Most people visit new cities or places for the unique or historical sites, museums, or culture. Me, I scout out unique food shops, markets, and artisans. It’s not that I don’t like soaking up local culture. I do. But I also love to check out the artistry or specialties produced by local enterprising food types. And one fantastic city in which to do that is San Francisco, where I happened to be for the two-day BlogHer Food 2010 conference along with a few hundred other foodies.
At the start of the second day of the conference when most bloggers were still asleep after a late night of partying, I was taking in the cool San Francisco morning with a fellow blogger as we headed out for breakfast at one of the city’s most raved-about bakeries, Tartine. A short ride on the city’s BART subway transports you from tony downtown to the Mission District whose old buildings now gentrified house art galleries and indie clothing shops. Early risers beat the line that quickly forms on Saturdays after Tartine’s doors swing open at 8:00 a.m. Both locals and tourists make the mini mecca for fresh, out-of-the-oven pastries and artisanal bread produced with top-notch, mainly organic and local ingredients.
As we climbed from the BART station and made our way downhill we were soon struck by heavenly aromas. By the time we arrived at this very cool, old-European-feel corner café, the sun was burning off the chill. The first step inside Tartine overloads your senses with the sights and smells of gigantic croissants—frangipane (almond), double Valhrona chocolate, pain au jambon (ham and cheese)—scones, and morning buns. And we swooned over the morning buns, doughy swirls filled with cinnamon sugar and subtle orange flavoring. The buttermilk scones are studded with currants. These are among the best pastries I’ve had. If Tartine were in my neighborhood, I’d think I’d turn into a morning bun.
Lest you think all here is buttery and sweet goodness, there are other choices. A healthy option, and one I’d like to see offered more everywhere, is muesli. Tartine’s version combines locally produced yogurt with whole grains, fresh and dried organic fruits (including crisp apple slices), and toasted nuts. I could easily make this a morning staple (on non-morning bun days). And you can satisfy your savory side with pain au jambon (ham and cheese croissant), gougères (cheese puffs), or a generous slice of tall, custardy quiche made with crème fraîche.
Known for its rustic artisanal breads, Tartine doesn’t offer any at breakfast. That’s because the ovens are dedicated to baking morning items, so bread baking doesn’t start until the afternoon. Loaves get put out around 5:00 p.m. Guess I’ll have to make another visit to San Francisco to try some.
But it was a beautiful October morning and we were lucky to snag a table outside where we sipped coffee and lingered over every bite of breakfast while watching people come and go. It was a sweet start to the day.
Tartine Bakery & Café
600 Guerrero Street