Roasted Chickpeas with Hibiscus-Chili Salt–Mariah O’Seanecy

Posted on January 24, 2014


Have you ever been to 10 restaurants in one day? I have. I’m not sure if I should be proud of that, but I am, at least a little bit. I will tell you, it is not for the faint of heart.

The first seven restaurants were all in the Mission district of San Francisco. My food writing class was on a food tour of the Mission district. Our gastronomic getaway started at Mission Minis. They sell scrumptious dollar mini cupcakes. They had creative flavors like Coffee Crunch, Horchata and Meyer Lemon Crème. They had a soft fluffy texture and sweet creamy icing.

IMG_0905 IMG_0909

The second stop was Wise Sons a Jewish delicatessen where we were served pastrami on rye and house made pickles. I didn’t know I liked pastrami until I bit into that tender brined meat on soft light rye bread that had a light dill flavor. This was not like the pastrami that came in plastic packages my Dad ate. This was the real deal.

IMG_0938 IMG_0927 IMG_0922 IMG_0919

Then we were off to Local Mission Eatery. We were served a winter vegetable sandwich on toasted bread at a large table where I could stand and watch one of the chefs hone his impressively large chef’s knife and speedily chop a red onion in the open kitchen.

IMG_0939 IMG_0940

But we didn’t linger long, next was Balmy Alley. No food here just a short break to digest food and observe the murals. They were bright and colorful, and we were even privileged enough to meet one of the muralist who explained the significance of some of the artwork.


Popping out of the Alley is was straight to Pig and Pie. There I got to, again, eat and watch the chef work. I stood at the counter with the short glass window watching the chef break down racks of ribs while I ate the house made Bratwurst, with house sauerkraut, and house made beer mustard on what looked like a toasted brioche bun. The sauerkraut and mustard had tang that complimented the sweet meaty flavor the Brat. But as good as it was the food was starting to catch up to me, and we just over half was there.

IMG_0961 IMG_0962

El Farlito was our next stop and it was just a few doors down from Pig and Pie. They served us Tacos el Pastor. They were spicy, with tender fruity, yet grill top crispy meat, and onion, and salsa. I’m going to make the hard call, and say that this was my favorite food of the day. But when I think back on this wild adventure, this is the food that stands out most, and makes me want to venture back to the mission. But it has some close contenders.


La Palma, the mexia-tessen , was number six on the food tour introducing me to the huarache, which is like two tortillas that have been stuffed with black beans and crimped together, and then topped like a taco with cabbage, queso fresco, onions and spicy salsa. La Palma also has a tortilla factory, and sells pre-made masa dough which is exciting because any amount of time I can cut out of my tamale making process would be great.


The culmination of our gastronomic gut-buster was a Humphry Slocombe. An ice cream joint that caters to a more advanced pallet, serving flavors like, Jesus Juice which is a mauve-pink and tastes just like what it’s made of, wine and coke, Special Breakfast, a bourbon flavored ice cream with corn flake cookies crumbled in and even Horchata ice cream. I am a sucker for chocolate so I went with smoked sea salt chocolate, but the pumpkin and persimmon brittle was a close second.


By the end of this tour I was stuffed. But, looming, and I mean that in a good way, was my dinner with my college buddy Leanna and her husband Jeff who were on a weekend getaway to San Francisco. I was excited to see them, and hoped that three hours was enough time to digest all that food because I was so full I couldn’t even think about dinner. But that was short lived.

When they rolled in my drive way at 6:45 I was not starving but hungry enough for dinner. Leanna had told me they had a place they wanted to go. A brewery in Oakland the guy who sat next to them on the plane had raved about. But, when she looked it up, it was closed for renovations. Bummed we went in search for a new dinner stop. Jeff drove us west on the 24 in the electric blue Ford Mustang while Leanna and I searched for a cool restaurant on our phones.

“What about this one?” I asked casually, passing my phone up to her. “It looks cool,” she said, Jeff glanced over, “I’m in” he said. So that was it, we took the next Oakland exit and headed toward College Avenue to find Box and Bells.

It was now nearing 7:30 on a Friday night. Box and Bells was packed. We asked the hostess about getting a table. It would be an hour wait. We were okay with that. We’d get drinks somewhere else first. We headed back out into the brisk winter air, and our search ended quickly because right next door was TOAST.


