Sunday, April 06, 2008

A Moroccan Baby Shower in San Francisco

The beautiful spread
I've heard people say San Francisco is the most European city in the United States for a long time, but I don't think I really understood what they meant until I spent some time in the area around North Beach. With the Victorian houses converted into apartments, the walk ups, the bay windows and narrow alleys, the steep hills, the sidewalk cafes, bakeries and food stores, and the total lack of parking - it really does lend itself to a local community-oriented lifestyle.
homemade hummus
It has a number of the kind of independent everyday businesses - restaurants, bakeries, bookstores and shops - that have all but disappeared from many smaller cities, and I love the 40's style neon signs, the painted windows, and the retro style of the store-fronts. To me, it has a feeling of "otherness," without the big box stores, freeways, gas stations and fast food joints we suburbanites have come to accept as part of our everyday lives.

This dreamy quality figured prominently in a baby shower I attended recently, at the home of a friend of the mom-to-be on Lombard Street. The mother lives in the front apartment - on the ground floor (which is still up a steep flight of stairs from the street) and the shower was held in her front parlor room, featuring a huge bay window and wood burning fireplace - all decorated with Moroccan pillows, flowers and textiles. The girls were doing the cooking in the daughter's apartment, across the alley in the back - and brought the food over. It felt so much like a movie that the light even had that sort of gauzy, filtered quality.
love the gorgeous tray

We were welcomed with a spread of figs, almonds, apricots, pistachios and pecans, bowls of homemade hummus, warm pita bread, and couscous salad, served in host Sharone's beautiful collection of Moroccan dishes. To drink, there was lemonade with mint, served on a brass carrying tray with a twisted handle.
the main dish chickpea stew
Though we didn't all know each other, there was no need for games or activities to break the ice . The group just kept chatting and eating throughout the afternoon, as the sun dropped lower in the sky. At some point, the hostesses brought out bowls of a fragrant chickpea stew that we held in our laps and spooned up with more pita bread.
Cake from Stella Pastries

Then the presents were opened and the cake came out. It was not only delicious, but a little piece of San Francisco history - a "world famous" Sacripantina from Stella Pastry in North Beach. "Served to the likes of Pavarotti, the Sacripantina is a multilayered cake made with a vanilla sponge cake, zabaglione (a delicate custard made with egg yolks, sweet butter, marsala and sherry wines) cream, and rum." They have more luscious looking choices on their website here. These old-fashioned Italian pastries look like little girl's dresses - all lace and bows and ruffles with whipped cream and cherries - and they haven't changed at all with the times. They're just classic.

I felt lucky to be a part of this gathering - it was one of those occasions where everything just came together perfectly. You just can't plan or manufacture these occasions, as much as you'd might like. When they happen, you just have to enjoy and remember them. Wishing Moira the best on her journey into motherhood!

Stella Pastry
446 Columbus Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 986-2914


  1. That sounds like the best baby shower that could ever be. Seriously, why aren't more like that?? Sophisticated, fun, original and classy!

  2. I totally agree with Joa - why can't more showers be like that? What an memorable event.

  3. oohhh that looks like some great grub.

  4. I think Moroccan food is awesome. Actually I went to school today and we cooked moroccan food. Lamb meatball with chickpeas, greek salad, pitas,chicken sckewers and bakavla for dessert. Then I came home turned on to your blog and there was moroccan food. Que'l concidance!!

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