In the Inner Sunset, it’s easy to satisfy your craving for Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Peruvian, or Indian food, but apparently something's been missing from the neighborhood.
Into that gap has stepped Willow on the Green, a shop that opened in May offering two dozen types of British cheese plus refrigerated and pantry products from the United Kingdom including haggis meat pies, potato scones, and more varieties of chutney than you ever knew existed.
Tartan abounds, both on the chocolates and picnic blankets available for purchase, at the Inner Sunset's Willow on the Green.(via Instagram)
“The UK is filled with some of the most delicious delicacies the world never sees and we as the British take for granted, says owner Alex Sinclair who was born in London, raised in the Midlands and has lived in the Sunset for seven years. “My hope is to explore fascinating flavors from my home country.”
In the cheese case, along with the requisite Stilton you’ll find Red Leicester from Wales, a Double Gloucester and a mature Irish cheddar from Wexford Creamery in Ireland. You can also stock up on bangers and British back bacon. Non meat-eaters may enjoy Linda McCartney’s vegetarian sausages.
There are packets of potato crisps in flavors like smoked pheasant and wild mushroom. Along one wall is a selection of teas, honey, and jams. Cartwright & Butler teas are at the high end of the range, but of course there’s also PG Tips. Lime curd, damson jam, and blood orange marmalade from Thursday Cottage sit alongside Jacob’s cream crackers, Walker’s Highland oat crackers, and charcoal squares from Bath. Your sweet tooth can be indulged with a jar of sticky toffee sauce or a bar of Scottish chocolate flavored like an almond-raisin-orange Dundee cake.
Specially commissioned paintings of pasture animals by artist and Richmond district resident Amelia Hogan decorate the walls. The shop's floral arrangements are meant to evoke the subdued colors of a British country meadow. In the back are picnic baskets, which are perfect for filling up with your choice of cheese, crackers, charcuterie and sweets before walking a block and a half into Golden Gate Park. Also for sale are picnic blankets in Scottish tartan patterns with a waterproof backing.
You didn't even know you needed all these Celtic chutneys for your pantry.(Fredric Hamber)
Sinclair’s food knowledge is deep. In London, he attended The Butlers Wharf Chef School that was founded by Sir Terence Conran, and later he was part of a pilot for a Channel 4 show called Food Factory. He became a chef in Copthorne Barracks in Shropshire and quickly rose to be head chef for the officers' mess and personal chef for the general. He is proud to be representing some small brands being imported to the U.S. for the first time.
He also delights in the occasional moment when a British customer walks in, clearly reserving judgement about whether the shop is the real deal until their eyes light upon the jars of pickled cockles, a specialty so specific to London that all doubt evaporates. How exactly are pickled cockles properly consumed? “A toothpick and a beer,” he says. “It’s a bar snack.”
// Willow on the Green, 1327B 9th Ave. (Inner Sunset), facebook.com/willowonthegreen
Willow on the Green stocks more than 20 varieties of British cheeses.(via Instagram)