Thursday, March 24, 2016

Craftsman & Wolves

Craftsman & Wolves is a bakery that was on my radar for a very, very long time before I finally tried it.  It opened in San Francisco in the Mission several years ago, and then just really took off.  They added a stand at the Ferry Building on Saturdays, then a second location in San Francisco, and now a spin-off down in LA.

For most people, Craftsman & Wolves is on their radar because of the signature item, "The Rebel Within", a cheesy sausage muffin with a egg baked inside of it.  It is a thing of instagram wonder.  It brings in the crowds, for sure.  I haven't had the Rebel, since eggs just aren't really my thing, but the other baked goods sound and look good as well.  I enjoyed a few items, but never found anything to be as rave worthy as others seem to.  Maybe I need to go back for a Rebel?

My encounters all took place at their Ferry Building stand at the Saturday market, so, I have no comments to make about their storefront.

Scones

Yellow Corn Scone / Stonefruit / Sweet Basil. $3.50.
This was one of the most unique scones I have ever tried!  Yes, corn, stonefruit, and basil.  In a scone.  It was somehow both sweet and savory at the same time.

The scone base was not sweetened, it had a great tang, which I always like.

The Brentwood corn was roasted, and the kernels were left whole.  There might have been some more ground up like cornmeal in the scone base, but I couldn't quite tell.

The stone fruit used in this particular scone was apricot, which came in little tiny cubes, which added a pleasant chew and sweetness.

The glaze on top was actually basil glaze, so it also wasn't very sweet, although, it was a glaze, so it had some sweetness to it.

This was a really fun scone, and quite delicious.  The texture of the base scone was nicely crumbly, I liked having the slight chew from the chunks of apricot, and the glaze was hardened on top, so there were several different textures at play, something I always appreciate.  And I liked that my brain was confused the entire time if I was eating something sweet or savory, and wondering why there was corn in my scone.  (But, I've had many corn muffins or cornbread that had full kernels in it, so, why not in a scone?  In fact, this did somewhat remind me of cornbread, just with a totally different texture ...)

I also really liked how the ingredients worked together, although I'd never expect them to.  Corn and basil, sure.  Apricot and basil even, as many desserts these days include basil.  But corn and apricot?  Certainly not something I'd think of putting together.  But it all worked.

I really enjoyed this, and I'd gladly have another, and it mades me excited to try more of their seasonal scones.  $3.50 for a good sized scone was a fine price, particularly given that it was made with so many fresh market ingredients.
Thai Scone / House Green Curry / Coconut / Mango. $2.
Remember how I said the corn and stone fruit scone was the most unique scone I'd ever had?  Well, that was true ... until I had my next scone from Craftsman & Wolves: the Thai scone.

I was planning to get the corn scone again, since I'd liked it so much the first time, but alas, the season changed, and corn and stone fruit were long gone.  There were two scones to pick from this time around, a Thai scone, or a apple and cheese version.  I grew up eating apple pie with cheese melted on top, so that scone sounded pretty normal to me, but the vibrant colors of the Thai scone won me over.  It doesn't show up well in this photo, but it was bright green, with pops of orange from the mango studded throughout.

Not only did it look unique, it also sounded fascinating.  Most of the ingredients were fairly non-standard for a scone (mango, coconut, ginger), but fell within the realm of reason.  But ... green curry?  In a scone?  I had no idea if I should expect something sweet or savory.

The answer was, like the corn and apricot scone, it was a bit of both.  The curry flavor was there, providing a savory aspect.  The base almost seemed like it could have been more of a biscuit than a scone.  But studded throughout were bursts of sweetness in the little chunks of candied ginger and larger chunks of dried mango.  Shredded coconut on top rounded it out.

The flavors and textures all worked well together, and it was interesting to consume.  I had it mid-morning, which worked fine, but I might have found it a bit too savory and a bit too flavorful for a breakfast item, which is when I normally have my scones.

The downside is that it was fairly dry.  I know scones aren't supposed to be moist, but, it seemed almost overcooked, or perhaps a bit stale.  I think it would have been better with just a touch less time in the oven, or, perhaps some kind of glaze on top.

This scone was also much smaller than my previous one.  It was shrunk down to a really pleasant size.  It wasn't tiny like the petite vanilla scones you can get at Starbucks that don't actually leave you satisfied, but it wasn't so large you felt remotely guilty devouring it.  The price was scaled accordingly, to a perfectly reasonable $2.  I wish more places made smaller sized treats!

Cookies

Cashew "Isle of Gold" Curry Cookie. $3.
I'm not generally one for cookies.  In the realm of baked goods, cookies are pretty near the bottom of my list.  Unless they are fresh baked, warm, and gooey, then I might make an exception.  But I'd still prefer just about anything else.

