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Golden Gate Bakery - Pastry maker passed away

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I don't know if this is breaking news, but I heard it from my brother's MIL last night that GGB's pastry maker recently passed away. According to her, the don tats are no longer worth getting as the pastry is no longer flaky. Unfortunately, I have no other info because of the language barrier between us. I don't know what other pastries have been affected either. Has anyone been there very recently?

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  1. v bad news, if true. unfortunately, i haven't been there recently so can't comment.

    the next best ones i ever had in the bay area were made at harbor village but of course that place is gone. for a brief period he was at hong kong east ocean in emeryville but after a short period he decamped for elsewhere. if anyone has a clue, fill me in.

    1 Reply
    1. re: choctastic

      My favorite egg tart is from Lung Fung Bakery on Clement between 19th Ave & 20th Ave, especially when it comes right out of the oven. They sell out fast, so if you come in the afternoon, you will not get any.

    2. That's exactly the same news that I heard from my mom's friends a while back and I think I may have mentioned this upwards of 2 months ago on this board somewhere. It is a big shame if so.

      1 Reply
      1. re: K K

        Oh, I must have missed it (I tried searching too). So the question is - where do we get our tats now?

      2. I was there a week or so ago and I would have to agree that the daan taat pastry is no longer the same - based on the two that I ate. The filling is still good and it's still served warm but the pastry is not as flaky as before. Not even close. :~ (

        1. I noticed the other day that GGB is closed "for vacation" **again** until Oct. 27 and wondered what was up. I don't know if it's a mourning period (was the pastry maker a family member?) or simply for regrouping. Hopefully it's nothing more portentous. I'm not a big pastry fan, but it's a cherished institution, after all.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Xiao Yang

            Since 97 to 02 of the numerous times I've been to GGB, they've always closed for vacation in August. Them shutting down in October is unusual.

            But to the others, other than the egg tarts, anything else affected? Are the sponge cakes still good? Or the various baked buns?

          2. Just had an egg custard tart from GG. Wow, what a difference. Unless this is an aberration, the pastry is definitely tougher than it was before, though it is still flaky. Also, the crust isn't cut as nicely as before, so you don't see the pretty layers. Also, today my custard filling was watery. i've never had watery custard there before. Pale and somewhat thin, yes, but not watery. I'll keep trying egg custard tarts from here to see if this was just an aberration.

            Don't get me wrong, they're still pretty good but now the quality difference between GG and the cheap East Bay places (Super Napoleon and Ruby King) isn't as much and the east bay custard tarts are half the price.

            16 Replies
            1. re: choctastic

              Still bad. Tough pastry, custard not so watery, but not great either.

              I won't be back. Hurts me to say that, but there's no point anymore.

              1. re: choctastic

                I had a great custard tart with a flakey crust a couple weeks ago. I'm a johnny come lately to this place so maybe I missed out on the glory days, but if these are "still bad" then who makes them better and fresher in the city?

                1. re: sugartoof

                  I've been to GG a bunch of times in the last year. Pains me. The layers used to flake in sheets. Now, they're all mushed up. The pastry itself is tougher than it used to be. The custard was always a tad watery, imho, but most everyone disagrees with me.

                  Actually, I've had decent ones at the Dublin branch of Kee Wah, which I've always thought was the best branch of the chain.

                  To get to your question, I have no idea. There are some dim sum joints in LA that do a very nice dan tat, but that's based on old data. Last year, I had good ones at Elite, for instance. I dunno about now.

                  1. re: choctastic

                    Was there recently and the dan tat was creamy and the shell was good. It was golden and flaky, but maybe not as super flaky as it used to be, but negligible difference. Everything was pretty damn good honestly.

                    1. re: choctastic

                      I, too, was disappointed by the changes at GGB and suffered through soggy crusts. But recently the size has decreased, as well as the price, and I think that produces a more consistent product. Here's my post from August,
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5498...

                      -----
                      Golden Gate Bakery
                      1029 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        hmm, i have been there since that posting and suffered through a tough crust and watery filling. i think they just don't like me or something. it seems like a crap shoot and i have poor aim...

