Well, I’m back from San Francisco and it turns out I didn’t have as much free time as I thought I would. But I did get a chance to poke around Chinatown a bit before a meeting and didn’t come up empty-handed.
Chinatown is slowly becoming less and less the real deal: a lot of stores have popped up catering mostly to tourists. They sell a variety of asian-inspired dishes, silk goods, chopsticks, etc. that I have a feeling you would never see in a real Chinese home.
But I digress: On my visit in SF, I happened to stumble upon a small store in the basement of a jewelry store that had a variety of "real deal" Chinese items and I couldn’t be happier. Above, I found these tiny brown glazed ceramic bowls in a cardboard box; they were going for twenty cents a piece. So I bought five and have thrown in some tealight candles into each one.
These paper party balls are nothing new, but the packaging for these clearly indicated they haven’t been opened for many many years. I would guess, these are from the 1950′s from the vintage butterfly pattern all over it. I picked up a packet of 6 for about $5. Not sure what I’ll do witht hem, but since they pack flat, I think I can bring ‘em with me to photo shoots to jazz up a dinner table if it needs a shot of color.
These metal pill boxes were really interesting. They were crudely made (which I love) and stamped with "HONG KONG" on each one. Some had an illustration of a rabbit, some had a photo of a leaf. For $2 a box, I picked up two and plan on using them to store Tylenol in the medicine cabinet.
Chopsticks are really easy to find, but these caught my eye. Black laquer finish with an ivory floral motif design at the top. 20 to a box for $3.95. I bought two boxes and will be using these in an upcoming photo shoot for ELLE. Keep your eyes open to see if you can spot them in the May issue!
Anyway, I guess the point of this story is that just when you think you see nothing but tourist trap stores in your local Chinatowh, dig deeper. Go down an alleyway, go off the beaten path and you never know what you’ll find. I’m still regretting not buying the giant bamboo steamers and crock pots I saw in this store, but I guess they’ll have to wait until my next jaunt.