Sweet San Francisco

In a few days, I’ll be driving up to take up my new residence in San Francisco, and relocating Sweet Napa for the second time.

So… why am I moving?   I think that the short answer is:  as much as I’ve tried, I can’t conceive of a future for myself in LA.  I think that BonBonBar as it is would best flourish as a storefront supplemented with web orders, but the thought of anchoring myself to a storefront in LA and driving through LA traffic to get there every day depressed me more than it excited me.  I was able to work practically non-stop on BonBonBar because there was little else I wanted to do in LA — or at least, little else I wanted to do that would justify so much time in traffic and smog.  And after Chad and I broke up in June, it seemed like a good time to call a hiatus and choose a new place to live.  It was tempting to stay through the holidays given that this year has been so busy so far, but then Valentine’s Day would be right around the corner, and then Easter, and then… and then… another year would go by in limbo.  Once I started to think about how nice — how pretty normal — it would be to reside in a place where I would think about living rather than leaving, it was hard to stop.

I kept telling people that “I just don’t want to live in a big city anymore.”  I went to Google Maps quite a few times just to zoom out on a map of the US.  I could live anywhere I wanted.  Anywhere!  I tried to imagine what life would be like here or there.  I considered new places and familiar places.  I thought a lot about Montana (Bozeman!).  And Wyoming. And giving in to my perpetual whim to live in a cabin in Maine. I thought about flying back up to Seattle for the second time ever to check it out more in depth.  Or maybe New York or New Jersey, to be closer to my family.

I actually flew to the Rockies to scout out Utah and Colorado ski areas.  I particularly loved the beauty of Aspen, but I thought that my wintertime ski antics would be cramped by the very real, very snowy winter… which would mean limited local, fresh food that I could work with.

That sunk in.  It’s somewhat arbitrary that California happens to be an enormous state with so many different climates so it’s easy for us claim such an awe-inspiring variety of “local” food year-round, but still… there’s a lot of good food grown around here that is best fresh — and can be used to great effect in sweets.

So, yes. Seriously.  I came to California for the film industry in 2002, and I stayed for the citrus in 2009.

I thought about Berkeley.  I drove up to check it out more, but the possibility of something happening in SF and having to commute made me start to think about SF more.  When I saw that there are apartments to rent in the Presidio in San Francisco, I felt like I’d found the perfect compromise between rural and urban life — I would get to live in national park while living in a city.  So… here goes!

Though don’t get me wrong — I know that that there’s so much great food across the country.  But the thought of turning 30 soon and moving to an entirely new — and possibly remote — place alone with a business based on fresh ingredients to think of was a slightly scary one.   So it made a difference that I already know Northern California and its people a bit.   SF seems so full of energy and fun, and it just thrills me to drive around Marin, Sonoma, and Napa.  And there’s also still so much that I don’t know about the area, and I get exciting just thinking about having the opportunity to explore more.  Of course, I am very familiar with the sometimes harsh realities of Bay Area traffic, but I don’t think that it’s as bad.

I really do hate to turn my back in LA because I think it’s often unfairly criticized.   When I moved back to LA in 2007 from Napa, I was ambivalent about the city.  I spent the better part of my first year in our apartment researching and testing recipes for BonBonBar, partially as a way to avoid the people and congestion that I’d left in 2005 after working in the film industry.  But as I experimented with different ingredients, I realized that the food and farmers markets here are fantastic.  I learned so much from the Santa Monica Farmers Market; it was like a second culinary school.  And when I launched the business and when I started selling at farmers markets myself, I met so many amazing people who have influenced me for the better and who I’ll never forget.  So, in a sad-but-happy way, I can say that when I leave LA this time, I’ll miss the people.