                      2. re: choctastic

                        Interesting to read. I can see the custard being a little more loose than ideal but I have nothing to compare it with. Mine wasn't watery at least. The crust flaked. If it was any less tough, I'd think it would be hard to eat. I guess I'll never know what I missed out on, but it's the best I can ever recall eating in my adult life. In fact, I stopped ordering them a long time ago, but GGB has revived my love for them.

                        1. re: sugartoof

                          Golden Gate does NOT use a coagulator like cornstarch to harden/thicken their custard...it is a light pure egg custard...but if one is used to a thickened custard this may not be to your liking...I personally prefer a pure egg custard, and feel that the egg should be the only binder holding together the custard..it is lighter and in my opinion has a lighter eggier taste and texture.

                          1. re: ChowFun_derek

                            Any other places you know of that serve a pure custard? If it's common, it may just be that I never noticed once they had sat in a case for a day or two.

                            1. re: ChowFun_derek

                              Just because the custard part may be thicker doesn't automatically mean it's been thickened with cornstarch. A purely egg thickened custard will cut cleanly whereas one that's bound with some cornstarch will be more puddinglike, sort of creamyish. I think most places I've been to are egg custards, no cornstarch. That said, I still think GG's tastes watery. To me it tastes like they thin out the custard part as much as they can get away with. That's just my 2 cents.

                              1. re: choctastic

                                often gelatin is used as well..and as a tart becomes slightly more 'aged; the "artificially" thickened custard becomes more 'rubberlike' like to me...a purely egg thickened custard will be lighter and more 'quivery' ...as always it is a matter of personal taste...more thickener, whether cornstarch or gelatin..less egg...for me Golden Gates even 'age' better and are good the next day...while the others desiccate somewhat and pull away from their pastry shells...

                                1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                  while the others desiccate somewhat and pull away from their pastry shells...
                                  Does this make them so unpalatable that you wouldn't give them to your dog?
                                  In short are they are too old to mutt the custard?

                                  1. re: wolfe

                                    For me... and please remember I speak only for myself, you are entitled to your tastes and opinion.....when the thickened custards desiccate and pull from the sides of the pastry shell that "custard" becomes more rubbery or gelatinous.... remember I said "I" do not care for this texture...you may think this is when it is at its' culinary best, and that is fine... sometimes this occurs later in the day when the tarts have been sitting too long in their display case..."I" personally would not purchase these (usually the flakiness of the shell has been compromised as well) so no, I would not purchase these, not even for my dog.
                                    You might LOVE them this way and that is fine for you...and your 'wolfe'.

                                    1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                      I found the separation between the filling and the crust in this case came more from it being a thinner filling that's still warm.

                                      I love the thought that there's an even better tart out there though. Who and where!? Lemme' at it.

                                      1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                        Here's the egg tart at Millbrae's Zen Peninsula that might make you switch teams.
                                        http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3185/2...
                                        And my post here, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/568400

                                        -----
                                        Zen Peninsula
                                        1180 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA 94030

                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                          Wow, that looks beautiful. Me want. Sorry about responding to an old post, but that photo is still up and it is still beeyootiful.

                    2. Walked by Golden Gate Bakery tonight 11/10/08 and saw a sign that said they were closed & on vacation until 11/22/08.

                      1. Well I don't know what to think of the initial post here 3 years later, because depsite the horrid Christmas Day downpour (12/25/2010), people still turned up in droves to get their egg tart fix.

                        And basically I had one within an hour of purchasing, still top notch, and still really really good.

                        It is worth noting that these are $1.15 per, making them even more expensive than the last British governor of HK's favorite, Tai Cheong (although to be fair Tai Cheong is a brand name and cookie dough crust, but nonetheless they are HK$5 per, which is US$0.65 based on US$1 = HK$7.78). So it's not just Yank Sing dim sum being more expensive than Hong Kong.... But I would have to say that Golden Gate Bakery's best egg tart very likely and still can outperform a lot of those in Hong Kong (perhaps minus the high end seafood restaurants and certain old school cafe bakeries).

                        The crust (soh pei / multi layer flakey pastry style) at times from certain angles look like the newer school cookie dough crust, but is indeed the original and former. Taste-wise to me is just fine, nice, airy, soft, and not heavy. Unfortunately I can't remember what the crust was like exactly before this supposed original egg tart maker passed away, but whoever it is at the helm now, is pretty much bringing their A game back.

