Bakeries in Berkeley/Oakland
Would there be such a thing as naming the top 5 not to miss bakeries in the berkeley/oakland area?
i have a pastry chef friend coming to town from new york (she has a high end bakery in manhattan) and besides taking her to tartine, miette and other wonderful places in the city, i'd like to take her for a tour of bakeries in berkeley/oakland.
re: Robert Lauriston
Depends. They are old-style European. They are in the same class as Neldham's, Virginia, Ladyfingers and FatApples.
Yet each of these places ... even Toots Sweets do a few things that beat any artisan fancy-dancy place flavor-wise.
Hopkins Street where I'm not familiar with too much, had the best hot cross bun I tried last year far, far outshining La Farine, Masse's, Acme and Crixa. Of the artisan places, only Sweet Adeline was in competition for that item.
Sweet Adeline does a nice job of straddling the two worlds ... old-style European and upscale artisan. Nice balancing act.
Neldham's has the Dream of Cream cake, shortcake, butter cookies, dinner rolls and a few other items.
And so it goes with each of these places. And the worst all of these places bakes is better than anything I've tried to date at Miette and much less expensive ... and yes I know chocolatetartguy I do have your list of stuff to try Miette and have high hopes.
However, none of these is merely average. They are all exceptional for certain items. Respect should be paid.
Given that, I don't think this is the type of bakery that the OP is looking for.
To me Neldam's, Hopkins Street, and Toot Sweet are old-style American. I don't think I've ever encountered bland, pale pastries or Crisco cakes in Europe.
I want to like Sweet Adeline since it's in my neighborhood, they use good ingedients, and some of my friends are big fans, but I've yet to taste anything from them I'd want a second bite of.
To be fair, I'm a very hard sell on sweets, spoiled by first-rate homemade. If it's not the best, I don't want to waste the calories. Any shortcuts, artificial ingredients, or other cost-cutting, it goes in the garbage.
Miette's stuff is pretty. Seems like a lot of people must trust their eyes more than their palates.
re: Robert Lauriston
Yeah, sounds like with your comment on Sweet Adeline, this ain't your style. These are alot like the East Coast Bakeries I grew up with so I'm using European as in they were started by European immigrants, Swedish, German, whatever.
Also I have a taste for stuff that isn't artisan. Chowhounds would probably be disgusted with my current obsession with the white bread at House of Bread (HOB). It is all I can do not to devour the loaf. It might send me on a sliced white bread crawl to see if any local bakery offers anything better. It is very close to the taste of Downtown Healdsburg's como loaf which is one of my favorites ... dense and yeasty, HOB has a moister loaf maybe a bit gummier ... but in a good way ... it stands up well to messy fillings ... yeah ... a sliced white bread crawl is in order here. Will report back.
But I digressed ... different strokes and these old-style bakeries are not the stroke asked for I think.
re: Robert Lauriston
Interesting post/comment - I generally feel like when I have "Eurpoean" baked goods on this side of the Atlantic, that they forgot how to bake when they crossed the ocean. Sometimes I wonder if it is the quality of the eggs and dairy - but there is no more excuse in this day and age in this area.
All that said, the gingerbread cake at Lola's today was REALLY GOOD.
Your comment about Miette's is so true - When I tried things from there, it was like you are smelling the bouquet of the finest wine, and then put a Blechum le Peu NV in your mouth, ready to spit.
re: Robert Lauriston
>Sweet Adeline ... I've yet to taste anything from them I'd want a second bite of.
The brownies? Dude. Those are truly excellent brownies.
The best way to eat them is to skip dinner and head to a
show at Shotgun Players. The intermission baked treats are
supplied by SA. On an empty tummy with a big glass of Blechum
le Peu NV, what's not to love?
And you want bad euro baking? I submit 98% of Spain and Portugal.
Along with the patisserie section in any suburban Carrefour.
This is not L.A. so can't say much about pastry, but there are a few sweet treats worth trying. Try the chocolate raspberry mousse at Hopkins Street Bakery (1584 Hopkins St Berkeley 510-526-8188) and then drive a half mile to Toot Sweets Fine Desserts (1277 Gilman St Berkeley 510-526-0610) for the German chocolate cake.
I vote for Crixa, Cafe Fanny, Lola's, Cheeseboard, La Farine, Acme, Bread Garden(in that order).
When you try to narrow a list, it makes you realize how lucky lovers of sweets on this side of the Bay are!
p.s. on a SF tour, I'd definitely add Healdsburg's Downtown Bakery, a must-stop at the Saturday Ferry Building market.
