Travel: A Day in San Francisco

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Hi guys! Last week, we were able to sneak in a day and a half in the Bay Area. Eight hours of that was spent in the beautiful San Francisco. The weather happened to be just lovely, which was perfect for walking around the beautiful Mission District area. Here are some of the places we saw.


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Not worth the time.

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Good, but ordinary.

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Great. Worth a visit.

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Exceptional. A must-do experience.

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Frugal friendly

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Reasonable

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Pricey


Craftsman and Wolves

 

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Mission District
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I already wrote an extensive review about this one (here), but I figure I’d add it to the list for accessibility. This is a bakery that not everyone talks about, but all the locals know. The pastries are delicious and the ambience is great. The guys behind the counter were helpful and jovial. They did not look at me begrudgingly when I asked them how Japanese milk bread is made, to that was pretty awesome. I am surprised that they aren’t raved about more. I know that Tartine is just down the street, but honestly, I liked my experience here much more. I’d recommend for people who happen to find themselves on Valencia street to have a stop, and taste what they have to offer. We were glad we did.

Ritual Coffee Roasters

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Mission District
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Wherever we go, we are always pulled towards coffee. Usually, I have Mike make the pick, mostly because he is more of a coffee guru than I. We usually go for a coffee roaster, rather than a coffee shop that uses other people’s roasted beans. There were a few to choose from, but since we were on Valencia, we figured we could walk to Ritual, which Mike has heard good things about. As is typical, I chose a decaf version of a latte, and Mike chose a pour over. You can never fully determine whether the coffee is good when in a latte, so I will also usually nab a sip from Mike’s cup. He chose a bean that delivers kumquat and oolong tea notes, which to me was a bit too light to even taste. I blame that partially on the coffee choice, though. Mike says he could taste the kumquat, but I tried a couple times and all I could taste was tea. The descriptors of the other coffees were very interesting, and I would actually love to go back and try more in the future. It’s hard to tell from one bean, but since it’s a place that I would recommend people check out, three diamonds it is.

Tartine Bakery

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♦♦◊◊
Mission District
$$$

I SO wanted to write an amazing review for Tartine, but I left the place so underwhelmed that I just cannot. I don’t get the hype. At all. There was a line when we got there and so I thought it would be amazing, because who would consider it worth the line if it wasn’t, right? But as we inched our way closer to the counter over the course of an excitable twenty minutes, I become more and more disheartened. The interior was very old looking, not well kept, and way too crowded to have a comfortable lunch experience, so luckily, we were just there to pick up bread. You place your order at the counter after passing very unclean displays of desserts. Mind you, we never got to trying those desserts, so maybe I just have to get my butt back there to try one and totally turn this experience around. But we were there for the bread. I started my bread baking journey with the Tartine book, and I wanted to see what I should be working towards. So we ordered a ridiculously priced country loaf for $9.50 from a lady who was part of an assembly line service, or so it seemed. The type where they ask in a bored tone, “What can I get for you?”, followed by, “Is that all?” and a quick walking away and no further hellos. We walk up to the cashier who glanced up to ask, “Just the loaf?” Overall, the bakery had lackluster customer service, which made my image of Tartine Bakery go poof! But it shouldn’t be about the customer service and the ambiance. It should be about the bread! So to my dismay, here is what I think of the bread. The crust was too overdone. It was hard as a rock, way too burned, way too black, and I thought our serrated knife was going to snap in half. When we sliced into it, we realized that the loaves looked EXACTLY like the first 40 “mess ups” that we had created in our kitchen, until we switched to a different starter strategy and started making bread we actually liked. The loaf was bit flat, a bit gummy, and honestly, very dense, which is not what you want bread to be. A slice of the bread in a grilled cheese sandwich made my tummy hurt. Mike admitted to feeling queesy as well. So I am not sure what happened on this day. The bread was all wrong, and I just did not understand the hype. I actually would prefer to stick with our bread, any day. I might go back again one day to try the desserts and see if those are any good. Maybe.