                        Perfectly happy and perfectly fine with, and will continue to support GGB. Even mom gave it the thumbs up.

                        Didn't see many pastries at the counter...75% seemed to be various mooncakes (didn't see the walnut butter poundcake for example). Then again people were mostly focusing on egg tarts and window sill items (coconut cookies and those other thingies).

                        One more thing....the egg tarts still taste supreme the day after, as long as you use an oven or toaster oven to warm it up. Nuking will ruin it so easily. It is also interesting that the cookie dough crust version was invented precisely to combat this problem....that in the past, reheating flakey multi layer crust (stuck together via good ol' fashion lard) would just lead to disasterous results, that cookie dough crust egg tarts would not haven't this problem after letting it sit, and still retain form. That's Tai Cheong's original claim to fame some years back.

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: K K

                          It did take a while for the tarts to get back on track. The price was reduce in relation to the decreased quality for a time and the lines on the sidewalk still disappeared. But the egg tarts are closer to the original now (not quite as many distinct layers) and the price has raised as quality returned along with the customers. I'm glad you've had a chance to retry them.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            Hmmm then I very likely probably didn't have the misfortune of eating a bad quality post-original pastry chef batch, and luckily only caught them on the upswing! I still remember a little more than 10 years ago they were 75 to 85 cents per, which was already high for its time. I guess I'm more shocked at paying $6 for almost 2 hours parking at Portsmouth Square Garage...

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              I had to go into Golden Gate Bakery on Sunday because there was no line snaking out the door - how often does that happen? There was a group of folks outside all enjoying their egg custards ..... I enjoyed mine also but like the more flaky shell that I remember and that still exists at some other bakeries. Here are a couple of pictures - one from Golden Gate Bakery and a second one from Ruby King in Oakland - with the flakier crust. The GGB Coconut Tart is picture perfect.

                              -----
                              Golden Gate Bakery
                              1029 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

                               
                               
                               
                              1. re: gordon wing

                                I had a GGB egg custard tart on the same day as you. They almost there. The original egg tart crust maker was somehow able to make perfect sheets of flakiness that separated in the mouth. The current maker is as good as any others around the Bay Area (I like Ruby King's crust as well, very flakey), but still not up to the person who passed away.

                                1. re: gordon wing

                                  My mother and brother brought some egg custard tarts to a New Year's brunch today. They decided to go to Napolean Super Bakery instead of Golden Gate Bakery. They were still warm .......very flaky pastry and a generous amount of custard that was a bit more firm than the light quivery custard of GGB. Napolean's tart is only 70 cents however ..... and the lines are not as long. I'll be back.

                                  -----
                                  Napoleon Super Bakery
                                  1049 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA

                                   
                                  1. re: gordon wing

                                    Thanks for sharing Gordon.

                                    1. re: gordon wing

                                      oaktown has a napolean super bakery at 810 franklin st, a block away from ruby king.
                                      maybe they and frisco are related. thought you like to know.
                                      they have a slight line at times.

                                      1. re: shanghaikid

                                        The same owner for both. The owner/baker is in Oakland. You are right the Oakland store looks busier. Baked goods are about the same but I like the baked Pork buns from the Oakland store better and the custard tart from the city better.

                                        1. re: yimster

                                          I love Napoleon Super Bakery! Golden Gate used to be better imho back in the day, but nowadays, I would rather stop by Napoleon.

                                          -----
                                          Napoleon Super Bakery
                                          810 Franklin St, Oakland, CA

                                          1. re: choctastic

                                            I stopped by today at Napolean and while ordering some buns to take home I saw a young lady removing hot tarts from the mold and had one while still hot. I was as good as it gets a fairly flaky crust.

                                      2. re: gordon wing

                                        Wow that looks good, I need to revisit Napolean's custard tart.

                                        I have given GGB's version a try a few times, and didn't care for it. Lately, my go to tart ($0.90) has been at AA Bakery on Stockton (across from Napolean).

                                        Honolulu Cafe(in Hong Kong)'s version is the benchmark for me. One of my earliest memory is sitting on my dad's lap eating custard tart, stealing sips of his coffee, and all the sugar off the top of his pineapple bun. AA bakery's version is pretty close Honolulu, even my parents & Hong Kong relatives were impress.

