Back in Russia we used to have this association that everything coming from the  USA is just so cool and hard to get (pre-perestroika: jeans, coca-cola, records). At some point post-perestroika, everyone who could – would go shopping to States for the crazy sales, for the big malls, for Gap, Ralph Lauren Jeans, Juicy Couture, Victorias Secret as far as I remember.
Today, I don’t think anyone is that crazy about things from US, as we have it all in Russia and also locally produced brands are getting stronger presence in the country. But anyways, when you go to San Francisco, these are great things to bring back home. Forget about magnets, keychains and T-Shirts.
Fartsovshiki in Russia selling jeans. Photo:
In the memory of fartsovshiki here is a list of cool things that I would bring from San Francisco today:


People living in UK and Australia, please skip this, I know you have them all in English in your country. For the rest of us, living road, reading in English and appreciating rare specialized books that are not translated to other languages, these three SF shops are wonderland:

SFMOMA store 

Like its sister NY MOMA store, there are the newest book and creative gifts in this store on the ground floor of the must-visit museum downtown SF. My first books from here were actually gifts to me: Wasting time on the Internet and What they didn’t teach you in Photography school. You can see their collection of books here.

SFMOMA Museum Store; photo: © Henrik Kam, courtesy SFMOMA

Kinokuniya San Francisco

This bookstore in Japantown specializes in Japanese books and comics, also selling Japanese gifts (see Sushi Cat below), pens, stationery and Japanese magazines. But there are actually 75% of English books in this Japanese bookstore. And I found a great selection of Design related books here.

City Light Bookstore

Ths is a legendary San Francisco based bookseller and publisher, founded  in 1953 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. According to Guardian “this place had a powerful influence not only on American poetry – with the publication of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl in 1955 – but also on the American consciousness, being the nation’s most daring publisher of independent literature and an epicenter for progressive thought.”

And it is very close to where I live in SF, and I go there quite often for their Cooking section, that not only has cookbooks but fiction and non-fiction on food-related topics.

Postcards and Pins

In SF there are so many great stores that sell stationery and postcards and cute little pins with great illustrations. I especially love the Rifle Paper Co. designs and their consistency throughout their work. I haven’t seen such great selections in any store in Europe. These are my three favorite shops:

  1. Serendipity
  2. Little Paper Planes
  3. Lola Card Stop

And here you can find fun pins and cards online:

Very good pins

Papa Llama (introvert’s gear)

3D Printed Lamps from Gantri

Printed in San Francisco, but designed by designers from different parts of the world,  these lamps made of translucent PLA are your chance to bring something truly innovational and unique back home. I first saw these lamps on the Renegade Fair in Fort Mason, that I always attend. Besides for something looking so sharp and cool, it’s very affordable. My favorite one is the Konus, reminding me sometimes of the badminton “ball” and sometimes of half-open fan, when you look from the side.


Sushi cat or Yoga cat, you choose

If you like cats, like I do, this is your new keychain and something that will make people around you smile, when they see it. Unfortunately, you can’t choose one, as they come in a  surprise box, but I was lucky enough to get the Lobster Sushi cat that I wanted. Twice…

Photo: Urban Outfitters

You can buy them on Amazon here and here, or in Kinokuniya San Francisco in Japantown, that my boyfriend insists on being more fun experience.

Ostrich egg from Paxton Gate

I just could not put the taxidermy mini mouse dressed as Carnaval chick in the subtitle. That would be very insensitive. You just have to check out this shop full of curiosities, reminds me of some kids mystery movies, where everything would come to life all over sudden. I also like the idea of putting blowfishes in cloches, like here. But understandably, this store is not for everyone 🙂

Fortune cookies

If you like hosting dinners, I think its something original to offer to your guests after it. It is something that not many Chinese places give anymore, but they are always nice to get.  Like the quotes on my Yogi  tea teabags. For sure your guests will be surprised.


Sriracha sauce

There are more than 10 million bottles of Huy Fong Foods Sriracha Sauce sold every year. The company was founded by David Tran, an immigrant from Vietnam who settled in Los Angeles to found his company and produce it in CA. It can be found in any supermarket and there are so many ways to use it, that there is now even a Sriracha cookbook with recipes of how to use the Sriracha sauce, from your Bloody Mary to making Kimchi.

Butter crunch from P.O.P. Candy Co.

The same as English butter toffee, it is a dessert that is very very sweet and great with nuts and herbs. My favorite one is rosemary almond butter crunch, their bestseller. It reminds me unknown name Iranian cake that I tried when I was 6, brought to us by a family friend who traveled to Iran. This is the best butter crunch I have ever tried. You can find a store or buy them online here.


What to bring from San Francisco

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