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Category Archives: Bakeries

not your everyday grocery store bakeries

Whole Foods Bakery, Oakland CA

whole foods desserts

whole foods desserts

Since Easter we’ve had the category Bakeries but we’ve only found two so far that met Zach’s standards.  When we look for bakeries, we expect more than croissants, muffins, and cookies.  True bakeries show depth and breadth of skill; baking is a science, but there is also artistry.  You might think that there must be better bakeries than Whole Foods in the Bay Area, but to be honest, the showcase here is hard to beat.  With a gelato freezer, large cakes, and dozens of mini items, it’s nearly impossible to do a shopping trip here without drooling over the plenitude.

mini tiramisu cup

mini tiramisu cup

Looking like a tiny frothy latte replete with a handle, the mini tiramisu cup is at once cute and tempting.  A dark chocolate cup, edible through and through, is the vessel for layers of soft and soaked moist cake, whipped cream, sweetened coffee, and cocoa.

mini pecan pie

mini pecan pie

Pop a mini pecan pie in your mouth, and you’ll be rewarded with a rich, gooey filling, meaty nuts, smooth cream cheese frosting, and flaky crust.  The cream cheese frosting gives it an extra rich deepness that is usually lacking in pecan pie.  It’s a wonder how many textures can fit in one bite.  Imagine a few of these warmed up with a scoop of ice cream – yum!

mini fruit tart

mini fruit tart

This mini tart is a bite of the season, bursting with freshness.  Four types of berries and a kiwi slice top the tart with a delicate tart shell and refreshing key lime filling.  Some key lime fillings are overwhelming, but this one was on the mild side of tart (we know, a tart tart would be bad).

mini chocolate cheesecake

mini chocolate cheesecake

Of the many kinds of cheesecake in the world, chocolate might be one of the most decadent.  If you can’t bring yourself to buying a standard-sized chocolate cheesecake, a mini is ideal for getting the same flavor without the temptation (and subsequent guilt of eating the whole big one).  Details don’t disappoint, all the way down to the tiny chocolate fan.

mini vanilla cupcake

mini vanilla cupcake

Even the mini cupcakes aren’t simply frosted and boxed.  Detail is everything at this bakery, all the way down to the precise placement of the swollen blackberry atop vanilla frosting on a white cake base.  It may have simple flavors, but this is not a dull cupcake.

assorted cookies

assorted cookies

A cart nearer to the cash registers than the bakery has a sign decorated with a Cookie Monster.  If the real Cookie Monster ever visited a Whole Foods, he’d be in trouble.  Pick up a bag, a box, or a tin, and load up with any of dozens of varieties, all for the same bulk price.  Please all of your family members/coworkers/friends with different tastes at the next big gathering you attend.  From alfajores to ice box cookies, all are fresh and delicious.

Don’t waste time going to a “bakery” in the East Bay, when Whole Foods provides any treat or dessert imaginable plus so much more.  If you haven’t been to a Whole Foods yet, find your local store and take time to explore.  The smells, sights, and tastes are indicative of the quality.

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Chantal Guillon, San Francisco CA

chantal guillonIf you focus on one or two themes at a time, you can be an expert.  This applies to a number of things, like learning a musical instrument, going to college, and developing the perfect product.  Chantal Guillon, purveyor of macarons and fine teas, excels in pastry making.  August got a delicious iced tea for the road back from celebrating Bastille Day in San Francisco, and we couldn’t leave without one of each of the macarons to try later at home.

macarons!All of the macarons had crisp exteriors hiding rich and sometimes unconventional fillings, ranging from standard buttercream to jelly, and even whole peanuts.  One of the flavors had run out by the time we got to Chantal Guillon, but the sixteen available were still beyond all expectations.  Pictured above we have:

Tahitian Vanilla

Red Velvet

Caramelized Whole Peanuts and Cinnamon

Coffee

Almond Amaretto

Lemon

Apricot

Cherry Amarena

Passion Fruit

Jasmine Green Tea

Valentino Raspberry-Lychee

Orange Blossom Strawberry

Persian Rose

Dark Chocolate

Salted Caramel

Italian Pistachio

Readers, the first of you who can correctly match the names with the macarons in the picture above before July 19 will receive a $20 gift certificate to Chantal Guillon!  We vouch for the veracity of the cookies’ flavors, so expect nothing less than true taste when you take a bite.  The Cherry Amarena, for one, had the mild tartness of rich deep cherry, and it seemed like there was even a small candied cherry in the center.  Similarly, the Orange Blossom Strawberry had a creamy buttercream that enveloped a small square of strawberry jelly.  The Red Velvet, even, had a filling with the flavor of real cream cheese frosting.

Are you already in San Francisco, looking for a new spot to satisfy your sweet tooth?  Or are you from out of town, planning a trip to the city by the bay?  Either way, you cannot pass up this little shop.  There’s plenty of public transportation and parking lots, so there’s no excuse.

Bouchon Bakery, Yountville CA

pastries (and cute chick and pig cookies, see them?)

pastries (and cute chick and pig cookies, see them?)

Zach wanted to create a new category of posts dedicated to his formal training in pastries, featuring bakeries!  This is our first spotlight on a bakery that exceeds expectations when it comes to freshness, creativity, and authenticity.  Bouchon Bakery in Yountville does so in spades, and we were delighted to see their specials for Easter when we drove up yesterday for the afternoon.

a rainbow of macaroons on the top shelf

a rainbow of macarons on the top shelf

The macarons here are giant and delicious.  Flavors vary a little depending on the season – for example we selected a malted chocolate robin’s egg – but you can count on the staples like pistachio, caramel, and raspberry to taste just like the names.  The robin’s egg, apart from having the flavor of the Easter candy, was even shaped like an egg, mottled turquoise and white, and speckled!  The cookie layers had a thin, crisp exterior with a light and chewy interior.  The buttercream fillings were all delightfully rich, smooth, and creamy.

easter cupcakes

easter cupcakes

The ladybugs were too cute for Zach to resist; he had to get one, even though inside was a real raspberry filling with seeds (he can’t eat unprocessed seeds or nuts).  Despite Zach’s assertion that the fondant decorations would be boring sugar, August ate them anyway and thought they were vaguely lemony.  The frosting was a simple vanilla buttercream, but appropriately dyed pink for the season and to match the vibrant, sweet, and tart raspberry filling encased in a rich, buttery cake.

lemon tarts

lemon tarts

Zach’s pick purely for himself was a lemon tart.  Lemon is an ideal flavor to welcome the warmer climes.  Not everyone loves chocolate, therefore alternative sweets are greatly appreciated by the likes of Zach who is two steps away from being anti-chocolate.  The lemon curd was silky in texture and had a nice tartness of lemon flavor without too much sweetness.  The meringue was light, airy, and melted instantaneously in the mouth like little clouds.  The crust was crisp and slightly flaky, a great texture contrast to the very creamy curd and meringue.

chocolate ganache tarts

chocolate ganache tarts

August’s pick purely for herself was a chocolate ganache tart (ganache is a food group in her book).  Throughout the tart, the ganache was consistently velvety and rich, a noble representation of this fine class of chocolate.  The crust somewhat reminded her of graham cracker, darker in flavor than a typical tart shell.  Gold leaf and various egg motifs with bunnies and chicks were super cute adornments.

Yountville, Las Vegas, and New York are lucky to be home to the three members of this bakery family.  Breakfast items like muffins and croissants, cookies and macaroons, caramels and toffee, quiche and European-style bread, and even pet treats are abundant and beautiful.  The line was particularly long since it was Easter and many others seemed to be thinking like we were, but the line moved quickly and everyone waiting together was in good spirits, anticipating the delicious goodies inside the shop.