                                2. After reading about egg tarts from various Chinatown bakeries and especially the fantastic tarts from the legendary Golden Gate Bakery, I decided to try one on my latest trip to SF. I left early so as not to miss out out but, alas, the GGB was closed.( Apparently, this happens frequently.) But I had never had an egg tart before and was determined to find one. I ended up at the Yummy Bakery & Cafe -607 Jackson St. The gal had just put some still warm tarts in the display case so I ordered 3 : One to try right away and two to take home.

                                  I was ready to be Wowed!! but was a little disappointed. I thought they were a bit blah and tasteless. Not really bad but I was expecting something a little better. But I have never had an egg tart before so I have nothing to compare it to.

                                  So my question to all you SF foodies is this: How do Yummy Bakery's tarts compare with what you consider to be the best egg tarts from anywhere? Maybe that's what they're supposed to be like. You can't miss Yummy's. Just look for the big purple sign on Jackson St.

                                  -----
                                  Golden Gate Bakery
                                  1029 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                  Yummy Bakery and Cafe
                                  607 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94108

                                  17 Replies
                                  1. re: Ritcheyd

                                    Egg custard tarts are a simple treat. The crust can be flaky and composed of many layers - almost like puff pastry. The egg custard is silky smooth - just barely set. It's egg and milk and some sugar? ...... mild and not overly sweet ( chinese preference ). I wouldn't describe the flavors as a WOW - although these are a favorite of mine. The texture of the crust and the filling are important. Expectations are a burden at times : ~ )
                                    Hope you get to try one that you like - don't give up yet.

                                    1. re: Ritcheyd

                                      I have had Yummy Bakery's version of the egg tart, I vaguely recall thinking it was bad, and overprice. I tried several other items there (japanese cheesecake, some other bake goods) when it first open, and wasn't impress (and haven't gone back yet). GGB's version is definitely better, though I personally still prefer AA Bakery's version over GGB. I have yet to tackle Napolean's.

                                      There are two school of egg tart crusts, the shortbread crust, and the puff pastry crust. GGB, Napolean, AA all do the puff pastry crust .

                                      For GGB fans, it is open again (as of this pass weekend), just in time for the autumn festival.

                                      -----
                                      Yummy Bakery and Cafe
                                      607 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94108

                                      1. re: gnomatic

                                        Thanks for the replies. OK ,gnomatic, you've convinced me. The next time I'm in SF I'll try the tarts at AA Bakery. Or perhaps I'll do my own taste test. One from each and post my reviews.

                                        And gordon, I really like what you said about expectations. I actually had to write that down. Is that in your words? Or does the credit go to someone else? I really need to take that to heart.

                                        1. re: Ritcheyd

                                          sensei wing's words were were put ; dahn taat are an old school, minimalist, (barely) sweet snack. quality is in the freshness and execution, not from big flavours. they'll always be popular, but are anachronisms perhaps better suited to the days when normal sized candies cost 2 for a penny, and the only natural tasting ice cream came chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry.

                                          1. re: moto

                                            sensei wing has open the door to custard tarts. Now we have to add to try the Macau style coconut flavor custard tart and the egg white only custard tart. While in Macau I was able to try one of there tarts hot from the oven and I was able to do my chowfun act and sallow without biting. It was wonderful. I have had both of the others the Macau style at Napolean and the white only at a bakery on lower Jackson whose name escape me now but I will drive by in a week or so. After all it moon cake time again.

                                          2. re: Ritcheyd

                                            Ritcheyd, glad you found my thoughts on expectations useful ......made it up. Probably a synthesis of various Buddhist teachings I've been exposed to over the years. Now I'm going to have to make a journey to AA bakery next time I'm in SF Chinatown. Egg custard tarts are pretty amazing considering that most places charge 75cents or so
                                            - but even at $1.10? GGBakery - they are a bargain compared to other dessert tarts from other bakeries outside of chinatown.

                                            1. re: gordon wing

                                              gordon wing - Your quote on expectation rings true for me as well. My childhood egg tarts were from Honolulu Cafe in HK, so I always compare all others to theirs. I have many fond memories of hanging out at the cafe with my dad, which no other place could reproduce regardless of how good the tarts are.

