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. . .