Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Sentinel

The Sentinel is a casual sandwich shop located in SOMA, with a sister establishment, The Golden West, in the Financial District.  Both places are tiny, basically little take out windows, serving up sandwiches and salads that have quite the following.  I haven't ever had their lunch fare however.  I go there for one reason: the muffins.

I was first introduced to The Sentinel a few years ago.  It was mid-afternoon, and I was strolling through one of the mini-kitchens at my office, and there was a big container of muffins sitting there.  Being a baked goods fiend, I snatched one up.  I had no idea where they came from, how old they were, or even what kind they were.  But I just had to try them.

I got back to my desk and took a bite.  And then a second later, the entire thing was gone.  It was, hands down, the best muffin I'd ever had.  I needed to know where they came from.  Did a co-worker bake them? Were they from a nearby establishment?  I rushed back to the platter of muffins, but no clues were revealed.  No branding.  What was revealed however, is that there were actually several varieties of muffin.  To further my research, I of course needed to test them all out, just to make sure it wasn't a fluke that the one I had was so amazing.  They were all incredible.  Crispy tops, moist interiors, loaded with chunks of fruit, and covered in sugar.  I'd call them more cake than muffin .... which seemed entirely appropriate  given that it was afternoon.  But back to my mission.  I had to know where they came from.  Since there were several varieties, I determined that it probably wasn't a co-worker's baking skills, as they would likely just make one kind.  But still, I had no more clues.

So, I started walking around, with one of the muffins, and rather frantically asked every person I saw if they knew where the muffins came from.  No one did.  I gave up, dejected.  I consoled myself with another muffin.  I also told everyone I knew about the muffins, thus introducing them all to the best muffins of their lives.

That night, when I was leaving the office, I stopped by the mini-kitchen on my way out.  I was half hoping there would be muffins left, although, honestly, I was stuffed full of them at that point.  There was still one there, but someone else grabbed it just as I came into view.  He must have seen the look on my face, because he offered me half.  I explained that I'd already had an embarrassing number of them, and told him to enjoy it, that they were the best muffins ever.  He grinned and said "I know, I brought them."  Score!  He divulged his secret, and thus, my love of The Sentinel Muffins was born.

I couldn't believe how amazing the muffins were, even when I had them late in the day.  I wondered how much better they could be if I had them fresh.  So I went to The Sentinel several times.  But they were always sold out.  "Come before 9am!" one staff member cheerfully quipped.  "Call ahead to reserve one!", another said.  I kept trying, but continued to fail.

But luckily for me, everyone else loved the muffins too.  One co-worker took it upon himself to bring some in periodically.  He'd arrive there early, get them fresh out of the oven, and bring them to the office.  They were always still hot when they arrived.  OMG.  Since my first experience with the muffins, I do have to admit that I've found muffins I like more, from Baker & Banker, but pretty much everyone I've introduced to these muffins has raved about them.

It also turns out that you can get the same muffins at The Golden West.  I haven't ever acquired them from there, but I hear they are the same.  And if you like their stuff in general, check out Canteen, operated by the same chef.  I haven't been there for dinner yet, but I've had their brunch, and like the muffins, it was filled will delicious baked goods.

So, if you like muffins, go get these, particularly when a favorite fruit of yours is in season (the nectarine ones in the summer are incredible!).  And eat them warm.
Sour Cherry Muffins.
Strawberry Muffins. 
  • Blueberry: Absolutely amazing.  The blueberries were incredibly flavorful and plentiful, the muffin was really loaded up with berries.  Really moist on the inside, a little crispy/crumbly on the top/bottom/side, rolled in sugar!  Definitely not a healthy breakfast item, very sweet overall, particularly with the sugar coating, but really, really delicious.  Ojan and I agreed on liking the same muffin even, which was shocking, as our tastes tend to diverge.  Unfortunately, it did not keep well second day.  It was better cold than heated up actually, as it just got too moist and gummy when heated in foil in toaster oven.  Maybe should have just toasted it? Anyway. Best muffin ever.
  • Nectarine: Same as others, with a crisp top, lots of fruit, moist. Covered in sugar, and very much like cake. Second favorite.
  • Sour Cherry: You guessed it - crisp top, moist interior.  The cherries were indeed sour, which distinguished this muffin from the others in that it was slightly more tart than just sweet.  No sugar on this one.  Still good, but my least favorite.
  • Strawberry: Again, crisp top, lots of fruit, moist inside. No sugar coating. There was parts around the fruit that were almost under-cooked, not in a bad way though, just little pockets of moistness. The strawberries were very large pieces, some whole even. Third favorite. I wish it had the sugar!
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