Neighbor Bakehouse (San Francisco)


Neighbor Bakehouse is a bakery in the up-and-coming Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco that makes a variety of delicious sweet and savory pastries.  Neighbor excels at pastries with laminated dough, making a wonderfully flaky croissant.  They also have delicious pastries filled with passionfruit creme and chocolate.  Other standouts include the ginger pull-apart and the pistachio croissant.  I was a little disappointed in their country loaf, but otherwise everything is of really good quality.  There is usually street parking available along 3rd Street.  Inside is mostly occupied by the baking area, with a small area for people to choose their goods.  There are picnic tables with benches outside where one can enjoy the treats, but it sometimes gets chilly in this area.  Overall, Neighbor is not just a neighborhood place, but a worthy destination bakery.

 

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Breakfast in LA: Sqirl, Huckleberry, Eggslut, The Larder


LA has a number of great breakfast spots.  My favorite is Sqirl, run by Chef Jennifer Koslow.  At Sqirl they serve unique grain bowls that are savory, brightly acidic, herbaceous, and deliciously well-balanced.  I really liked their signature dish, the sorrel pesto rice, which comes with tangy goat cheese, pickled radishes and a runny egg.  Another delicious grain bowl is their crispy rice with herbs (add an egg and sausage).  Here in the Bay Area we have $4 toast, and at Sqirl they make an incredible avocado toast with creme fraiche and pickled carrots, and a brioche toast with homemade jam and ricotta.  They also make some specials, salads and sandwiches for lunch, and baked goods (cakes, cookies).  As in LA, one must drive there (on Virgil near Silver Lake), and I have always been able to find neighborhood parking.  There is seating both inside and out, and usually a line (get there early). Several of Chef Koslow’s recipes have been published in a feature in Bon Appetit, and a cookbook will be published Fall 2016.

Another of my favorites is HuckleberryI have been baking regularly from Chef Zoe Nathan’s beautiful cookbook before I tried the actual restaurant, which is a bright and cheerful place in Santa Monica.  They have a display case with all of their delicious baked goods, and one can also order breakfast dishes, salads, and sandwiches.

Eggslut is located in the bustling downtown LA food hall Grand Central Market.  They make egg sandwiches and their signature coddled egg on top of potatoes that is poached in a small glass jar.  Delicious.

I am a big fan of Chef Suzanne Goin and her collection of restaurants in LA.  The Larder, in Hollywood, serves up delicious breakfast fare and baked goods in a casual atmosphere.

 

 

 

 

Bakery Review: b. patisserie (San Francisco, CA)


I had a perfect bite of pastry at b. patisserie recently.  I went to the shop looking forward to getting one of their kouign amman, for which they are justly famous.  I arrived at 5:15 on a Saturday afternoon, and there was a line around the counter.  I scanned the pastries on display at the counter; after a typically busy day there were only a few pastries left, including one lone kouign amman.  Please, no one take it, I thought to myself  Of course, one of the customers ahead of me snagged it, and my heart sunk in disappointment.  Then, disappointment turned to excitement as the person behind the counter announced that more will be coming in six minutes.  Six minutes, and I can taste one fresh out of the oven?  Yes please!  A freshly baked kouign amman from b. patisserie is incredible.  The crisp flaky richness of the outer layers, slightly underdone interior, and warm sweet syrup in the center were at their peak deliciousness.  Don’t get me wrong, a room temperature kouign amman baked that day is still pretty good, but one that is just a few minutes out of the oven?  Perfect.

The store is located on California at Divisidero.  The chef, Belinda Leong, trained with Pierre Herme in Paris and can usually be seen working in the open bakery.  I watched one of the chefs encase an enormous block of butter into some dough, and then use a machine with a conveyor belt to pass the laminated dough through a roller to make perfect layers.  I need one of those!  So much easier than rolling the dough out by hand with a rolling pin!

Bakery Review: The Mill (San Francisco, CA)


The Mill toast with apricot jam

The Mill toast with apricot jam

As usual, I am many months late following up on trends, but I finally tried the toast at The Mill in San Francisco.  The Mill is Josey Baker’s bakery where he sells his signature breads and baked goods in a joint venture with Four Barrel Coffee.  They make exceptional bread, using whole grain flour that they grind in-house and naturally leaven with wild yeast.  Their bread is served at some of San Francisco’s best restaurants, like State Bird Provisions and Frances.  The toast became famous among various food sites last year as “$4 Toast” or “Hipster Toast” (see write-up in Bon Appetit for example.)

