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Patisseries in San Francisco

What crawl would you plot for a visiting pastry chef? Tartine, yes. B.Patisserie, hoping it finally opens. Kara's cupcakes? or no? Your idea of the most interesting at this time? Many thanks.

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  1. B. is getting closer...

    Definitely Craftsmen + Wolves, maybe also make a reservation for their tea service.

    The Ferry Building offers density--on a Saturday market, you could hit up Downtown Bakery, Della Fattoria and Les Elements, as well as the vendors inside the building in kiosks or permanent spaces.

    I might pop into one of the coffee shops that serves fine-quality pastries, such as Sightglass or Four Barrel. Their pastries are not made in-house, but are purchased through a few vendors like Starter Bakery and Neighbor Bakery, which sells, to my taste, the best croissant in SF.

    Cupcakes don't interest me too much, so no opinion on Kara's, but I am certain we have several cupcake experts among us who can offer better intel.

    2 Replies
    1. re: pane

      blue bottle also has limited but often intriguing stuff. mariposa in ferry plaza is a fave among gluten frees.

      1. re: pane

        Also at the Ferry Building are Boulette's Larder and Miette (permanent shops indoors). Tout Sweet on the third floor of the Union Square Macy's (opened by Yigit Pura, last mille feuille left standing in first season of Top Chef Desserts).

      2. Reports have been mixed, but I still think it would be worth checking out Tout Sweet.

        1. def first two. knead is doing some really different things well (esp salty sweet). it's always a treat to try the the limited offerings @ boulettes larder. mr & miscellaneous has addictive cookies (and ice cream).

          1. Skip Kara's unless you're going to blur your pastry crawl with a cupcake/cake crawl too.

            Tout Sweet, Neighbor Bakery, and Pattiserie Phillipe shouldn't be missed for croissants.

            Black Jet Bakery for sweets.

            Craftsmen & Wolves is an important stop, as is Tartine.

            Arizmendi is good for some pastry like items.

            The tip about Blue Bottle is right on, they carry some interesting items, but mostly cookies.

            Cafe Roma was also carrying interesting pastries, bombolini, and other treats the last time I was there. Everything was pricey, but nicer looking than expected.

            Stella, Victoria and Dianda's carry some Italian style sweets like Napoleons, that might fit your tour.

            1 Reply
            1. re: sugartoof

              I believe that the Mission outpost of Coffee Bar is carrying Patisserie Philippe's wares, if that is of interest to the OP.

              You can also get stuff from b patisserie at Front which is out of the way but a neat location and plenty of free parking (there's a phrase I don't often type on the SF board). Their coffee is worth a taste. Great affogatos too.

            2. Thanks so much for all of this great info. Please keep it coming. Planned visit is in early February. Again, many, many thanks.

              1. - Tartine
                - Craftsman & Wolves
                - Knead Patisserie
                - Baker & Banker Bakery (doesn't get talked about on here at all or get much press these days but I find the product very tasty)
                - Dynamo Donuts
                - Pinkies Bakery

                Cupcakes are not my thing so I cant recommend anything in that department.

                The top three places on my list would also be my top three picks.

                1. Don't miss Knead. Also, Sandbox.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: mlutsky

                    Perhaps due to location, which isn't really that inconvenient, Sandbox doesn't get a lot of mentions on here. I'd highly recommend them--- excellent croissants, and to boot, they're more consistent than other places I've tried.

                    What are some of folks favorites at Craftsmen & Wolves? I've had about five items, and all struck me as great concepts, but I didn't find as appealing as less classy things at other places (e.g. a butterscotch pudding which didn't taste much of anything, a layered chocolate layered item which was gorgeous but wasn't resilient)

                    1. re: hyperbowler

                      My favorites at Craftsmen & Wolves are the Rebel Within, the olive bread, the brownies (best I have ever had) and the buckwheat crumpets on their tea menu. My daughter adores the travel cakes. Also, their fruit curds.

                      1. re: hyperbowler

                        At Craftsman & Wolves some of my favorites are the Rebel Within, hazelnut financier, salted caramel brownie, any of the muffins, and the chocolate chip cookie.