I honestly am not sure what will happen with BonBonBar yet.  I’ve been so touched by how many people have taken the company to heart and have gone so far out of their way to help it/me that I feel awful about putting it on hold; I can’t help feeling like I’ve let them down.  But I think I need to know more about conditions in SF before I make any decisions about restarting, and since I can’t know more until I move up there, I’ll have to wait and see.  I know I’m curious…

10 Responses to “Sweet San Francisco”

  1. Hilary Says:

    As someone who moved to NorCal a year ago and can’t wait until I can move back to SoCal, I have the opposite problem… But, I look forward to having better access to your wonderful candy in the near future! By the way, are you familiar with Woodhouse Chocolates Smores Kit? I know you were looking at creating one and I really like theirs, especially the thin chocolate bars that melt easily.

  2. jennywenny Says:

    Good luck with your new life!! I really love san francisco and can imagine living there in a heartbeat, but I’m lucky that I love my life in San Diego too. I cant imagine living in LA at all, it just seems so relentless with strip malls and freeways and traffic. I’m sure there is another side, but I’m only willing to visit for the day unless something really amazing happens!!

  3. Verena Says:

    I really enjoyed living in the Bay Area and am still missing it now. It’s just more laid-back in a way. But anyway, wherever you go and whatever you do, I hope you’ll love every moment of it without having any regrets. All the best, Nina! 😉

  4. Elyse Tager Says:

    Welcome to SF, Nina. I moved from NYC over 30 yrs ago and still thank my lucky stars every day. I’m sure you will find a loving and embracing food community here. Second thoughts? Nothing has to be forever – see how it goes.



  5. ladygoat Says:

    I’m so jealous – I would love, love, LOVE to live in the Presidio! It’s one of my favorite places in the Bay Area – so much so, I had my wedding there. I’d move back to the Bay Area in a heartbeat. I hope you enjoy living in SF as much as I did.

  6. S.Kim Says:

    Sorry to hear about Chad but beau coup congrats and best wishes on the move and all the new adventures you have to look forward to. Bay area is amazing. I can’t wait to taste what the future holds for you.

    However, I’m holding on to my last caramel nut bar, too afraid to devour it now it if my next fix is TBD. I was about to steal my brother’s last one but my conscience got the better of me.

  7. p.r. Says:

    Oh, Nina. I am sorry to have you leave L.A. Like you, I think it is often unfairly criticized, and you were part of my list of reasons why. 🙂

    But you are smart to know when you need a change, and I’m glad that you’re so in tune with your needs. Also, San Francisco is not without its charms.

    Funny, because I had just been thinking about you opening a store here in L.A., and now here I read your exact feelings on that.

    I hope BobBon Bar can continue in SF. I also hope you keep blogging on Sweet Napa or somewhere.

    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on San Francisco and life and sweets.

    Bon voyage and a small [sniffle].

  8. p.r. Says:

    sorry for the typo: BoNBon Bar!

  9. sweet fine day/Jenna Says:

    good luck with everything Nina! You know that it’s been a pleasure getting to know you and sharing business stories over the past year. I think this is brave…and smart. You are right about timing not ever being good, so seize the moment, take a breather, get your life in order, and I bet we’ll see you up and running soon. The place in which you work and live makes all the difference. This is how we feel about brooklyn – so much a part of our business. Looking forward to hearing the next chapter! xoxoxo

  10. sku Says:

    And so, here I sit, with the very last BonBonBar Scotch Bar from my last order just before the deadline. Is this, I wonder to myself, the last Scotch Bar in existence; the last one anywhere? Should it be saved for posterity such that many years from now, some candy technician can reverse engineer it and discover for a new generation the beautiful gestalt that came from chocolate, caramel, sea salt and a dash of Talisker, the sweet, salty, smoky wonder that was the Scotch Bar. Ahh, but I’m afraid that those culinary anthropologists will be left wondering, for I cannot allow this wondrous creation to fail to live up to its full potential. After all, its greatness can only be revealed by tasting it, so taste it I must. And now, alas, it is gone, for now but hopefully not forever.

    Good luck to you Nina. I hope that you will one day return to the candy trade, but you must do what you must do and your adoring fans will respect your choices, whatever they may be.

    Best wishes,


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