On our first full day in the city of San Francisco, Marcus and I started off our day at Tartine Bakery, for both breakfast and lunch (I'll explain why in a bit). I've heard great things from this bakery from Bill and Pam and a few other friends of mine who raved about its bread and pastries.
Just as some background, pastry chef Elisabeth Pruiett and her husband, renowned baker, Chad Robertson co-own Tartine Bakery, both trained at the Culinary Institute of American in New York. After traveling, training, and cooking in France, the couple returned to California to open Bay Village Bakery in Point Reyes Station, California. They used a wood fired brick oven to bake bread, creating "rustic, elegant pastries using many of the techniques they had learned abroad." After isx years of baking in Point Reyes Station, they relocated to San Francisco to open Tartine Bakery in 2002.
We arrived around 10:30 AM, and this was the line forming outside Tartine's doors. Luckily, they're pretty streamline in taking orders, so the line moved pretty quickly.
Inside Tartine Bakery.
Cake, tart, and dessert display at Tartine Bakery.
Tartine Bakery cakes.
Bread and quiches!
Inside Tartine Bakery.
We waited in line for about 15-20 minutes, which wasn't too bad--and I think the pastries are totally worth the wait. We wanted to order sandwiches from the menu as an early lunch as well, but they are not served until 11:30 AM, so we just ordered a few pastries and resolved to wait in line once more for the sandwiches once it was closer to 11:30.
We started off our pastry frenzy with a chocolate hazelnut tart. The hazelnut on top were so fresh--they must've been oven roasted prior to dressing the tart. The chocolate was soft and rich, complementing the lovely tart crust.
Marcus also ordered the morning bun with orange cinnamon sugar. This was definitely our favorite pastry out of the three we ordered. It also seemed to be the pastry item that everyone else in line ordered. We saw the morning bun grace the tables and plates of other parties. It is soft, buttery, and sweet with the hint of orange-cinnamon from the sprinkled sugar throughout. If you're at Tartine, this is definitely one you should treat yourself to!
I also ordered an éclair filled with vanilla custard and dipped in Valrhona glaze. It reminded me of the éclair puff from Beard Papa's. The Valrona glaze, like in the style of Beard Papa's, was hardened from refrigeration, creating a nice texture and bite with the choux pastry of the pastry part of the éclair. There was also the addition of the cocoa powder at one end of the éclair which gave it another bittersweet flavoring.
Inside the éclair, with a close-up of the vanilla custard. You can even see the black vanilla beans remnants in the custard, which made the vanilla flavoring more flavorful as it came straight from the vanilla bean! I'd say the éclair is great if you're looking for a heavier pastry, especially if you love vanilla custard enveloped in choux pastry smothered in rich dark chocolate.
For my beverage, I had a chai latté with soy milk, which was served in a soup-like bowl. The chai tea was interesting--very spiced, maybe a little too much for me. On a lighter note, it went pretty well with the pastries.
We returned to the line around 11:15 AM for sandwiches, regretting not hopping back on it earlier. We didn't make it to the front of the line until a little bit before noon.
I went with the Tartine version of the croque monsieur--an open face sandwich with béchamel, gruyere, thyme, and pepper, topped with smoked Niman Ranch ham and asparagus. For an open face sandwich covered in béchamel and gruyere, I was very surprised to find it quite light and easy to eat. My problem with café sandwiches is that they tend to be really heavy from the bread as well as loaded with cheese and creaminess, but this wasn't the case here (partially because it was only half the amount of bread). I really enjoyed this open face sandwich--the added bonuses of asparagus and béchamel had reminded me of what an eggs benedict is essentially like, but without the poached egg on top. The cheese was slightly burnt, giving it a little rugged flavor, and the ends of the ham were as crispy as well-done bacon.
Marcus had the spicy turkey hot pressed sandwich, which has peppered turkey breast, provolone, and broccoli rabe pesto. Marcus was a bit wary about the pesto overpowering the other ingredients of the sandwich. Instead, he reported, the ingredients worked very well together, each ingredient contributing to the overall deliciousness of the sandwich, without one ingredient overshadowing the others. He also said it was a medium to medium-heavy sandwich, considering it was cut into three generous portions, with good flavor overall. Marcus's only real complaint about the sandwich was that it actually wasn't "spicy"--the spice of the sandwich was supposed to come from the "peppered" turkey, but he didn't know it was peppered turkey until I told him. Otherwise, he thought the sandwich was great, even though it wasn't spicy as its name suggested--definitely one of the better sandwiches he's had. Another thing to note is that it was a very visually appealing sandwich (see above)--a couple people actually stopped by to ask what it was while he was eating it.
Findings: Tartine is a great place for not only visitors of San Francisco, but for locals as well. It seemed that most of the individuals waiting in line were locals of the area, which tells you that the food must be pretty good if it's attracting the city folk. I also like the neighborhood feel and slightly rustic nature of Tartine, making for a warm welcome for all patrons stepping through its doors. There's not even an official sign, which leads me to believe that this restaurant is quite humble with its popularity and press--something I deeply admire. So for anyone visiting San Francisco, I think Tartine is a must-visit for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. Everything is so fresh and delicious -- it'd be a shame if you missed out on it during a visit to the Bay Area. The morning bun will go great with any hot beverage and is bound to make any day better than it was prior to munching on this spectacular pastry. Try to get there as early as possible--it seems that when lunch rolls around (11 to 11:30ish), the line gets pretty long. So even though it's worth the wait, getting to eat Tartine's goodies as soon as humanly possible (given whatever line is present at the time) is always better. Your stomach will thank you thoroughly.
Price point: $4.95-$6.75 for each pastry, $9.75-$13 for each sandwich.
--May 20, 2011
Tartine Bakery + Café
600 Guerrero Street
San Francisco, CA 94110