Marufuku Ramen

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Japantown
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My friends love ramen. It’s one of the cornerstones that hold us together as friends. Half of the time I eat out with those guys, we go to ramen, and I have absolutely no complaints. So when our SF friends told us that there is only one ramen place in SF that makes good ramen, I just knew we were going to go. The thing was, this place opens at 5pm and there is always a line. We had to line up at 4:30pm in order to get a seat. In fact, we arrived at 4:30pm and barely made it into the door upon opening. We were the last group to be seated for dinner. The rest of the people in line would have to wait until the someone from the first group leaves. The restaurant was packed. Apparently, it is like this every day. I think it was made worse because that particular weekend happened to be the cherry blossom festival. Japantown was packed. It’s funny, because I always think, well ramen is ramen. But Mike and I sure have our favorites, so I know that isn’t true. There are places where you ingest a bowl and realize that the soup is mostly water and the chashu is of low quality, or badly prepared. Others have interesting topping choices, or my least favorite, thick noodles only. This place certainly earned a spot in my list of top Ramen places. The water had flowers, the broth was well seasoned, the toppings were fresh, and the service was fast and attentive. I know that waiting in line for thirty minutes before a restaurant opens when there is much more of SF to see may seem like a high price to pay, but I would do it all over again if I was asked. Unfortunately, ramen is still ramen, and this is not a must do.

Bostock

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Bostock is such a funny word. I was perusing the Tartine book when I first came upon this recipe. I’ve heard of french toast, but not of it’s equivalent, which is this quirkily named french pastry. As usual, I was first attracted to the photo in the book, but upon quickly skimming the ingredients, I was intrigued, and at the same time, in love with the idea. The recipe suggested taking day-old brioche bread slices and soaking them with an orange syrup. Once soaked, a layer of jam was spread on top, followed by an even thicker layer of almond cream, which I later learned was referred to as frangipane. On top of that was a sprinkling of sliced almonds. The bread slices are placed in an oven and allowed to bake until the almond topping has caramelized and the almond slices have toasted.

So when we brought home a loaf of Japanese milk bread from Craftsman and Wolves last week, I had an idea, which stems from the realization that along with the Tartine Country Loaf we had also bought, we had WAY too much bread to finish off all by ourselves. I decided to take the Japanese milk bread and substitute it for the brioche! Bread is not to be wasted in our house.

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Japanese milk bread, courtesy of Craftsman and Wolves.

At first, this recipe may sound like something entirely too sweet. Brioche bread on its own has that aspect in it. But I ask that you try it anyway, because you may be as surprised as I to find the nuttiness in this recipe. We had placed a very small layer of jam, but loaded the thing with our frangipane. Once caramelized, the almond really plays a huge role in balancing out the fruitier aspects of this dish. Mike and I have now become huge fans! Plus, this feeds a huge group of people way easier than french toast. It’s easy to prepare everything ahead of time, and assembly is quick. Pop the tray in the oven as the guests arrive, and let the heat do its thing while you entertain. Serve piping hot, with cold brewed coffees, and it’s a perfect Sunday brunch.

This recipe made 8 slices. Believe it or not, Mike and I were not able to finish them all. So we placed them in the fridge and have been sticking a slice into the toaster oven every morning for the past few days, for an easy breakfast before work. They have been reheating very well! Whether you are a brunch host, a busy mom, an entrepreneur, or just a lazy cook who wants to eat great tasting food, this is a must try.

Below is a very similar recipe to the one in the Tartine book, with only a few minor changes.

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A slice of bostock, oozing with caramel goodness.

Ingredients:

Orange Syrup

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • Grated zest of 1 tangerine
  • 2 tbs Triple Sec (or any other orange liquer)

Almond Cream

  • 1 3/4 cups sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tbs Grand Marnier

Bostock

  • 8 slices of Japanese milk bread, about 1/2 inch thick
  • Boysenberry jam
  • Optional: Confectioner’s sugar
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Soaking the slices with orange syrup. YUM!

The Process:

Orange Syrup:

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar, juice, and zest and bring to a simmer, while constantly stirring.
  2. When the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat.
  3. Stir in the Triple Sec and allow to cool to room temperature.

Almond Cream

  1. Combine 1 cup of the sliced almonds, the sugar, and the salt in a food processor and process until finely ground. Reserve 3/4 cup of the sliced almonds for the topping.
  2. Add the eggs and butter to the food processor and continue to process until a paste forms.
  3. Transfer to a bowl and stir in Grand Marnier.
  4. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to three days.

Bostock

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Arrange the brioche toasts on a baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, thoroughly soak the toasts with the syrup until they are very moist.
  3. Spread with a thin layer of jam.
  4. Follow with a thicker layer of almond cream. Think double the later of the jam, or more, because there can never be too much almonds.
  5. Top with the remained 3/4 cup of sliced almonds.
  6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until deep golden brown. The cream should have caramelized and the almond slices should have toasted.
  7. Optional: Dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving. We skipped this last step, relishing the toasted almonds, as is.
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It’d be difficult not to fall in love.

