Foodcation, San Francisco Part III: Desserts!

6 Oct

Based on this trip alone, San Francisco could easily be the US capitol of sweets.

I’ve never hidden the fact that I’m a sucker for all things chocolate and chocolate-covered, and to me, dessert is a food group. So of course the roster of food spots that D and I drew up for this SF trip included about 5 dessert places. On top of that, when a LivingSocial coupon popped up for the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival, we were all “SO. THERE.” and jumped on the deal and added it to the schedule.

At the Chocolate Festival, we managed to squeeze in almost 15 tastings. We tried mini Ghirardelli sundaes, little chocolate milkshakes, tastings of crème brulee, slices of truffle bars, brownies, cookies, and even take-home samples. I particularly loved CC Made‘s artisanal caramel corn. I tried the spiced almond and wow – it really does pack a flavorful punch, with a softly sweet flavor from the almond with a peppery bite at the end. I’d choose this popcorn any day over the heart-attack-inducing movie theater stuff.

Cupcakes have become ubiquitous in DC; while the trend may have worn its welcome, I still find it hard to turn down a good-looking cupcake. So when we came across a Kara’s Cupcakes shop, I caved and purchased a Fleur de Sel: a chocolate cupcake with caramel filling, ganache frosting and a sprinkling of fleur de sel. When I ate it the next day, I was impressed. The cupcakes are a good size – large enough to be filling but small enough not to make you feel guilty.  The Fleur de Sel was a flavor I hadn’t seen before so I liked that Kara’s has unique flavors. The cake was a little cakey for my taste (I like really moist cake), but the ganache was wonderfully velvety and the caramel filling added a sweet, delicious touch. Both of those flavors with high-quality sea salt were just delicious, a great balance of sweet and salty that’s hard to resist.

The flow of sweets didn’t stop there. In Napa the next day, we made a stop at the famous Bouchon Bakery, run by world-renowned chef Thomas Keller. It’s a tiny space, but overwhelmingly bursting with baked goodness. The selection of pastries and breads and chocolates abounds. I bought chocolate and hazelnut macarons, a chocoate-almond croissant, and two of their signature treats: a chocolate bouchon and a “fughedaboutit.” I slowly ate everything in the succession of the next 3 days and was probably on a continuous sugar high because of that. The macarons were large – pretty much cookie size – and both were made with the right amount of softness and slight crispiness of a perfectly baked macaron. And the fillings were creamy and flavorful. Bouchon’s were probably the best macarons I’ve had outside of La Duree.

The croissant was buttery but flaky, had the right amount of chocolate filling and good twinge of almond flavor – neither overpowered the other. The chocolate bouchon was pretty much a tiny chocolate cake: moist and strong with cocoa, with a good dusting of powdered sugar that served as a worthy replacement of any sort of frosting or ganache. And I loved the “fughedaboutit,” – basically a rice krispie treat on crack – a small krispie treat disc covered in salted caramel, dipped in rich chocolate, and topped with a bit of sea salt. Much like the Fleur de Sel cupcake, it was a wonderful balance of sweet and salty, but also had crunchy, chewy, and creamy textures that made it fun to eat. I should’ve bought a stash of fughedaboutits, because I haven’t “fugottenaboutem.” (Haaaa…get it??) But really, if you’re ever in Napa, go to Bouchon and try as many desserts and pastries as you can, buy some for the ride home, and uh…send me a box while you’re at it. 😉

The next day, D and I explored the SF Ferry Building Marketplace. One standout bakery that I enjoyed checking out was Miette, a little patisserie that oozed cuteness. If I ever decide to drop everything and open my own patisserie, I’d want it to look like Miette, with all its soft, pastel colors and lovely packaging and beautifully decorated cakes. I tried 2 macarons, a chocolate fleur de sel caramel (can you tell I’m obsessed with the chocolate-caramel-sea salt combo?), and two little solid chocolates. The macarons were standard, small-sized ones, and certainly well made; not chewy or crumbly, but soft and almost melt-in-your-mouth. I tried a chocolate and a chocolate-lavender, and both were very good. The chocolate was smooth and didn’t have a big hit of cocoa, but subtle and sweet. The chocolate lavender was similar, but with a touch of lavender flavor, which sounds a little weird, but it actually worked, kind of in the way rose works well as a macaron flavor. The chocolate caramels were smooth and chewy, the kind of candy you can just savor in small batches with a cup of tea.

We also visited Scharffen Berger, a company that makes artisan chocolate. I had never heard of this company before, so it was nice to discover a new shop that rivals Ghirardelli or Godiva. I would definitely consider buying their baking chocolate for when I want to make high-quality desserts at home; their chocolates were that excellent. My favorite was their 62% cacao dark chocolate mocha, which had ground Sumatran coffee in it – a nice twist on a traditional chocolate bar, and the coffee enhanced the flavor of the deep chocolate taste.

The night before, a friend took us to Bi-Rite Creamery, and D and I picked up a carton of Salted Caramel ice cream (pictured up top). We finally got around to eating it the next evening and I’m just really sad we didn’t have enough time, or stomach room, to finish the entire thing. It has to be one of the best, if not the best, ice creams I’ve ever eaten. Smooth, creamy, didn’t come out frozen solid straight from the freezer, and the flavor was in-your-face awesome. It tasted exactly like rich caramel sprinkled with sea salt. When I go back to San Francisco, Bi-Rite will be one of the first stops I make, just to try as many flavors as I can.

With the sweets and the wine and the ethnic food, it would be an understatement to say I was overwhelmed with the selection of eats available to us in San Francisco. What I’ve told you is just a peek into everything I ate, and what I ate is just a taste of what’s out there. Even weeks after, I already look forward to when I’ll be back. Of course, I’ll have my camera and my pen ready.

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One Response to “Foodcation, San Francisco Part III: Desserts!”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. I’m officially on the gelato diet. « The Novice Nosher - June 9, 2011

    […] the pistachio flavor. Pistachio wasn’t available but this  sea salt caramel was. I have good memories of salted caramel ice cream (I miss you, Bi-Rite), so I just had to splurge on this […]

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