I did pretty much the same thing for a friend who is both a pastry-chef and high-end patisserie owner. He was of course enchanted with many of the Bay Area's offerings. If you put the bread bakeries aside for a minute, he thought Crixa was in a league of their own, as far as pure quality was concerned.
>>"he thought Crixa was in a league of their own"
More accurately, in a league of HER own, since it's essentially a
one woman show. Which I think makes it even more remarkable.
Note that it's autumn which means that Pumpkin Pie is back on
the menu. This is the highlight of the Crixa year for me.
In no particular order, I'd go to
(1) Lola's. The baked goods range from very good to outstanding, and it is not even their main business. Very small quantities.
(2) La Farine. Exceptional cupcakes, very good "other things." Curious as to "traditional European bakeries" re: La Farine has many yeasty breads as well as sweets - they do all of them at least acceptably-well. (Do traditional European bakers have a bread as well as sweet baked goods business?)
(3) Crixa. Quite an impressive variety of high quality goods, although a few aren't to my liking.
(4) Acme. 'nuff said.
Acme's output, though differing in style, for me ranks at or above the level of
the best bread bakeries I've tracked down in Germany and France. And I've spent
a lot of time tracking them down. Add the fact that they're pulling off this feat in
the US and it's even more remarkable. There must be a ton of things for a baker
to learn from them.
The Pain Epi, straight from the oven, is a life-changing experience.
Next door is Cafe Fanny, also a necessary stop on the food tour.
It seems like it's really the interest of the baker, artistan or not. Personally if I were bringing around a friend in the biz I'd take them to varying places..."artisan" places, regional, neighborhood places and old school.
If they're into it you never know what will spark their interest. Some of the best conversations I've heard and been in were between old school, new school and the artsy edge.
Re: Neldam's, they're working on bringing up the 4th generation of bakers. Cutting edge, no...but longevity in the instant and new food world speaks for something to me. Might be some history lessons too. Who knows.
Are you only interested in bakeries? Or would your friend be interested in seeking out delicious desserts as well?
If bakeries are what you seek, I agree with Robert that Acme and Vital Vittles are the most worthwhile in the area, and you have an Acme in SF. I would not make the trek to the East Bay just to visit the bakeries.
But if your friend has a general passion for desserts, there are a ton of worthwhile dessert stops: Sketch Ice Cream is a must visit (I think make the best desserts in the east bay), you can tour the Scharffen Berger Chocolate Factory, and I'd recommend dessert at Oliveto, A Cote, Cafe at Chez Panisse and the coconut cream pie at Cafe Gratitude (also in SF.) Ici may be worth a visit as well though their desserts are not to my taste (too sweet).
Acme Bread: to me, for a pastry chef from New York, the only can't-miss bakery in the East Bay.
Sketch, not a bakery, but also can't-miss for a pastry chef.
Crixa: upscale Eastern European, top quality, unique items, maybe not so unusual to someone from NYC
La Farine: classic French, but there must be a number of similar places in NYC
Vital Vittles: worth a bakery tour for their unique business model
Berkeley Saturday farmers market: half a dozen interesting artisanal bakeries
Downtown Bakery and Creamery is at the Saturday Ferry Plaza farmers market in SF.
Well, from the SF suggestions you mentioned you may not be looking for Neldham's so it would be
Not in any particular order.
If you could fit in the trip, I'd go to Healdsburg's Downtown Bakery.
Which brings up the farmers markets. I'd stop by the Berkeley Satruday market (and FP in SF) for bakers that might not have area shops.
Some other considerations
Arlington Baking Company in Kennsington
Lola's on Solano in Berkeley. Not a place that is a formal bakery. It does take-out baked chicken takeout and half the shop has bakery items that change daily. I prefer the baked goods here to any of the top bakeries in the area. It is the best example of American baked goods in the area.
Stop by Poulet, which is another chicken joint, the pastry chef there has worked at French Laundry and the passion she exhibits on her website fortunately translates to the baked goods. There are only four take-out dessert a day, it is straight-foward American and it is often amazing.
If looking at bread, Acme can't be missed.
hello, I'd pretty much concur with the praise of 'sweet adeline'on the very recent post to this board; the Bread Garden does healthy and original interpretations of many classics. Neighborhood places (like Bakesale B's, Arizmendi,Neldams's) have their undeniable charm but don't know if a NYC artisan baker would compare their quality to Acme or some of the other goods mentioned. have fun