If you were in the market for liquid nitrogen or an immersion circulator, Le Sanctuaire (315 Sutter St.; 415/986-4216; by appointment only), which caters to kitchen scientists, would already be on your speed dial. The loftlike showroom may be stocked with gleaming tools of the molecular trade, but chef Daniel Patterson of Coi shops here for more earthy treasures such as Sumatran Sichuan pepper. “Their real specialty is exotic spices—pickled nutmeg; whole mace blade; Javanese luwak coffee,” he says. They’re packaged in eye-catching jars whose design reflects owner Jing Tio’s ultramodern aesthetic.
Bring It Back: Pungent black cubeb peppercorns ($24 per pound), which are hand-harvested on Tio’s farms in Indonesia. The versatile spice is a favorite at San Francisco ice cream parlor Humphry Slocombe, where one of the signature flavors is salt and pepper.