Noe Valley Voice May 2002

Store Trek

By Heidi Anderson

This month's Store Trek has the scoop on the new ice cream parlor occupying the corner of 24th and Castro, once the home of Bud's Ice Cream and more recently Rory's Twisted Scoop. We also have the fluff on a hair salon now lightening up Church Street.

Isabella's Dessert and Ice Cream Café

1300 Castro Street near 24th Street


Noe residents with a sweet tooth will be glad to know that ice cream will continue to reign at Castro and 24th streets.

Isabella's Dessert and Ice Cream Café opened in early April in the spot occupied by Rory's Twisted Scoop for over 15 years. (For decades before that, Bud's Ice Cream held court there, tingling the tastebuds of hordes of local hedonists, among them '60s rock star Janis Joplin.)

"This is a great location," agrees new owner Ray Baluyot. Like his predecessors, he will showcase ice cream --the ever-popular Double Rainbow, in fact -- but he has expanded the menu to include cakes and pies, and sandwiches and salads. "I wanted to keep the ice cream tradition, but also make this a place people could come even if they didn't particularly want ice cream."

Baluyot did some minor renovations to the store, which was vacant for two months after Rory's closed in early February. "Mostly I made room for some more tables, and painted, just cleaned things up a little." He points to the small cubby at the back of the store, which has warm, burnt-sienna walls and a framed photograph by Oakland artist Ron Pusateri, who specializes in color floral photography. "The spot there at the end I wanted to make feel more cozy, more adult."

Baluyot, 34, is new to the food service business. He quit a six-year career as a family law litigator, most of which he practiced in Beverly Hills, to open Isabella's with his sister, Lorraine Espiritu. The café is named after Espiritu's 7-year-old daughter.

"I found litigation to be very competitive in a negative way," says Baluyot. "I needed to be more creative and positive. After I moved to San Francisco to work at a new firm, my sister started talking about wanting to own her own business, and I started thinking about this, too."

Baluyot and Espiritu were raised in the Philippines. Their mother was a pharmacist, and their dad owned several small businesses. The family moved to San Leandro, Calif., in 1987, when Baluyot was 19.

One thing Baluyot relished during his youth was making (and eating) desserts. "I always knew I wanted to work with food, so here I am!"

Isabella's is ready to satisfy your cravings seven days a week. The Double Rainbow Ice Cream (single scoop $1.95, double scoop $2.45, milkshake $3.50, banana split $4.95) comes in 18 flavors, including such local favorites as Dulce de Leche (cream and caramel), Golden Gate Swirl (chocolate, vanilla, and caramel), and Hazelnut Truffle Latté.

Baluyot makes ice cream truffles ($3.25), ice cream pies ($4.50 a slice), and sorbet sandwiches ($1.35) on the premises. Delivered fresh daily are pastries and cakes from Sweet Sue's and Celebration Bakery. They fall all along the spectrum, from the extremely decadent Creamy Italian Chocolate Cake ($3.50) to the religiously fat-free Lemon Angel Cake ($2.50).

The Noe Valley Bakery & Bread Co.. a few doors down 24th Street, provides all the fresh bread for Isabella's sandwiches. Baluyot suggests customers try the grilled chicken with Brie cheese ($5.50), grilled cheese with mushrooms and green onions ($3.75), or roasted vegetables (with bell pepper, mushroom, and eggplant), for $5.25. Much simpler, but also popular is the $3 peanut butter and jelly sandwich (choice of grape or strawberry jelly). Side-order choices are green salad or tortillas with salsa.

You can also order a fresh fruit salad or a green salad with spinach and artichoke hearts, in small or large plates ($2.50 and $3.95).

Not to be forgotten, of course, is the cup of coffee ($1.25), made from beans roasted by Torrefazzione Espresso. Tea, from Barnes and Watson, is available, as are mugs of apple cider and hot chocolate. Baluyot adds that Scharffen Berger chocolate is used for the hot chocolate, as well as for many of the house-made chocolate desserts.

Baluyot says he's been swamped with customers since he opened April 8. "This corner is the perfect location for people on their way somewhere to stop in and get something refreshing."

Isabella's Ice Cream and Dessert Café opens at 11 a.m. every day, except Monday (when doors open at noon). The shop closes at 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, but stays open an hour later on Friday and Saturday nights.

Episode Salon and Spa

1360 Church Street at Clipper


There's a new salon in the neighborhood where you'll be so pleased with your haircut, you'll come back to have your locks trimmed and restyled every month. At least that's the hope of owner Stéffon Yan.

"I named my place Episode, as in four weeks, because that's about how often you get a chance to do something new with your hair!" says Yan, who opened his Episode Salon and Spa on March 22.

The sunny salon on Church Street near Clipper, across the street from Lovejoy's Tea Room, occupies the spot that was an upholstery store until two years ago. The exterior of the storefront has been painted an eye-catching apricot.

Yan supervised a whole new look for the interior space. "I noticed how bright the sun was here in the afternoon, and I wanted to create that feeling inside, like going to the beach, so the walls and hardwood floors are the color of sand, and the ceiling is painted a vanilla sky -- all to feel very warm."

Yan, who owns another salon in North Beach called Beijing, says he chose his Noe Valley location because he heard "the people are nice," and he liked the large 1,100-square-foot space he found on Church Street. "Here I can help everybody -- men, women, ages 8 to 82."

Episode's roomy space contains eight workstations and three sinks for hair washing. There are also two private showers, for the salon's massage clients to use. As of May 1, an aesthetician will be on staff to provide facials, waxes, body wraps, massages, and manicures.

Meanwhile, Yan and stylist Kim Webber will offer a full range of hair services. Yan has been cutting hair for 19 years; Webber for five.

Both Yan and Webber are trained in the Vidal Sassoon method. Yan trained at the Vidal Sassoon Academy in London, and specializes in hair color and "up-do" and evening styles. "I try very hard to do exactly what you want," says Yan. "I think a lot of stylists get in the habit of doing hair only the way they like to."

Both Yan and Webber can handle every type of hair. "[The Sassoon method] is all about precision," says Webber, "and when hair is cut with precision, it tends to grow out much better."

A basic haircut -- wash, cut, and style -- is $50 for women and $40 for men. "One-step" coloring starts at $50, and highlights run $80 and up. Permanent waves are available (partial, $35, and full, $50).

Yan says he can accommodate wedding parties of up to eight people, for group hair styling. He also provides the latest rage -- a Japanese method of hair straightening called Liscio -- starting at $300.

As a Grand Opening special, all Episode's prices will be discounted 10 percent through the end of May.

Episode is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Customers are encouraged to make appointments, but Episode will take walk-ins whenever possible.