                                              Ritcheyd - yes, a taste test is a good idea..but don't do it alone, bring some friends! I am pretty sure I tried every real bakery (i.e. not the dim sum places) in Chinatown, a few in the Sunset, and several in the south bay as well....over the space of several months of course ;-P It is possible to OD on egg tarts (personal experience) from doing a taste test several years ago.

                                              I made the shortbread crust egg tarts before(I don't have the puff pastry skills to attempt the puff pastry crust), the filling is just evaporated milk, sugar, and water with a dash of vanilla. Sieve twice gets out all the bubbles from beating the custard, to get a completely smooth consistency. Both the custard and crust are raw going in the oven. The custard is puffy when it comes out of the oven, but deflates as it cools.

                                              Some pictures of egg tarts from Honolulu Cafe in HK:

                                               
                                               
                                              1. re: gnomatic

                                                that is one great looking tart! I can see why it's your gold standard.

                                                1. re: gordon wing

                                                  It's all subjective....I remember my friend took me to Honolulu Cafe in Wanchai in 2002 when I last visited, I had their egg tart and rembering thinking that GG Bakery's was superior, but then it might have been because I got so used to that flavor (especially GGB's tart filling) that HC's felt foreign and different to me. Same thing with steamed milk custard (dun lai) at Yi Shun on Perceival Street (a branch out of Macau).

                                                  To Honolulu's credit, it is said they've done upwards of 170+ layers or something like that in their puff pastry crust. That record has since been broken by other places that claim to have reached 192 or something like that.

                                                  The one good thing about these HK cafe's that bake their own pastries is that they tend to have decent enough coffee or tea to go with them. Can't say the same about GGB (or most other Chinatown bakeries that do decent enough egg tarts and pastries), since they are not a sit down restaurant or cafe. ABC and Washington Bakery however are mediocre in terms of good baked pastries with great drink pairings.

                                                2. re: gnomatic

                                                  d'ya mean there's no egg in the filling of a dahn taat ? if that's the case, what makes them yellow ? assuming they do have egg, are they separated or beaten altogether ?

                                                  1. re: moto

                                                    I once passed by GG Bakery and there was a huge stack of empty egg cartons out front on the sidewalk, enough for hundreds of eggs -- I'm sure they use eggs.

                                                    1. re: Joel

                                                      the cantonese name, not just the english equivalent, features the word 'egg' but gnomatic's list of ingredients omitted them, nor explained how they were manipulated.

                                                      1. re: moto

                                                        I think that was just an oversight on gnomatic's part. The mentions of whisking and sieving imply that the eggs are beaten in with the other ingredients.

                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                          Yup, the eggs are such an essential part of the custard, it just escaped me when I typed.

                                                          My mom attempted egg tarts years ago (whisking by hand), the custard was bubbly... When I made it, I put the custard ingredients in the blender, and put the mixture through a sieve twice. I made the shortbread crust with frozen butter, flour and a bit of salt in the food processor.
                                                          From an ingredients point of view, egg tarts are pretty simple. No gelatin or cornstarch required. Sweetness, thickness (?) of the custard could be adjusted by changing the portion of milk / eggs/ sugar.

                                                          picture from my attempt (these are pretty small tarts) here:
                                                          http://www.flickr.com/photos/8433752@...

                                                          I am curious what causes the poofiness of the custard when it's fresh out of the oven... I do the cantonese savory steam egg custards...it's not poofy.

                                                          1. re: gnomatic

                                                            the matrix in the steam custard goes through a much different temperature gradient during its cooking, compared to a small tartlet in a hot oven ; tiny bubbles are probably getting produced while the custard is baking, which deflate as the tarts cool off. the same thing happens to a slight degree with full size pies that are based on a custard, like pumpkin, sweet potato, bean pies. the tarts have a much smaller mass in comparison, with more intense exposure to heat as a result, which results in the flaky pastry.

                                                    2. re: moto

                                                      There's definitely egg in daan taat because I get a bad reaction every time I eat them.

                                                      1. re: moto

                                                        Name literally means "egg tart." On the other hand, there's no egg in egg creams or in egg rolls.