It has been too long since I have been back to Tartine Bakery. In 2002, when the place first opened, I lived only a few short minutes away and considered that stretch of real estate a home away from home. Entire weekends where spent roving from Tartine, to the original Slanted Door, Delfina, and Bi-Rite.
Now that I live in Los Angeles, the opportunities to enjoy Tartine's pastries, bread and desserts have come few and far between. Sure, the lines are long and product of equivalent quality can be found much closer to home. You generally have to make snap decisions on what to order, you bus your own tables, you fight for seats at a communal table - things many people find troublesome - but these aspects all lend character to what I remember about my time enjoying the bakery's first year in business. So, when I found out that I would be in San Francisco for Slow Food Nation I made sure I had time to get over to Tartine to relive a few memories.
For what I have always enjoyed about the bakery, Tartine is still going strong and my favorites still hit the spot.
I have always been partial to Tartine's croque monsieur. Their version of the classic open face sandwich is made with owner Chad Robertson's phenomenal country bread, bechamel, gruyere, thyme and pepper. You have a choice of either smoked Niman Ranch ham, Cowgirl Creamery fromage blanc, or shitake mushrooms and seasonal vegetables but I always go for the ham.
There is something about the country bread that Robertson bakes at Tartine that makes this sandwich for me. The almost charred crust works in perfect contrast to the rich creamy bechamel-laden center. The ham and gruyere both add a nice touch of saltiness and heft that rounds out the sandwich. Perfect for both a foggy Sunday morning or a sunny weekday lunch and a pretty good deal for $9.00.
As for the pastries, the ham and cheese croissant reigns supreme in my book. But, with the croque monsieur on the way, I was looking for something a little sweeter. I didn't think I would be able to finish one of their massive bowls of house-made brioche bread pudding so I starting looking in the pastry case. I almost went for the almond croissant (that seems to have both its friends and foes on this board), but I ended up ordering the "double" pain au chocolat made with Valrhona chocolate.
Now, no pain au chocolat is ever really as good as I expect it to be. I think my ideal is an impossible standard; an inordinate amount of chocolate coupled with the flaky butteriness of plain croissant. But this was pretty good. It had twice the chocolate that I have ever seen in any pain au chocolat (hence the "double") and it was still nice and flaky. I wasn't disappointed.
For a short moment in time at Tartine this past Labor Day, I was lost in a discussion with friends, enjoying my croque monsieur, wholly unaware that I no longer lived just a few blocks away. Not a bad way to spend a morning.
So that leaves a quick question for you Hounds. Next time I visit, are there any new bakeries I should try?
NOTE: Photos of my visit to Tartine can be found here: http://nochoiceatall.blogspot.com/200...
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