market, which means you can pick up a jar of their sweet-spicy gochugaru flakes, plus sesame oil made in Los Angeles, gochujang made in Apple Valley, and gamtae salt made from hand-harvested seaweed. You can stock up on trans- and Indigenous-run Queer Wave Coffee, and Kozak is proud to be the only place selling Atomic Workshop’s Anchovy Salt, created by State Bird Provisions chef Stuart Brioza. “It’s tiny,” Kozak admits about the space. But don’t let that fool you into thinking there won’t be anything worth discovering inside: “We still have a lot of stuff in our back pocket,” she says.