Thursday, June 14, 2018

Tatte Bakery, Boston

I just discovered Tatte Bakery on my recent visit to Boston.  I was doing a bit of reading on Flour Bakery (more on this soon), and Tatte was mentioned in an article.  I made a mental note to investigate later, as Flour Bakery was still my top priority for baked goods.  A day or two later, I was looking for an easy option to pick up a salad and dessert item on my way back to my hotel after work, and, Tatte came back up, this time because of the salads.  They have a salad topped with halloumi (!) that sounded amazing.  But I didn't end up visiting then either.  A day or two after that, I was walking to work in the pouring rain, and walked by Tatte.  I was freezing, soaking wet, and looking for something to warm me up, and, uh, make me happy.  Yes, I could have breakfast at the office, but ... I wanted hot coffee right then, and I wasn't impressed with the baked goods at my office.

So into Tatte Bakery I went, without doing my normal level of research.  I must return.
Amazing Lineup!
If I had done my normal research I would have had a game plan.  I would have known which item I was going to get before I walked in.  Instead, I was greeted by a plethora of options, and just picked based on what looked good (which, was everything, really).  This was new for me, but a huge success - the item I picked was one of the best pastries I've ever had.

Setting

Tatte was founded by a self-trained pastry chef from Israel, who started selling at farmer's markets in Boston before opening her first store in 2008.  She has a small chain in the Boston area now, with 4 locations in Cambridge, one just over the river on Charles Street in Beacon Hill, and the original location in Brookline.   I visited the Main Street Cambridge location, down the street from MIT.  This was the 4th location, opened in 2013, and is also where the baking hub is now located.

The feeling of the space is very neighborhoody, and you can tell that this is not a standard classically trained french pastry chef, yet the pastries produced are top notch.
Outside Seating.
Simple wooden tables and chairs fill the (covered) sidewalk outside.
Interior.
The interior was light filled, even on a rainy day, with high ceilings and floor to ceiling windows.  There isn't a ton of seating, but there are regular tables and some high counters.  Most people, like me, were taking their items to go.

The front counter housed all the pastries and the register to order at.
Condiment Station.
On the side was a little station with milk (skim, whole, half & half), sweeteners, cinnamon and chocolate powder, and lids for coffee, plus salt and pepper, and hot sauce.

I didn't take a photo, but I also ordered a decaf americano (no decaf drip available, but a full lineup of espresso beverages, plus matcha, was).  My americano was fine, not particularly noteworthy.

Food

Tatte has a full menu of main to order savory items for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, in addition to the abundant baked goods.

For breakfast, you can pick from a range including basic breakfast sandwiches, tartines (yes, you can get your avocado toast here), muesli, and even shakshuka.

The lunch/dinner menu is very extensive, with salads, soups, sandwiches, and plates, all seasonal offerings.  The salads sounded really creative, composed of greens topped with everything from seeds (black sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, etc), to grains, to nuts, to vegetables (pea shoots, asparagus, roasted eggplant and potatoes), to fruits (fresh apples, dried apricots, raisins), with matching dressings (lemon-olive oil, tahini, orange vinaigrette).  I really still want to try the "Crunchy Halloumi",  with seared halloumi cheese, toasted carrots, radishes, apples, toasted almonds, sesame, and tahini.  Sandwiches too, not just plain Jane, even the BLT includes sriracha mayo and tomato onion relish, and the grilled cheese has short rib, beet-horseradish relish, high end clothbound cheddar, and is served on challah.  The fig, brie, and prosciutto panini also called out.  As did the roasted cauliflower with spiced labneh, capers, chilies, golden raisins on pita.  The list goes on and on, so much creativity.  Plates included assorted quiche, savory tart tatin, and a quinoa bowl.  If you visit on the weekend for brunch, there are even more options, including pancakes.
Tatte To Go.
Near the register is also a refrigerated section with quick grab and go items, dubbed Tatte To Go, with  premade sandwiches, salads, and parfaits.
Desserts.
Next to that was the not yet entirely filled dessert case, filled with individual and large treats, any of which I would have gladly opted for if I was in the market for a dessert.
Baked Goods: Part 1.
But I passed up all the "real" food, and went straight for baked goods.  Tatte makes a lot of baked goods.  They do not have a listing online anywhere, and I'm sure the lineup changes often.  I honestly wanted at least 10 different items.  Every time I thought I had picked what I was going to order, I saw something else I wanted.  Everything looked, and sounded, incredible.