The toast is made from thick slices of one of Josey Baker’s breads, like the country loaf.  It is spread with a generous amount of salted butter and and various toppings, like their own apricot jam and version of nutella.  I thought it was excellent, satisfying comfort food with elevated artisanal ingredients, justifying the hype and the notoriety.  I also sampled their seeded country loaf, which had a great crust, soft interior, and complex, slightly tangy, nutty flavor.  Their chocolate chip cookie was excellent as well, made with 100% stone ground whole grain flour and a generous amount of high-quality chocolate.  The Josey Baker Bread Cookbook is definitely on my list to get.

The Mill has an open, warm interior filled with light from the skylights above.  There is a long communal table as well as smaller tables and a parklet outside.  There is an open kitchen area where the tattooed baristas, bakers, and cooks work, making the toast along with homemade nutella or jam.  The Mill is located in a great neighborhood along the Divisadero corridor in San Francisco, with neighbors including Bi-rite grocery, Bar Crudo, and 4505 Burgers and BBQ.

The Mill, 736 Divisadero, San Francisco, CA

Link to The Mill website here.

Link to Josey Baker Bread Cookbook here.

The Mill on Urbanspoon

Boston’s Best Bakeries


Recently I had the opportunity to revisit Boston and some of my favorite bakeries there.

Clear Flour Bakery is a great neighborhood bakery established in 1983 that makes great French bread and pastries and rustic fruit tarts.  My favorite is the morning bun, flaky with caramelized sugar and walnuts.  Their baguettes are outstanding as are their seasonal fruit tarts.

Mike’s Pastries in the North End serves classic Italian cannoli, cookies, pies, and cakes.  They serve many different types of cannoli, with ricotta-based fillings flavored with vanilla, chocolate, or almond, dipped in pistachios, chocolate chips, or oreos.  There are rum-soaked cakes and the dense ricotta pie.  It’s definitely a calorie bomb.

Flour Bakery and Cafe was established by Joanne Chang.  From the original location in the South End, Flour has expanded to other sites in Boston and Cambridge.  The breakfast sandwich was delicious with thick cut bacon and egg on a fresh roll.  I am a big fan of the Flour cookbook.

Finally, while on the East Coast I couldn’t help stopping by Dunkin’ Donuts!

Clear Flour Bakery – 178 Thorndike Ave, Brookine, MA, website here

Mike’s Pastries – 300 Hannover St, Boston, website here

Flour Bakery and Cafe – multiple locations, website here

Craftsman and Wolves, part IX


Pear and yuzu croissant

Pear and yuzu croissant

Okay, I am not sure exactly how many times I have been to this bakery, but it’s a lot (see here and here).  They put up three new items on their Tumblr/Instagram feed last week – the morning bun, gingersnap quince cube cake, and, yes, I will drive up to San Francisco to try the Thanksgiving dinner pop-tart.  The best item I tried this was actually the pear and yuzu croissant.  A buttery, flaky croissant filled with roasted pear and bits of yuzu citrus, adorned with a candied almond sculpture.  Brilliant and delicious.

Craftsman and Wolves Autumn 2013


Apple & coconut tart — vanilla, rye palet

Apple & coconut tart — vanilla, rye palet

What I love about Craftsman and Wolves is their constantly evolving, seasonal menu.  Some things never go off the menu (Thai scone, Rebel Within) while other new creations pop up and then are gone (come back, banana cube cake!).  William Werner’s team comes up with really creative pastries that are a compelling reason to come back again and again and again… Some recent updates:

root vegetable croissant made with harissa butter

special Halloween cube cake: pumpkin, cocoa nib, praline

chocolate choquette — dark chocolate, passion fruit cream, shaved black sesame

tarragon and almond cake — grapefruit confiture, sable

apple & coconut tart — vanilla, rye palet

Link to Craftsman and Wolves website here.

Link to previous post on Craftsman and Wolves here.