For more awesome recipes such as this, all related to homemade bread, I highly recommend Tartine’s book, to start.

Travel: Craftsman and Wolves

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

It was only a week ago that we were able to get away for a quick visit to Northern California. We were recommended Craftsman and Wolves on Valencia Street by a fellow baker (actually, a more OFFICIAL baker who actually knows the stuff of yeast and flour), rather last minute, but with extremely high remarks. The weekend was meant to be spent with a group of undergraduate friends that we rarely get to see anymore, for as life would have it, we have all grown into adults with jobs that took us to far and farther off places. However, Mike and I squeezed in a morning to our own perusing, and I convinced him to seek out delicious bread loaves, since you know, I have been obsessed with the stuff. So upon our friend’s suggestion, we decided to swing by Craftsman and Wolves, and it turns out, I liked the place way more than the Tartine down the street. Which says a lot, since I am using Tartine’s book to learn how to bake my own delicious loaves. Call me an inexperienced, unknowledgable, unclassy homebaker, but honestly, you like what you like. And this stuff was pretty freaking good.

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I know I have my biases towards environments, with the decor of a place usually selling me as soon as I’ve stepped my foot in the door. It just can’t be helped. Obviously, there’s so much to love about this place. From the blue teacups laying strewn across recently deserted counters, to the light fixtures, the gray walls, the white brick, and most importantly, the display of delectable sweets.

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However, don’t let that bias fool you into thinking that this is just another instragrammable cafe. Rather, it holds a collection of delicious pastries that would be enough to make me forgive the cafe if it were located in the back alleyway of a city street in some alternate universe.

We perused the pastries, and as we pointed to a delicious-looking muffin, one of the staff came over to load a box full of them! “Better nab one before they’re gone,” he said with a mischievous grin. I kept looking at the display as we waited our turn in line, fearing that we were not going to get a taste of whatever it was that everyone seemed to want. The name of the muffin was The Rebel Within, and little did I know that it was the main attraction of the place, and typically sells out every weekend. Upon ordering, we thought we were getting what looked like a muffin, with green onions and sausage, but slicing into the little devil taught us what it meant to be a rebel. Inside was a perfectly soft-boiled egg, that oozed its yolky center out onto the white plate. I was surprised that the muffin was able to cage something that seemingly has been waiting to burst open for it’s moment to shine. To be honest, the muffin didn’t seem at all dry like other muffins, so maybe the rebel was the muffin itself rather than the egg after all. Instead, it was more like a savory slice of cake, without the dose of sugar that would typically end in a headache. It was glorious.

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We also ordered a smoked ham croissant, with swiss and whole grain mustard. I am going to wholeheartedly admit that the edible flowers sprinkled on top is what initially attracted me to this thing. Full disclosure, the edible flowers did not taste that much, but the croissant was delicious. Flaky and crispy croissants are what I love best! This one had a light filling that did not leave you feeling completely heavy, nor with full-on mustard breath. Which was perfect, because we were about to head over to Ritual Coffee down the street to get our coffee breath on!

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But before we left, I felt a tug in my stomach(?) that told me to get back to that counter and order one more thing. I saw when we had ordered a loaf of Japanese milk bread, with bunches of them wrapped in tissue paper, as if saying, “Please, take us back on the plane with you!” With my recent bread baking craze, I figured, we were already there, so “Why not?” I snagged a loaf for myself, to see what exactly Japanese milk bread tasted like, and if it was something I would be interested in learning. When we got back to my sister’s apartment that night, she informed me that Japanese milk bread was everywhere in Japan and she loved eating it there. In other words, she approved of my purchase.

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Verdict? The minute we landed that Monday morning, we took time to eat a slice of the Craftsman and Wolves milk bread. It looks and feels like a typical loaf you would find wrapped in plastic in the bread aisle but tastes like a brioche, without too much dryness. Granted, my bread-tasting experience is completely limited, but all I know is that it tasted great toaster with a slab of Peanut Butter melting on top.

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Overall, I would highly recommend experiencing CAW for anyone visiting San Francisco. I know it’s very tempting to get only the mind-blowing Rebel Within (for the gram), but it wouldn’t hurt to order some of the other pastries as well, because I am sure that they are all very, very good!