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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.

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.

Bakesale Betty, Oakland CA

Both of us had heard of Bakesale Betty before, Zach just in passing while August had seen her at a Walnut Creek farmers’ market years ago when it was by the library.  August’s mom and her boyfriend were in town visiting for the day, and she told us that Bakesale Betty had been featured in Bon Appetit.  The blue-haired Aussie expanded and she has a storefront open for only three hours a day, five days a week.  All she serves is her array of baked goods and a fried chicken sandwich, but that’s enough to draw in a steady line of customers that waits outside the door.

what was left of the pastries within an hour of closing

what was left of the pastries within an hour of closing

Oatmeal walnut raisin, chocolate chip walnut, and walnut shortbread were the only pastry varieties left by the time we arrived and waited through the long (but swiftly moving) line.  Because they all had walnuts, though, unfortunately Zach could not try any of them.  Occasionally there are specialty desserts like strawberry shortcake and lemon ice, Bakesale Betty’s version of a slushy, and we imagine those sell quickly.

fried chicken sandwich

fried chicken sandwich

The half chicken breast was crispy but very moist and tender.  Fresh, crunchy, vinegar-based coleslaw with red onions, cilantro, and jalapeños provided just enough zing and heat to make this sandwich really interesting.  The french roll was crisp on the outside yet soft on the inside, the perfect bread for this kind of texture-laden sandwich.

We enjoyed our meal.  However, we have to be honest now.  Considering that the only products were pastries, one type of sandwich, and a few canned sodas, you might think that costs would be lower than they were, especially since none of the ingredients are labeled as organic, local, or sustainably sourced.  Additionally, there was no service: order at a counter, then take your food outside to the street and sit at a repurposed ironing board as your table.  Two chicken sandwiches alone came to just over $21.  Yes, it was a good sandwich, and please don’t think we’re complaining about prices because Zach doesn’t mind spending $60 for a cheeseburger.  That cheeseburger, though, would be made with rare quality ingredients and served by a waiter.  Price should match ingredient quality and ambiance.