I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to San Francisco in October! In addition to a lengthy list of tourist stops, I decided to make the trip my first bakery tour of the area. The bakery highlights included: Tartine, ACME Bread Company, and Noe Valley Bakery.
Tartine. After a visit to the peaceful and beautifully detailed Japanese Tea Garden, I found Tartine on Guerrero and settled into the lengthy line. The shop was cozy, each table nearly touching the next, with a few open seats. After ordering the Idiazabal & Membrillo (“lightly smoked sheep cheese with quince jam”) for lunch, and items to-go (Banana Cream Tart and Frangipane Tart), I shared a table with a couple from Oregon, also trying the bakery for the first time.
The sandwich bread was outrageous – complex, chewy, with the haunting aroma of freshly-made artisan bread. I just loved the simplicity of the sandwich – cheese, fruit paste, and bread. When you’re using high-quality ingredients, there’s no need to overdo.
This particular lunch was one of the best on record, not just for the delicious food, but because I was able to talk with people that love bread. They love eating it, making it, sharing it with others, discussing technique and benefits of consumption, and distinguishing differences between commercial yeast and using starter ferment. And, speaking of that, I purchased some San Francisco starter to try when I got home. The couple was emphatic that I wouldn’t be able to go back to commercial yeast after using the starter. We will see – I will keep you all posted!
So, onto the desserts I selected. It is extravagant, even by my standards, to consume two entire desserts after a large lunch. But, this was a special occasion. I mean, it isn’t like I can drop by a bakery of this caliber any old time I want. Actually, I did save the Frangipane Tart for breakfast the next morning.
Tartine’s Banana Cream Tart
“Flaky pastry coated in dark chocolate with caramel, pastry cream, and lightly sweetened cream.”
Tartine’s Frangipane Tart
“Light almond-cream filling baked in a flaky pastry shell with seasonal fruit.”
Both of these tarts were beautifully crafted, however, I was rather underwhelmed. While the fillings were delicious and properly balanced, the tart crust disintegrated immediately after I was able to cut through using a sharp knife. Pieces of the crust landed across the table which was slightly embarrassing.
The only tart I regretted not getting was the Chocolate Hazelnut Tart. However, when I returned home, I found a copycat recipe that turned out beautifully. I made it for the November Birthday Order and got some very positive feedback. It was, as my mother-in-law described it, “dessert cart-worthy.” The recipe, from the blog, What’s On My Plate, is an adaptation of Tartine’s recipe. It was straightforward and fairly easy to make. The only negative was that I tried to whip the eggs with my electric hand-mixer and nearly rendered my right hand unusable for the remainder of the day (oops!) But next time, I won’t have that problem – I’m (finally!) investing in a stand mixer. Yay!
ACME’s Olive Bread Roll
ACME Bread Company. I went to the Ferry Building on The Embarcadero and got two rolls – Cranberry Pecan and Olive. They were both really, really delicious. I tried to set aside the Cranberry Pecan one for Jeff and only eat the Olive one myself, but that didn’t work out so well 🙂 These hearty rolls kept me company during my exploits in Oakland, visiting one of best friends of over 20 years!!! They stayed fresh, wrapped in paper, over multiple days – they were truly a lifesaver.
Noe Valley Bakery. This bakery, booed by many, was by far, my favorite! This neighborhood bakery was nestled between the most adorable flower shop and the friendliest salon on 24th Street. This place was styled EXACTLY how I hope to style my future tea room/bake shop – with clean lines, plenty of wood details, and woven baskets of decorative breads! Unlike the other bakeries I visited, the staff at Noe was genuine and extraordinarily helpful. I think the atmosphere in a bakery is second only to the quality of the baked goods; and Noe hit it on the mark. I just barely passed on a local’s recommendation that I get the Milky Way Bombe (sounded interesting and completely decadent), and instead ordered the Apricot Ginger Fruit Bread and a mini Babka. I ate the Babka right away – it was great! I saved the fruit bread for later – it ended up having a lovely cross-section being jammed with succulent apricots and made me look forward to lunch each day for the next week. It was delicious toasted with cheese or plain. I will definitely try to experiment with more fruit breads next year.
Noe Valley Bakery’s Chocolate Babka
On a side note, when researching bakeries to visit, I nearly skipped over the Noe Valley Bakery, finding the website dated and not very user friendly (though, I think the logo is whimsical and adorable). In fact, the look of the website and look of the retail space are completely inconsistent. I wonder if that’s why people discouraged me from trying it. Or maybe it was because it wasn’t trending now, like Tartine. Well, whatever it lacks in outside popularity, it more than makes up for in substance. Very happy I walked multiple steep blocks in my new cranberry suede wedges for the pleasure 🙂
Very much looking forward to other culinary destinations in 2015!
corrie @ Peachie’s Treats