                        I usually never get any of the croissants here. Always found them dry, and when I want one I will just head straight to Tartine which is a block and a half away.

                        1. re: benv

                          Thanks for the guidance--- the muffins were a huge winner. The cocoa carrot muffin trumps most carrot cakes I've eaten. The blueberry muffin had a great crumb on top and managed to contain large quantities of blueberries without them oversaturated the muffin.

                          Salted caramel brownie was really good.

                          The Rebel Within just isn't my thing. I don't like the flavor of the popover-like exterior. The egg inside is a marvel though and nicely cooked.

                      2. re: mlutsky

                        I've visited Sandbox a number of times, and really wished it were better than it is, or worth special trips to Bernal.

                      3. Also, not sure if "pie" falls under pastry hunt, but if it does, I would stop into Mission Beach Cafe for one of Alan Carter's pies. Refined homestyle fillings (like banana butterscotch, sour cherry, huckleberry) and spectacular flaky crust.

                        The pastries at Blue Bottle are produced by former Miette baker, I think, and I find both Miette + Blue Bottle pastry on the dry side, so I don't generally order baked goods there. However, the custom desserts for the Blue Bottle kiosk at SF MoMa (the desserts match the art and change as the exhibits do) are often tasty and impressive to look at.

                        1. Does your chef friend have a particular focus? Are they into breads, pastries, sweet or savory... French pastries in particular or anything with a crust?

                          My obsession is the croissant. And for my money, Sandbox rules, and their pain au chocolat is even better than their plain croissant. The Sofitel in Burlingame is probably #2. Knead's is tasty but not as well crafted in terms of mille feuille delicacy. Tartine scores well on both craft and flavor, but for me it falls short because they are just too large and vary between burnt on the outside or gooey on the inside. Obviously, croissants are the subject of endless debates, so don't expect consensus, just use the controversy as fodder for a good crawl!

                          For breads, in addition to Tartine I'd include a trip to La Victoria and Sour Flour breads. Arizmendi deserves to be on the crawl, though they are not my style. Liguria bakery's focaccia is an old-school treat that deserves to be added to the crawl. Their bread is worthy as well. Finally, the levain bread at Outerlands is to die for. The only way I know to enjoy that is to go there, and their lunches are more focused on their breads than dinner, so I recommend heading there for lunch.

                          And of course, you should include a survey of sour dough breads. I never go directly to the bakeries for that, since the loaves can be obtained fresh from so many grocers. Maybe others can provide tips on how to get a chef's tour of the bakeries.

                          1. I don't think Cheese Board / Arizmendi are worth much of a detour (except for the cheese at Cheese Board). Interesting and eccentric if you're nearby but as bakeries go relatively amateurish hippie operations.

                            1. Knead Patisserie's croissants continue to be inconsistent. I'm at 1/4 being recommendable. A while back, I had one that unraveled into a spring of dough, shattering the flaky crust onto the ground. A few weekends back, I ate one that had a tough overcooked shell and tasted a little burnt. Looking at their croissant selection yesterday, I saw more of the same overdark croissants.

                              The good news is that the pomme d'amour is as good as ever and destination worthy-- flaky crust and a custard better than anything that comes to mind. It's not a pasty, but their current bread pudding is also excellent-- varied texture, lots of caramelized bits, and with some candied kumuats.

                              1. B. Patisserie, on California St. just west of Divisadero, has been open for a couple of weeks now.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: DavidT

                                  Stopped off at B.Patisserie yesterday afternoon. Nice space for eating in as well as takeout. Go early since many sweets are gone by 2 PM. All that was left was 2 slices of chocolate cake and croissants. Enjoyed the coffee, cake, and service. Will go back earlier for more offerings.

                                  1. re: foodseek

                                    Don't go too early though. When I was there, the desserts were only starting to be displayed at 10:30 and still were not completely displayed when I left at 11:15. I would have to have waited at least another 20 minutes for the last dessert to be displayed, so I just preordered what I wanted and came back later to pick it up. The desserts were well received by my family though. I hardly got to taste them at all, but what I did taste, I enjoyed and wish I had more of.