Thursday, May 26, 2016

Tartine Bakery

Update Review, April 2016

Morning Bun.  $4.20.
"Cinnamon sugar, candied orange."

Ah, the famous Tartine morning bun.  I've had a few of these in my life, to mixed success. I haven't ever disliked them, but haven't necessarily understood the hype.

This time was no different.  It was very, very crispy on the outside, but not in that nice caramelized way.  One edge, the left side here, was actually really burnt and dried out.

The entire thing did have a nice sugar coating, and the dough was decent, but, it certainly wasn't magical in any way.  It also did finally taste like orange, something I always noted before that was lacking (but, actually, I prefer to not taste the orange ...).

So, it was fine, and I'd eat another if it showed up, but, I wouldn't seek this out.  I still really want to try their bread pudding though!

Two years ago, I published my original Tartine review, and, a morning bun was $3.85.  I guess, inflation?

Original Review, March 2014

If you live in San Francisco, and have any friends who reside anywhere near the Mission, you've inevitably been to Tartine.  Or seen the lines on a weekend morning.  Or at least had someone enthusiastically show up at a party with some of their goods.  It is definitely an institution.  Even my mom, who lives in New Hampshire, called me up one day asking me if I'd been, as she read something about it somewhere.

I don't live in the Mission, I don't go there often these days, and quite honestly I don't get the Tartine hype.  I much prefer getting bread from Acme, and while the croissants are indeed pretty awesome at Tartine, the other things I've tried (particularly the cookies), haven't been all that memorable, and there are plenty of other places to get good baked goods in the city.  That said, they do have an absolutely incredible sounding banana cream tart, with caramel and chocolate layers, that I really, really want to try sometime.  If you are looking for a way to bribe me for any reason, please bring me a slice of that :)

Pastries

Morning Bun.  $3.85.
This is perhaps Tartine's most famous treat.  Made with croissant dough, and loaded up with butter, sugar, cinnamon, and some subtle orange flavor.  It is crispy on the outside, doughy on the inside, and ridiculously sweet.  And delicious.  Apparently even better if you get it fresh out of the oven in the morning.  Famous, and hyped, for a reason.

Update: I love all the cinnamon and sugar and the crunchy exterior, but the inside is not as moist as I recall, and I don’t really taste the orange (not that I want to).  It didn't live up to my memory, but it was still a nice sugary treat.
Pain au jambon, $4.95.
This photo shows less than half of one. These things are massive-tastic.  The croissant dough is flaky, crispy, buttery, and perfectly browned. Filled with ham and gruyere.  High price, but it is basically a meal :)  My favorite of their goods.

Previous tasting notes: [ The gruyere in here is just so good.  And it combines perfectly with ham.  And damn, they really just do make the best croissants. ] [ This thing is even more amazing if you warm it up in a toaster oven.  The cheese gets so melty, and the layers of croissant dough get a bit moist.  Absolutely amazingly delicious. ]
Frangipane Croissant. $4.50.
This was my least favorite, by far.  I'm not sure if you can see in the picture, but it was sadly burnt.  I hoped it wouldn't effect the taste, but it did.  I tasted ... soot, and it was fairly dry.

That said, it was the same buttery, delicious croissant dough, and was filled with frangipane and sliced almonds, topped with more sliced almonds and powdered sugar.  If it hadn't been over-cooked, it would have been quite good.

Like all of their pastries, it was hugetastic.

Update review (June 2015):
I had another of these when someone brought in a bunch to work.  It too looked burnt, and I was initially put off.  But, I came around to it. I think this must just be Tartine style.

Yes, it was very crispy.  It leaned almost too far in the burnt category, but managed to stay on the caramelized and crispy side of the scale instead.  I loved the crispy actually.  Inside was dense and obviously very buttery, but not quite as flaky as I was expecting.

The almond frangipane filling wasn't very generous either.

So, hard to call it amazing, when there are plenty of things I criticize about it, but, the quality of the croissant dough is certainly there.

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Croissant. $4.20. 

Buttery, flaky, delicious.  Crispy on the outside, moist on the inside.  Definitely one of the best croissants I've ever had, but pricy at $4.20 each.  This is the same base that they use for the other filled varieties.

Update: Very textbook croissant, large size, easy to split with someone, incredibly flaky exterior.  Quiet messy, as flakes get everywhere!  But a bit boring to just eat plain.  I’d want jam with it, or I prefer the almond or chocolate ones.

Cakes

Passion Fruit Lime Bavarian.
    • Passion Fruit Lime Bavarian. “Lime-moistened genoise with passion fruit Bavarian. Topped with sweetened cream and coconut. "  Tasting notes: Light and fluffy genoise, but pretty boring as a cake layer, and I didn’t taste the lime.  The cream was intensely passion fruit flavored, but far more tart than I was expecting, not sweet at all.  Perhaps some of the lime in the cake is what I was tasting here?  The outside had sweetened whipped cream and coconut flakes, both things I like, but the whipped cream was very masked by the strong flavors of the passionfruit, and the coconut flakes were not toasted.
    • Tres Leches Cake, $5.50 slice. "Sweet coconut milk moistened chiffon, layered with cajeta and crema".  Tasting notes: A friend brought this to a party.  It did not look like anything special, not like something from a professional bakery, and certainly not from somewhere as famous as Tartine.  Many people kept asking if she had made it.  While it didn't win any beauty awards, it was obvious fairly quickly upon tasting it that this was not just a home cook's little cake.  First, it was unlike any tres leches cake I've ever had.  The bottom crust seemed to be made from their croissant dough?  The layers were moist and flavorful, with pastry cream in between them, and topped with whipped cream.  It somehow wasn't too sweet.  A nicely made cake, but the flaky croissant-like crust is really what made it something special.

Other Baked Goods

Lemon Cream Tart.  $6.75.
“Sweet pastry shell filled with rich lemon cream, topped with unsweetened cream”.  

Standard tart shell, hard style, not particularly interesting.  The filling was very tart, and lemon, which is not ever something that I like.  The whipped cream was not sweetened, quite rare, and so it tasted like … cream.  Fluffy cream.  Nothing wrong with that!

Definitely not something I care for, and the $6.75 price tag seemed high for a small individual size tart.
Currant Buttermilk Scone, $3.25.
Clearly, this photo was taken after I'd already dug in.  Whoops.  Good enough, but nothing amazing, hard style. Rolled in giant sugar crystals.

Previous tasting notes:  I really liked the buttermilk tang to it.  Did not hold up at all to a second day, got very soggy. I don't blame them though, no scones really keep!

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Gougère, $3.50: 

This was HUGE!  Decent flaky dough, decent cheese inside, but somehow just not that interesting overall.  Not bad, but not great.

Update: Very light and airy, cheesy, not bad.

Cookies

    • Coco Nib Rocher, $0.75.  Basically a meringue filled with cocoa nibs.  Nice crunch from nibs, very nice cloudlike consistency, a little too sweet.  Not really my thing.  Good price though.
    • Mexican Wedding Cookie, $0.85.  Covered in powdered sugar.  Not my thing, but another good price.
    • Toasted Almond Rocher, $0.75. Sweet, really nice almond, better than nib version, favorite of the cookies I've tried.
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