The first section began with a streusel topped coffee cake, assorted brownies, and plain brioche.  These were all easy enough to walk past.  Then came some savory items, prosciutto cheese brioche with pesto and seasonal red pepper and asparagus croissants, with spears of asparagus sticking out, that seemed like perfectly valid "responsible", aka, not just sweet, choices.  And then there was the sweets, perfectly caramelized kouign amann, jagged monkey bread, and sugar coated morning buns.  I wanted all of these.
Baked Goods: Part 2.
Already filled with indecision and too many things I wanted, I looked into the next case.  Things got even better.

Chocolate and hazelnut twists had bits of hazelnut all over, and folds layered with chocolate.  The "Roses", either chocolate or cinnamon pecan, looked magical.  I decided on a cinnamon pecan rose, until I looked below, and saw croissins, their version of croissant-muffins.

Even the danishes, muffins, and other filled croissants looked far better than average.
Filled Croissants.
I nearly decided on one of the filled croissants, either pistachio or almond, as they looked absolutely stuffed with tasty fillings, and the pastry looked flaky as could be.

I couldn't identify the ring item pictured here, and it was one of few items not labelled.
Muffins, Danishes.
The strawberry cheese and cream cheese croissants looked better than average.  Ham and cheese filled, plain, and pain au chocolate were also options,

I very nearly went for a muffin actually, as I loved the look of the crispy, pearl sugar topped choices, bursting with berries and fun varieties, like strawberry rhubarb, blueberry hazelnut, and poached pear and almond.
The Stars.
In the end, I went back to that section with the monkey bread, the cinnamon pecan rose, the morning bun, and the crème brûlée croissin.

Even as I stepped up to order, I didn't know which I'd pick.  I think I intended to pick the monkey bread, but at last minute, I asked the person taking my order about the fascinating crème brûlée croissin, and she assured me it was amazing.
Crème Brûlée Croissin. $4.75.
I barely enough knew what I was getting when I ordered this, but I expected something made from croissant dough, shaped like a muffin, and perhaps filled with a little pudding, or at least bruleed on top as I could see from the case.  Given that I obviously adore baked goods, and have entire labels on my blog devoted to pudding and crème brûlée in particular, this, uh, sounded like something I'd love.

I pulled it out, and still didn't quite know what to make of it.  How was I supposed to even eat this thing?

I ripped off a piece of the croissant dough from the bottom.  It was a fantastic croissant, buttery, flaky, delicious.  I got excited.

Then I tried a bit from the top.  It had been coated in sugar and torched, not something I ever knew I wanted in a baked good, but turned out to be amazing.  It had a phenomenal caramelized flavor, and was perfectly crisp and sweet.  Crème brûlée perfection, intense flavor with no burning, although there was a lot of sugar on top of this thing.  There was even a hard caramel ring where sugar had oozed out, and I plucked it off and eagerly consumed it.

Just the croissant itself was good, and just the croissant, er, croissin, form on its own with the brulee top would have been amazing, and left me quite satisfied.  But this had more to give.
Crème Brûlée Croissin: Inside.
This thing was filled with crème brûlée pastry cream.

OMG.

It was absolutely loaded up with filling.  The pudding was delicious.  It was super creamy, had a nice vanilla flavor, and a hint of citrus.  It really was remarkable on its own, like the best vanilla pudding crossed with Boston cream.

Just like the base croissin, I would have been happy with just a bowl of this pudding, but, combine it all together, and it was magic.

It was one of the best pastries I've had in recent memory, even though it was complicated, and even though it didn't really make sense, and even though it was a bit hard to eat.  I loved every single bite of it, and I assure you, this was not just a fad item, it was really, really, really good.

Oh, and entirely not breakfast appropriate.  There was way too much pudding in here, and way too much sugar on top, to remotely qualify as breakfast.  But I didn't really care.

I can't wait to get another.
Tatte Bakery and Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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