So ... why did I get a cookie?  Well, it was afternoon when I stopped by the Craftsman & Wolves stand at the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market, and, it just didn't seem quite right to get a scone at 1:30pm.  So, cookie it was.  Plus, I know Ojan likes cookies, so I figured I'd be "nice" and bring it to him ... if I didn't like it.  (Yes, he knows my tricks, it isn't like he can't figure out why he randomly gets "gifts" of cookies with bites out of them!)

Anyway, the cookie.  It was a crispy-style, something I never like.  I should have known this just from looking at it, but I still picked it.  Ok, strike one, but not necessarily the cookie's fault, I know some people like crisp cookies.  Also, I don't actually like cashews all that much.  But the night before, I had these amazing sugar and coconut coated cashews at a party, and I'd been drooling over the thought of them since.  So, cashews did sound somewhat appealing at the moment.  The cashews were cut up in chunks, but still large enough that I could tell they were cashews and not some other nut.  They were ... fine.  And finally, the curry.  I didn't really detect it, particularly not in the nice way I had with the curry infused scone.

For me, there just wasn't much going on in this cookie.  The curry was too subtle to taste, it was a style of cookie I don't like, and, it was just really quite boring, something I never expected from a cookie with such a bold name (side note: no, I have no idea what the "Isle of Gold" reference is about).

Thus, I brought it home to gift to Ojan.  He went out of his way to tell me he liked it.  You must understand, for him to volunteer a review of an item without me dragging it out of him is a big deal.  So he did actually like it.  He said he wouldn't have known it was cashew if I hadn't told him, and would have assumed it was peanut, which is funny to me, since the nuts weren't so coarsely cut that you could still see their shape.  Cashews don't look like peanuts!  He also said he didn't taste curry necessarily, but rather, "some strange spicing".  He detected that something was a bit unique about it, he just could not tell what exactly.

I clearly wouldn't get another one of these for me, but Ojan said he'd get another.
Valrhona Chocolate Chip Cookie. $3.
"Made with Valrhona 80% chocolate and topped with sea salt"

By now, you know that I don't tend to like cookies all that much, particularly crispy style.  I picked this up mostly for Ojan.

But of course I tried a bite before bringing it to him.  Or, I intended to just try a bite.  It turns out, I liked the cookie and wanted more.  Ojan only got half.

Yes, it was a crispy cookie.  I prefer soft gooey cookies.  But, it was sweet, it was buttery, and it was loaded up with really high quality dark chocolate.  And the little bit of salt on the finish was perfect.  Ojan took one bite and said "I see why you liked this cookie".  I looked at him quizzically.  "It is 90% butter, 5% sugar, and 5% chocolate", he said.  Doh.  Got me.  I like my butter.

$3 is a bit high for a cookie, but it is a quite large cookie.  I wouldn't get another for myself, but I'd gladly steal a few bites now and then from Ojan ...

Other

Créme Fraîche / Grains of Paradise / Muscovado Morning Bun. $4.
"Soft vanilla freckled bun with créme fraîche, three shades of sugar and grains of paradise."

The next time I encountered Craftsman & Wolves, the morning bun was calling my name.

Now, I had read Yelp reviews in advance, and people generally seemed unimpressed with this item, but it really did sound like the perfect thing to go along with my coffee and some fresh fruit.  Plus, I do love a good cinnamon roll / morning bun / etc.

It was incredibly moist, actually damp, which was a bit strange.  It had a generous coating of cinnamon and sugar on the outside, but the dough itself wasn’t particularly flavorful, and it didn’t have cinnamon and sugar rolled up inside like I was expecting.  Less good than most morning buns I’ve had.  It reminded me more of a cinnamon sugar donut hole than a morning bun.

I also didn't taste the pepperyness I was expecting from the grains of paradise, and most certainly never encountered créme fraîche.  I know Craftsman & Wolves is known for having interesting ingredients mixed in, so I expected these elements to be prominent, and to not even taste them was a letdown. 

$4 was a little high for something that was so plain.  Maybe I'm just missing something here, or, alas, maybe the Yelpers were right about this one.  I wouldn't get another.

Confections

Toasted Pistachio and Cherry Fudge.  $1.
These were sitting by the register.  I couldn't resist.  They were too cute.  You know, for "later".
Inside the fudge.
Inside the wrapper was, well, fudge.

It was a soft style, loaded with pistachios and tart sour cherries.  It was fine, I liked the chew from the cherry, but, it was just fudge.  It didn't really taste any different from fudge my grandmother makes from marshmallow Fluff.
Craftsman and Wolves Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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