Armed with a Foursquare list of bakeries, I went to San Francisco for 10 days in September, ready to eat carbs. Luckily I broke my body hiking the second day I was there, so this was justified.
First up is Jane on Fillmore, a café on a very trendy (as opposed to hipster) street. I only had one cookie here, which was freshly baked, still warm, soft and crumbly. I can’t speak to the rest of Jane, except that it was packed even on a weekday, but I wanted to include a bakery with lots of vegan and gluten-free options because the rest of this picture tour is going to be pretty heavy on the butter and gluten.
Now on to the butter and gluten… below is the bread pudding at Tartine. While I thought most of Tartine was overrated and oversized (why are people drinking coffee from BOWLS??), this bread pudding was everything. Not a single bite of dry brioche, plenty of custard, and all of it soaking in drippy caramel. There was definitely liquor in there. The recipe in their book doesn’t call for it, but I definitely tasted rum. The fruit could have been cooked a little more, as it was quite firm and tart. But the rest of that bread pudding was amazing. Make sure you eat it warm, as soon as it’s served.
My friend Anne loved this crushed almond and sheep’s milk cheese sandwich, but it was far too greasy for me. The bread was fantastic and the first bite was pretty tasty (as a vegetarian, it kind of tasted like bacon to me), but later bites tasted like a salt and grease attack. Next to me were two local hipsters eating a loaf of bread, just ripping out chunks with their hands. That’s what I’ll do next time, because the crust was perfectly crispy while the crumb was chewy but light.
To compensate for all those carbs, I mostly cooked at home with Micah. It was like being back in China ten years ago, when we used to eat veggie dishes at Muslim restaurants a lot. So nice to have an omnivore who loves vegetables.
Since this was sort of a 30th birthday trip for me, Adam flew up from LA for the second half of the week. I told him to meet me at Craftsman & Wolves for lunch, and when we got there, he said, “Of COURSE you brought me to a pastry shop for LUNCH.” The inside of Craftsman was greyscale industrial chic, which was beautiful. However…
We obviously opted for these cute little tables (with pink chairs!) on the patio. Here is Adam, showing off his fig boat and chocolate croissant stack.
I got the hazelnut financier and a beet tart. The financier was greasy and not hazelnutty enough, but the beet tart was just right. The fig boat was also delicious, but my suggestion is you skip it, go to one of the cheaper farmer’s markets (you will need a local to differentiate them), buy 4 lbs. of figs like I did the next day, and truly stuff your face.
Adam got this hotdog on a croissant roll with fancy mustard and (damn good) beet chips. So bougie! The whole place was completely bougie, but it was fun to eat such fancypants food at least once. Craftsman is also famous for their rebel within – a muffin with a soft boiled egg inside – but at $7 for a MUFFIN, no. Us East Coasters are not so easily tricked.
Fraiche Yogurt is on the same street as Jane. I was lured in by the man hand-shaving a gigantic block of Callebaut chocolate, which I got atop my froyo. As cool as it looks, it didn’t taste like much at all. I liked that the froyo was organic, but the texture was too icy and not creamy enough. I could taste the ice crystals, which is not ok! Guess I’m spoiled by Berryline in Boston. Fraiche just didn’t cut it.
Boudin is famous for sourdough, but Josey Baker Bread is better, hands down. I liked the flavor of Boudin’s loaf, but not the crust, which was jaw-achingly chewy and not crispy at all. They do make cute animal shaped loaves though 🙂
There are lots of vendors inside the Ferry building, but most of them are overpriced. Go to sample, but buy elsewhere. Miette above re-inspired me to make lavender shortbread though, which I meant to make back when baby George was born to Prince William and Kate, but then completely forgot about.
Here we are at b. patisserie, famous for their kouign amanns, which I skipped because Micah warned me that they weren’t as good as the ones at Amandine in LA. I got a chocolate banana almond croissant. It has a chocolate banana filling and is covered in a layer of almond-sumthin that tasted exactly like frangipane. That frangipane atop a croissant was perfect and genius. Sadly the chocolate was not up to par. Either it was not very good quality chocolate or it was not dark enough. Either way it tasted slightly artificial to me instead of decadently chocolate. Get the almond and seasonal fruit stuffed croissant instead. It’s covered in the same layer of frangipane, minus the sub-par chocolate.
Last but not least, Mission Pie in the Mission! Cute little place, great selection of pie flavors. I went with peach pie and a plum frangipane tart. The fillings were delicious, not too sweet, and not chock full of cornstarch, thank god, but the crust was seriously lacking in flavor. I think sometimes people are so concerned with the flakiness of their pie crust that they forget it needs flavor too. Micah agreed that their crust was not the best, even though he loves this place.
That almost sums up my SF bakery binge. I know I was a harsh critic at times, but aren’t there already a ton of articles gushing and raving about the SF bakery scene? There were highlights and over-hyped places alike, just like any other city. One place stood out like a shining star though – Josey Baker Bread – to which I’ve devoted an entire other post. I would go back to SF regularly just for Josey Baker Bread, so check it out!