Tartine Bakery

Tartine 03

For most of my life, breakfast was an afterthought. Slumber (especially at 6am in the morning), was is my preferred state over sitting at the table, begrudgingly consuming those few slices of toast with a mug of Milo for “the most important meal of the day”. Outside of school, however, I discovered that breakfast could actually be enjoyable, even before 9am in the morning. My breakfast of choice these days always involves an espresso or a cappucino (preferably topped with just a splash of foam) and a croissant. Alternating between flaky bites of the beloved French crescent and bitter sips of espresso that cleanse the palate, this is a classic pairing that I can never tire of.

It is this breakfast addiction that motivates my search for a “good” café/bakery whenever I’m in a new city, which essentially translates to: fresh, warm croissants and strong espressos with just the right balance of bitterness. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of decent cafés in San Francisco or in our neighborhood, but occasionally, we come across outstanding establishments like Tartine Bakery in San Francisco’s Mission district and I find myself wondering, “Why can’t all bakeries be like this?”.

Tartine 10

The storefront, at the corner of 18th and Guerrero Streets, is unassuming and nondescript, often shrouded by a crowd of locals and visitors waiting in line to place their order and gawk at the countless desserts on display.

The space is at once a bakery, café and exhibition space for local artists; on a recent Saturday, the walls were decorated with drawings and a narration of some guy’s confrontation with monsters who eventually devoured him limb by limb. Not exactly the type of reading material I can appreciate but I was grateful for the distraction while waiting in line.

On our last visit, we finally settled on a double pain au chocolat – a super-sized chocolate croissant – and a morning bun after scouring through the one-page menu of breakfast pastries, hot sandwiches and dessert pastries. Succumbing to the memories of a previous visit, I snuck in an order for a Lemon Cream tart to round off the meal.

Double Pain au Chocolat and Morning Buns

Double Pain au Chocolat and Morning Bun

Now, I’ve had many croissants in the short amount of time that I’ve inducted them into my breakfast routine, but this pain au chocolat is by far, one of the best that I’ve come across. It would be an understatement to say that Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson, the chefs behind Tartine, are generous with butter in their croissant-making process. The crumb is soft and extremely light, colored with just a tinge of yellow to hint at the slabs of dairy goodness folded into its layers. Pair that with (just) a few big lumps of chocolate that come oozing through with each bite and you’ve got a breakfast pastry to write home (or a cookbook) about.

Compared with the pain au chocolat the morning bun seemed pretty ordinary, but no less delicious. I enjoyed its airy, croissant-like texture flecked with hints of cinnamon and orange zest to tease the palate, but I was already looking ahead to our dessert treat:

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Lemon Cream Tart

Pre-baked pâte sablé tartlet shells are filled with a silky smooth lemon cream, mounded with a quenelle of whipped cream and garnished with a delicate flower petal. The tart looks too good to eat, but eat we did, lapping up every drop of the thick, sweet and tart filling with its shell.

Apart from breakfast pastries and sweet endings, Tartine’s a worthwhile lunch spot with its 11 different pressed sandwiches.  Served from noon everyday, these are veritable feasts featuring a host of artisan cheeses and/or cured meats on warm slices of levain bread with a side of freshly cooked vegetables.

Faced with menu items like Membrillo & Idiazabal (Quince jam with sheep’s milk cheese), grilled Humboldt Fog Goat Cheese on levain or Niman Ranch pastrami with Gruyére cheese, horseradish and Dijon mustard, I went for their Prosciutto and Provolone sandwich which came overflowing with enough cheese and meat for two. It was a tough decision to make, especially when it was right between a sandwich like Sopressata, Fontina and Broccoli Rabe Pesto on the menu and Jambon Royale & Gruyère, with Niman Ranch ham and Dijon mustard on country bread.

If you make it there for a late lunch between Wednesdays to Sundays, you should stay on until 5pm when the bakery’s famous bread loaves make their short appearance before being quickly whisked away under the arms of San Francisco’s bread lovers. I never seem to be in close proximity at that time of day, but one can hope, right?

Tartine Montage 3

Tartine Bakery & Café
600 Guerrero Street (at the corner with 18th Street)
San Francisco, CA 94110
Tel: (415) 487-2600
Email: info@tartinebakery.com

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show hide 14 comments

laura - Wow I missed Tartine when I came for BlogHer Food 09 but when I come back for foodbuzz I will NOT be missing it. I like the idea of a lemon tart for ‘dessert’ it was so fantastic looking. Do you go often? Are you local?

Its Not You, it’s Brie - Beautiful Tartine photos! I’m housesitting for a friend in the mission and went there twice in two days and am eating salads until I’m there more three more days so I can continue this standard I’ve set. Have to get ready to butter myself up again.

Janice - My favorite bakery! And I love their cookbook and have been baking my way through it. Your pictures are making me drool. :)

Felicia - le sigh. i am in the office with not even a lousy breadtalk or starbucks in sight.

sometimes i want to live in Paris just because of 1 thing: Patissieres.

Miriam/El invitado de invierno - Yay, I’ve got the book! And I’d love to visit Tartine… but that’d be in my next life… :-)

Danielle - Laura: I consider myself a “pseudo-local” in SF ;) We live half an hour away in Palo Alto so I try to stop by Tartine whenever we’re in the city. Now you have a breakfast/lunch spot to check out when you’re here in November!

It’s Not You, It’s Brie: Lucky you to house sit in the Mission! There are so many tempting places to eat there I’m amazed that you’ve managed to limit yourself to salads (I’d add a Taco with that, thank you very much). Thanks for reading!

Janice: Isn’t their cookbook fabulous? It’s such a wonderful source of inspiration for me and reading their story makes me dream about opening a bakery!

Felicia: We’ll have to bring you there when you visit!

Miriam: The book is certainly one of my staples for desserts and pastries – I hope you’ll get a chance to visit one day; never say never ;)

Samra - Found your blog through Nutrition as Nature Intended’s food blogger award list. So glad that I did! Such a delicious looking blog with great recipes! Looking forward to stopping by more often :)

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite - I am SO seeking that out when I am at the Foodbuzz festival!!! Looks like my kinda place!

Danielle - Samra: Thanks and welcome!

Mardi: You won’t regret it!! :)

Joe - Makes me hunger for the best pain au chocolat in southern France – at the boulangerie in Vers Pont du Gard

Danielle - Joe: That’s actually close to where my brother-in-law lives! I haven’t had the chance to visit him but now there’s another reason to make the trip :)

OysterCulture - Great photos and write up about a special place that has such a connection for so many people. I love the restaurant and the book. Speaking of great bakeries in the city have you had the chance to check out Arizmendie’s on 9th between Irving and Judah in the Inner Sunset?

BBA French Bread & Chanterelles « Bon Vivant - […] As is the case with most of Reinhart’s bread formulas in his book, the French Bread begins its existence as a pâte fermentée, a 20-minute affair of mixing and kneading followed by some resting time and and spending a night in the fridge. While it might seem like a lot of trouble to have to prepare a dough before you start on the real thing, this is, in Reinhart’s words, “one of the baker’s most effective tools for manipulating time”, as pre-ferments give the final loaves a flavor and structure comparable with those found at your favorite bakery. […]

BBA French Bread & Chanterelles | Beyond [the Plate] - […] as pre-ferments give the final loaves a flavor and structure comparable with those found at your favorite bakery. And comparable they were. The soft crumb of the long slender loaves were packed with flavor and a […]

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