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Feb 10, 2008 02:33 PM

Albany: Buttercream – High tea, Chinese tea, lavender shortbread, ensaimada, bakery, breakfast, sandwiches and oddly … no buttercream (but great ganache)

The chocolate cupcake ($1.50).is topped with a buttery, intensely-chocolate ganache. The cake is fine, could have been a bit moister, but is mainly there to support that excellent topping.

Just directly spackle my arteries with the ganache … it would be worth it … I’d die happy.

Buttercream, in the old House of Bread location, is not really a bakery, not really a tea room.

The back bakery and counters are still the same as the old House of Bread. The case next to the register has muffins, scones, brownies, cookies and various baked goods (there’s a day-old, two-for-one basket near the coffee). The other counter has plates with fruit tarts, etc.

The table area is much more pleasant. It looks more like a café with a baked goods rather than the House of Bread look which was a bakery with a few tables.

It is not the usual frilly tea room and the focus is divided equally between bakery, lunch spot and tea room. There is no indication other than the menu that high tea is served daily.

There’s a small breakfast menu: Eggs Benedict, poached eggs with bacon or sausage, bagel and lox, waffle and fruit bowl

An out of the ordinary dish is organic chicken longanisa served with garlic rice and two poached eggs.

For lunch there’s a soup of the day, three salads, three sandwiches, quiche and a roasted chicken plate (teriyaki or lemon rosemary).

The menu may change since one of the salads was spinach with tangerines which seems seasonal.

Prices are good for baked goods … $1 - $2 for pastries and cookies. Cake slices are $2.50 - $3.50

Pots of Chinese tea and English are $4. Choices include Silver Needle, Jasmine pearl, Ti Kuan Yin, Golden Monkey, Earl Grey and English breakfast.

High tea for one ($14) includes choice of tea sandwich, raisin scone with cream and jam, choice of one tea pastry and endless pot of tea.

Coffee is Mr. Espresso

The current cake/pastry menu has
- lemon bars, date bars, brownies
- blueberry or banana muffins
- coffee cake, butter cake, marble pound cake, apple cake
- lavender shortbread, palmiers, oatmeal raisin cookies, chocolate chip cookies
- chocolate cupcake with chocolate ganache
- carrot cupcake with cream cheese icing
- fruit tart, ensaimada, scones (cranberry or raisin), croissants
- lemon torte
- chocolate cake with caramel frosting
- cream cake with seasonal fruit
- mini Scharfenberger cake

With the longanisa and garlic rice for breakfast and the ensaimada in the bakery, there seems to be a touch of Filipino influence here.

Buttercream Bakery & Cafe
841 San Pablo Ave, Albany 94706

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  1. It sounds delicious. Do you know what kinds of tea sandwiches they have? I love afternoon tea, so I'll put it on my list of places to go the next time I'm in the East Bay.

    3 Replies
    1. re: YSZ

      Tea sandwich choices
      - lox with cream cheese and capers
      - ham
      - cucumber
      - pear with stilton
      - chicken salad
      - watercress

      Regular sandwiches (not part of the tea)
      - veggie eggplant panini
      - tomato and mozzarella panini
      - basic panini ( choice of turkey, roast beef with caramalized onions, lamb or chicken)
      - Tuna melt with choice of cheese

      All sandwiches are served on a choice of sliced sourdough, sliced whole wheat, slicec ciabatta or a ciabatta roll, as well as a choice of provolone, swiss, cheddar, bried, fresh mozzarella or jack cheese.

      1. re: rworange

        Thanks for the information. I'll report back, hopefully soon.

        1. re: YSZ

          You are welcome. This isn't a place I'd go out of my way for, but if you are in the East Bay it may be a good stop. Keep an eye on the boards to see what others think. I've only had one cupcake so far. which may or may not represent the other stuff.

          I do want to try the Filipino stuff next. That might be why the baked goods are so inexpensive by American bakery standards. By Filipino bakery standards the prices are astronomical.

          The mini Scharfenberger cake looked quite good, like a large petit four.

    2. rw - are all the cakes, croissants, etc, made in-house?

      1. Had the longanisa breakfast here. It is recognizably prettified, yet in a way that does not obscure its Filipino roots. Where a typical longsilog would consist of garlic fried rice, fried egg and sweet pork sausage in a fairly greasy mode, here the eggs are poached, the garlic fried rice is brown rice, minimally salted but with browned, smashed cloves of garlic. The longanisa is a chicken longanisa, really delicious, perfectly balanced to my taste with sweet, salty, peppery and fatty flavors. I think they cook it on a panini grill, and it ends up less greasy than pan-fried. I would guess that it is store-bought; maybe you can get it at 99 ranch, but it doesn't diminish it's deliciousness. The Filipino cred is maintained by its being served with a little ramekin of vinegar with a smashed garlic clove in it, for dipping.

        Ensaimada was a sweet and savory bun with quite a bit of fat in it, I think from butter and cheese. My dining companion said she would have preferred it to be airier, but it was still tasty.

        2 Replies
        1. re: twocents

          THANKS!!! Will have to try it. Do you ever get to Pinole? Have you tried the new Filipino fusion place that replaced Eva's? I don't know another thing about it other than that. I just spotted it driving by.

          1. re: rworange

            I don't get to Pinole for Filipino at all; I've been to a couple places on the Peninsula, but that's it. Oh wait, I went to Barrio Fiesta in Milpitas or around there once, pretty decent.

            I meant to note that the room is as you describe, quite pleasant on a sunny midday.

        2. Just to be picky, what you described is "afternoon tea" not "high tea" (true high tea includes a hot savory dish). Sounds delicious, though.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            Are roasted chicken and quiche not considered "hot savory dishes"?

            1. re: chemchef

              They would be, but they're not included. According to rworange's post: High tea for one ($14) includes choice of tea sandwich, raisin scone with cream and jam, choice of one tea pastry and endless pot of tea. But since the restaurant already serves those items they could certainly be incorporated to make a true high tea if the restaurant chose to -- they could offer both afternoon tea for $14 and high tea for, say, $18.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                I see. So, is that the only difference b/w afternoon tea and high tea?

                1. re: chemchef

                  Technically, yes.

                  But Americans have a fundamental misunderstanding of what "high tea" really means in Britain. Americans think the word "high" indicates "high class" (fancy), when in fact, high tea is based in the working class/rural tradition where the main meal is eaten at midday and people go to bed fairly early; "high tea" is actually a light(er) evening meal eaten after work. In contrast, the upper classes would eat a large formal meal late in the evening, and thus had afternoon tea (with sandwiches, etc.) to tide them over between luncheon and that late meal. So, in reality, a "high tea" would be a fairly simple meal, and not one that includes fancy sandwiches and pastries.

                  Of course, now that very few people are putting in long days of manual labor, almost everyone stays up later and hardly anyone goes to formal balls where meals are served at midnight, the traditional distinctions have faded. Still, many working class people refer to the evening meal as "tea" and "high tea" is often offered as the evening meal in places that have a tradition of a large midday meal, especially on Sundays.

          2. I have visited Buttercream twice for lunch, although I'm curious about their breakfast. My friend and I had the eggplant sandwich and the chicken sandwich on a soft ciabatta roll. Very generous served with an attractive spring salad - $7. each. Lattes are served in a bowl. nice... Service is friendly and the neighborhood seems to be supporting them. All pastries are inhouse made. The scone was too rich for me (cornmeal cherry is my thing), but the blueberry muffin was moist and flavorful. Only $1.50 for a good-sized muffin. A good addition to the neighborhood.