Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Gladly Wanting Seconds at Tartine Bakery

After being inspired by the "Single Guy Chef's" recent visit, I decided to pay a visit to the famed Tartine Bakery, located in the artsy-fartsy and culinarily gifted Mission District of San Francisco.

The usual line snaking out the door of Tartine moved relatively quickly because I randomly struck up a conversation with a customer behind me. The customer informed me that Tartine Bakery was "dubbed the best bakery in the United States by the New York Times" and I would be in for a "real" treat. He proceeded to launch into an arousing speech about Tartine's pastries--his glowing speech was worthy of a standing ovation.

As I listened to his mouthwatering descriptions of Tartine's legendary pain au chocolat, my appetite increased like a grizzly bear's and I hungrily clasped onto the menu with my sweaty hands until my knuckles were white. I remember responding, "Gulp. For lack of a better response, that sounds reeeeal good sir."

Meanwhile, I slowly ascended forward in the queue.

Before I knew it, I was at the front of the line and directly facing the worker standing behind the glass counter. I furiously and studiously scoured the menu with a furrowed brow. There were a plethora of decadent dessert options: cake interlayered with ganache, passion fruit bavarian cake, flourless chocolate mousse cake, and open-faced croque monsieur sandwiches. The longer I looked at the menu, the more blurred my vision became. With Tartine's mouthwatering selection, I knew that there was no way I was gonna make my mind up in time for the cashier. The waiter behind the polished and spotless glass display case inquisitively raised his eyebrows at me. Again. And again. And again.

He exasperatedly inquired with a forced smile, "Are you ready yet Miss?"

I could tell that his patience was running thin, as was the patience of all the customers waiting behind me.

"Just give me a few more seconds. I guess I'll have a single order of a . . . Frangipane tart. And . . .No wait . . . Or no. . . Add a chocolate eclair to my order. No, take it off. Or you can add it back on. What the hay, put it on my order."

My hasty decision felt so rushed and uninformed.

Soon after I paid the cashier, I opened the thin cardboard boxes holding my desserts and plopped by derriere onto the sidewalk.

First up was the chocolate eclair. With the gooey, chocolate covered eclair firmly implanted between my opposing fingers, I opened my mouth wide for the taste. One bite and I found myself standing at the pearly gates with Saint Andrew, Saint Peter, and Saint Augustus.

It was perfection.

My teeth instantaneously broke the thin and airy crust covering the vanilla custard. The custard was thick, velvety, goopy, and luscious. One taste and I felt as though I was transported to the soda counters of the 1950s and was eating chilled spoonfuls "real" vanilla ice cream made fresh from the creamery. Upon closer inspection of the eclair, I spotted visible black specks of vanilla bean interspersed in the custard pudding. Furthermore, the chilled chocolate coating had formed delicate beads of condensation and looked like a glistening and bejeweled chocolate robe. Yum. That stuff is real vanilla and chocolate, yo.

Next, I cut into the berry tart.

The open slice revealed tenuous layers of crisp and buttery pastry crust that had baked until each paper-thin pastry level was perfectly golden brown. The seasonal blackberries that decorated the top of the tart had melted into the crust and had concentrated their sugary flavors during the baking process. The flaky crust had also absorbed the almond and cream filling but acted as a perfect retaining wall in compartmentalizing the unique flavors in different regions of the tart. Finally, the slivers of toasted almonds added the perfect crunch and almond flavor to the dessert.

After I polished off the items I had purchased, I looked over my shoulder at the steadily growing line. Although my stomach was more than satiated, I thoughtfully wondered: "Should I go back to the line and wait for seconds?"

Oh what the hay. . .

15 comments:

  1. Oh my! I absolutely *love* the desserts at Senses Bakery at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Georgia in Vancouver. Thomas Haas works his magic on many delectable desserts and chocolate! Heaven! I haven't been in ages, but I loved everything I tried - must go back and take pictures to share. Thank you for taking me down memory lane.

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  2. PE, this is a great review. You capture perfectly both the frustration and eager anticipation which comes with a visit to this bakery. Very tantalizing descriptions of the pastries too. And yes... not being able to decide what you want until the last minute is pretty frustrating!

    Last time I was there, they had this Scharffen Berger...pudding, I think it was? Did they have anything like that when you went? I didn't try it, but if they're still offering it, it sounds like it'd be pretty hard to go wrong with that.

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  3. I think that eclair is calling my name right now...

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  4. OHMYGOD!! why did you not get more and more?! that looks friggin delicious. give me.

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  5. Oh my! I gave up sweets for Lent and that was painful to see.

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  6. Those look.... amazing. Wow. I've never visited this bakery but now I REALLY want to go there. The best bakery in the USA eh? After reading your post, I'm willing to believe it.


    Ari (Baking and Books)

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  7. That was an awesome description of that chocolate eclair. Welps...this post certainly bumped San Francisco up on my list of places where I'd like to live!

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  8. I loooove Tartine bakery. D took me to Tartine the last time we were up. I want to spend more time there...soaking in some coffee, eclairs and tarts. I love your write-up. We'll be up around May...make time for us! Miss you gorgeous!

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  9. I've been there three times. I highly recommend whatever bread pudding they're serving that day and the delicate and chewy Rochers. I've never had anything bad from them.

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  10. Wow--that stuff looks brilliant, and your description is more than tempting. You make me regret that I am living on the other side of the country right now.

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  11. I have never known words to have flavor, but yours certainly do!! Am I the only one who could taste the eclair just by reading about it?

    I am heading for their web site right now. I hope they have a menu on it!! Thanks, PE

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  12. I can't wait to read your post on the Crowne Plaza Hotel Georgia Archivarian!

    They did have the Sharffen Berger chocolate pudding there when I went Eric. It was in a little espresso cup and had shavings of chocolate and whipped cream on the top. Mmmmm. I agree, it looks like it would totally be delicious!

    Haha, it already called my name Wind Whisperer, and I responded!

    Tiger Fish, they tasted just as good as they looked!

    I was "this close" to going back and filling up my stomach to the brim with more eclairs, but the line was getting a little too long Pink Nest. But I plan on going back this weekend!

    I am sorry Rachel! I won't post any more sweets! But savory food posts, here I come!

    Ari, I heard it from the guy behind me, and after eating there, I believe it too! :)

    I hope we'll be next door neighbors and visit all the bakeries together Christine D.!

    I have it on my calendar Beautiful Jeni! And as I said before, I know Dylan agrees!

    Bread pudding and rochers? My hunger just got upped 100% Cybele! Thanks for the recommendations!

    No regrets Slskenyon, I'll have to mail you some! ;) Or we'll find a fine bakery on the East Coast, and you can make me salivate in jealousy with a delicious food post!

    What a kind compliment Kimba! Thank you, I appreciate your generous comment.

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  13. Hi PE, finally catching up with your post and your blog! I'm glad you enjoyed Tartine. Your photos are so close up I feel like I can eat it off my screen. (Which probably explains the wet marks I'm cleaning up right now. :)

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  14. <a href="http://shopyourmeds.com">mrShop</a>8/02/2007 11:09:00 AM

    Very interesting!

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