Category Archives: San Francisco bakeries

A True Story of Pastry Paralysis

beachside cafe pastry display san francisco

Photo courtesy of yelp.com

On a Saturday in mid-March, I walked 2.6 miles and 42 blocks down Irving Street to Beachside Cafe, and I was hungry.

My hunger grew the longer I walked, and along with it, hungry indecision. In my mind, I could see a pastry, the perfect, tender, sweet, and comforting pastry that would solve my craving, but I couldn’t quite make out what it was. Was it a cookie, a scone, a cinnamon bun or twist? It was impossible to tell.

There was almost no line as I walked into Beachside, and a full display of pastries glowed in the light of hunger and baked good glory. This was the first level of disaster. When faced with a display of pastries in which everything looked good, my mind froze up solid. I was left staring open-mouthed at the pastry display like the first Adam trying to name a billion different orange-colored things. I began to ask the server a series of questions, becoming more dissatisfied with every answer.

“What is your favorite?” “I really like banana nut muffin and the peanut butter cookie.” (boo)

“What’s your most popular pastry?” “The chocolate chip cookie.”(duh)

“What your second most popular pastry?” “Blueberry muffin?” (boring)

“Is the blueberry scone good?” “Yes.” (obvs)

“What’s that thing” “Scallion-bacon scone.” (weird)

“And that?” “Cinnamon apple muffin.” (reminds me too much of oatmeal)

These were the questions of a woman who clearly had no idea how to satisfy her need for a pastry or even what that particular need was. The crux of the issue is that I knew there was a right answer – there was a pastry on the shelf that would satisfy my deepest desires and yearnings, but I didn’t know how to find it, and I was terrified of missing the chance to sample the perfect pastry.

At last I chose the peanut butter cookie, and it was tasty – probably one of the better PB cookies I’ve had, but it didn’t hit the spot, the spot that cannot be named. It’s not the chocolate, pie, or berry spot. It is the pastry spot, and it is left un-hit, a hole in my soul that still seeks to be satisfied.

The quest continues. Who will win? The spot, or the human?

If you liked this, you might also like Experimentation in Pastries at Craftsmen and Wolves, Purchasing and Eating a Sandwich, and Deconstructed Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich.

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Experimentation in Pastries at Craftsman & Wolves

craftsman and wolves the rebel within

the rebel within

Craftsman & Wolves is a new-ish bakery on Valencia St. It is not a carpentry supply store or a bizarre dance studio/cult. It’s one of those bakeries where it’s easy to be overcome with blind fear, the same fear a child experiences when they begin screaming after discovering they’re holding a stranger’s hand.

At first, everything looks delicious and I’m feeling confident.  I’m like, “Bakery….I know bakery. Bakery has cookie, has cake, has bread.” But then bakery turns out to have things called “the rebel within,” and “pain au cochon,” and a scone with “mango, ginger, coconut, and kaffir lime.” And when the woman helping boyfriend and me decide points to something and explains, “this is a financier,” I know that this is not the bakery of my homespun, capitalist youth (Panera).

Nevertheless, we persevere, wading through the muck of over-descriptive pastry names and decision-anxiety. We purchased one (1) brewed coffee, one (1) small latte, one (1) chocolate chip cookie, one (1) “rebel within,” and one (1) sesame passion fruit croissant. The total cost: a cool twenty (20) dollars. I wonder what my sister would say, the one that called $1 popcorn at the Wichita botanical garden “a rip-off.”

The place is packed and we’re forced to sit next to strangers. I’m not mad, I’m just telling it how it is.

We dig into the food, delicately placed on square ceramic plates that are clearly not from Ikea. The first surprise is that the rebel of “the rebel within” is a soft-boiled egg. BOOM. SURPRISE. The yoke is gooey and fairly delicious (if you like egg juice), adding to the flakey, hammy, biscuity, exterior. Unfortunately, the dough around the egg is a little raw, disappointing for a place that calls itself “a notion.”

The cookie was tantalizing, salty enough to make sure everyone knows there’s salt in it, and plenty of chocolate even for the women. It wasn’t doughy at all (though it was described as such by a review in 7×7), but I’d definitely stop back in on a day that I deserve a treat and dunk that mother-nucker in some Nescafe instant coffee (BRING ON THE BOOS! I FEED OFF YOUR HATRED!)

The third baked item, the croissant, was a little sad and dry. The flavor was good, but if I’d had a pat of softened butter or some edible lotion I would have moisturized the crap out of it.

Upon leaving Craftsman & Wolves, I knew I would probably return, if only for their carnitas and machengo mac and cheese. It was fairly tasty and certainly interesting. Maybe next time I’ll get something even more inscrutable, like a buckwheat, concord grape, and peanut butter cube cake.  Just try to figure that one out.

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