Recipe Review: Thomas Keller Bouchon Cream Puffs


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Cream puffs are light and airy pastries that puff and rise in the absence of any agents such as baking powder or yeast.  They are made from a classic French pastry dough, pate a choux.  Water and butter are brought to a simmer, then flour is added to form a thick paste.  Eggs are then added to the dough, which can then be piped into various shapes, such as cream puffs or eclairs.  The dough’s water content forms steam which creates air pockets and rise in the pastry when baked.

Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel’s recipe for pate a choux has no sugar in it.  Instead, an ingenious “cookie” made of flour, brown sugar, butter, and almond meal is placed on top of the pate a choux, which bakes on top and forms a sweet, crunchy crust.  I had a little bit of trouble with the cookie crumbling when I tried to cut out rounds, but it didn’t matter too much.  The cookbook recommends piping the dough into silicone mold half-spheres to make perfectly uniform shapes, but I simply piped them onto a Silpat, per the suggestion of The Food Groupie Club blog site.

The cream puffs were delicious and airy with the sweet crunchy cookie crust.  They can be filled with ice cream or Thomas Keller’s pastry cream.  The puffs are best eaten soon after baking, because they soften by the next day.

One does need a pastry piping kit to pipe out the pate a choux and the pastry cream, such as this set made by Wilton.

Level of difficulty: difficult (easier than the Bouchon Pain au Chocolat and Pain aux Raisins)

Cost: about $10-15 for 24 puffs

Deliciousness: delicious (4 of 5 stars)

Healthy: no

Make again: yes

As I make more recipes from Bouchon Bakery cookbook, I have found that this book basically gives you perfect recipes for classic french pastries.  Link to Bouchon Bakery cookbook here.

Bakery Review: Craftsman and Wolves (San Francisco, CA)


There are so many great bakeries in the Bay Area like Tartine, Bouchon, and Sandbox, and Craftsman and Wolves is my new favorite.  C & W opened last year, and what I like about it is that almost everything has a modern twist.  They are famous for the “Rebel Within” a sausage and scallion muffin with a soft-boiled egg in the middle, the yolk oozing out as you cut into it.  How did they do that?  There are bold flavors, like a Thai scone with coconut, dried mango, ginger, and green curry, or a peppery smoked cheddar gougere.  There is a decadent “Devil” chocolate cake, with chocolate ganache and bitter chocolate toffee, and a refined and delicate chocolate caramel eclair. The brownie had a layer of delicious, gooey salted caramel.  The blueberry muffin was moist with a hint of lemon. The croissants are on point, filled with proscuitto, tomato jam, and other rotating flavors.  Oatmeal raisin and chocolate chip cookies are done well, especially the valrhona chocolate chip cookie, where it appeared like there was a sheet of chocolate that ran through the middle of the cookie.  They also have a great hot chocolate.  The Banana cube cake is maybe one of the best pastries I have ever eaten.  Basically everything has been truly well crafted and delicious, and I look forward to trying other items on the menu, such as their sandwiches, cakes, and breads.

C & W is located on a very trendy block of Valencia between 18th and 19th in the Mission, right next to the Dandelion Chocolate factory, a small batch artisan chocolate shop, and Mission Cheese, a cheese tasting bar.

Link to Craftsman and Wolves here.  There is a great video of Chef William Werner putting together one of his precise cube cakes here.

Craftsman & Wolves on Urbanspoon
 

Cosmo Bakery and Maison Kayser (Taipei, Taiwan)


The Western-style breads in Taiwanese bakeries are very different from what we are used to in the US or Europe.  The Taiwanese breads are pillowy soft and sweeter (and they stay fresh for a longer time).  Cosmo bakery is located on the corner of Mingshen E. Rd and Kuangfu N. Rd. They bake breads on site throughout the day with unique flavor combinations.  I particularly liked a chocolate bread with sweet cheese filling.  Cosmo has a generous sample policy, where guests can try each of their breads.  The store on Mingshen E. Rd is currently their only location, but I have a feeling that more Cosmo bakeries will be coming soon (Bay Area please!).  Like most food items in Taiwan, the breads are very reasonably priced.

I was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon a branch of Eric Kayser’s Parisian bakery Maison Kayser in the food court of the luxury Breeze Center mall in the Shongshan District of Taipei.  They had crusty French bread and pastries, similar to the ones available in Paris.  I had a delicious Tarte Citron and Millefeuille.

Link to Breeze Center Maison Kayser here.

Link to Cosmo Bakery here.

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