We got a table in the bar section within minutes, mainly because there was one table open, it had been vacated just as we walked in. We got drinks, a glass of sparkling red wine for Leanna, and Jack and Coke for Jeff, and a Carson’s cooler for me, the non-drinker. It was really lime-y but good. The mocktail consisted of club soda, lime juice and hibiscus syrup. We were told we had an hour so we got some appetizers to go with our drinks, French bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, chicken liver pate, and fried chickpea with chili-hibiscus salt. When they came to the table they smelled like doughnuts, and they were so addictive that I couldn’t stop putting the crunchy little bastards in my mouth. “I could make these” I said. Jeff and Leanna just looked at me. “I could”. And so I did. But that come at the end where I write about making them at home, there’s a recipe and everything so stay tuned.

IMG_0981 IMG_0983

As it turned out, a table opened up in about a half an hour so we had to hustle through our drinks while Jeff tried scrupulously to make eye contact with our waiter so we could get our check.

It all worked out, we got to Box and Bells, a table ready for us tucked on the side, and near the kitchen which I loved because from where I sat I could peer in and see chefs and line cooks dashing around.

Box and Bells was overwhelming. The menu was teaming with tantalizing goodies, muscles tikka masala, blood pudding poutine, and country ham with lumpy mashed potatoes. We settled on a shredded cabbage salad, fried chicken with raw oyster mayonnaise, baked beans, and the Box burger. The Box burger was a thick beef patty cooked rare, with caramelized onion and Gruyere cheese on a pretzel bun which had been brushed with aged beef fat. It was so good that our table fall silent and everyone took small bites not wanting there third to be gone, because it was so good.

The final stop on the gluttonous day was Fenton’s. All it took was showing Jeff the menu on my phone and he was ready to go, and he already knew what he wanted, the cookie connection. A mountain of ice cream, cookies and cream and cookie dough, two chocolate chip cookies, topped with hot fudge, marshmallow cream, cookie crumbs, whipped cream and of course and cherry.

Surprisingly, at 10 pm, Fenton’s is packed. We got a table on the fringe of all the happy ice cream eaters and impatiently waited for the waitress to come take our order. We knew what we wanted. The cookie connection. And within 15 minutes there it was, a football sized mountain of sugar and dairy happiness. As an Oregonian this next statement feels a little blasphemous, but I think that Fenton’s ice cream is better than Tillamook. I haven’t been to the Tillamook Cheese Factor in a long time, and I know their ice cream is good, but dang, that cookie connection, it won my heart.

IMG_0986 IMG_0985

By the time we reached the bottom of the Sunday dish we were all so full it was getting uncomfortable. But it was worth it. We waddled back to the electric blue Mustang and Jeff and Leanna drove me home. Sometime during that ride I unbuttoned the top button of my pants and started dreaming about the bottle of Tums in my medicine cabinet. That was the first time I’ve seen in Jeff and Leanna in almost three years, and I can’t remember what we did the last time we got together but I can almost certainly guarantee I won’t forget this time.

Roasted Chickpeas with hibiscus-chili salt

This was my attempt at the appetizer we got at TOAST. Theirs was deep fried and mine was roasted, and it’s hard to top deep fried with an oven. Even though they weren’t as good, they were still darn tasty.

Note: for the hibiscus chili salt I took a quarter cup of dried hibiscus flowers and put them in my food processor, ground them as fine as I could get them (you could also use a blender) then added a ¼ c of salt and 1 ½ tsp of chili powder and pulsed to combine.

1 16oz can of chickpeas, drained

Olive oil

Hibiscus chili salt

You will also need a sheet pan.

Pre-heat your oven to 425. In a small bowl gently mix your chickpeas with enough olive oil to coat.


Then sprinkle with your hibiscus chili salt mixture.


Start lightly, toss, maybe even taste one, before you add more so you don’t over salt the peas.


Then roast your seasoned chick peas for 20-25 minutes stirring occasionally, and checking for proper crispiness around 20 minutes.


You want them to be crisp on the outside but still a little tender on the inside.


And of course if you want the real deal you’ve got to go to TOAST.

Posted in: Student Posts