Tag Archives: La Boulange

My day in foods.

It was an awesome day on the friendship and food fronts. Not a nutritionally awesome day, mind you, but tomorrow I plan to eat only kale, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and berries. Or something like that.

Hook and I had our Breakfast of Champions at La Boulange. H. stuck with his traditional Morning Bun and Coke, while I tried a product I’ve been eyeing for some time: the Goat Cheese and Cassis Pear Danish.

Danish and coffee at La Boulange: perfection.

My crappy iPhone photo does this pastry no justice. The cheese was rich and sweet; the poached pear was a pure, royal purple and tender to the tooth. I lingered over each bite of the Danish (to the chagrin of other patrons, who wanted to nab our table). Oh, La Boulange! I sing your praises so often, but justifiably so — you’ve never let me down.

Gail and I met for lunch in the Mission. We didn’t have a destination in mind and ended up at Andalu, where I got this:

Andalu's berry-topped waffles with polenta fries.

I half-considered getting the savory waffles (being that my breakfast was so sweet), but I stuck to my sugary guns and got Waffles with Sautéed Berries. Waffles are a breakfast food I love above most others but don’t eat very often. I don’t own a waffle iron and when I’m out to brunch I lean toward eggier choices. Today, in a rare stroke of spontaneity, I got these bad boys. Golden, buttery, and crisp, these waffles stood head and shoulders above any I’ve eaten in the past year (or two: make it two). The berries had hints of butter and lemon juice; the whipped cream was mousselike and sweet. And the Polenta Fries? They’re not something I’d have created in my own kitchen*, but they were satisfying in a very fair foody way. They didn’t have the crispness of ordinary fries and they seemed to have been spiked with cheddar, but I’m glad I tried them.

In the high, midday heat, Gail and I sipped our Shandies and reminisced about Knox, college life, and The Midwest in General. Indeed, the record temps and the amped-up comfort food perfectly complemented our conversation; for a moment, I could almost envision myself back in Western Illinois, where the polenta fries would have been replaced by their potato-based cousins. Where the waffle would have been dinner plate sized, dry, and served with a scoop of whipped butter. I’m reaching to say that I found hints of Midwesternism in my midday meal, but it’s a pleasant reach. Andalu should take pride in the nostalgia they generated.

Dinner was of the “let’s see what we have left in the pantry and fridge” variety. Hook and I haven’t been grocery shopping in a week** but wanted to cook something rather than eating out. We were a little too sunstricken to brave a trip to the store, so we scrounged in the pantry, with fairly impressive results:

The dinner we created from random fridge and freezer items.

Here we have Pasta with Edamame, Goat Cheese, and Black Pepper — a seemingly odd combination, but a satisfying one. When the goat cheese melted, it fully coated the pasta strands, and the edamame added some color (and protein). The pasta itself was like spaghetti, but hollow — a detail that made the dish all the more delicious to me. (Note: I’m of the school that the shape of the pasta influences the “taste” of the dish, in that it affects my perception of the dish and therefore the consequent taste. Hook had Farfalle, but on Friday I went and bought this pasta because I perceived that a long, thin noodle would “taste” better to me. And so it did.)

Perhaps more satisfying than the melted goat cheese was the act of using up bits and bobs from the cupboard, fridge, and freezer. To me, grocery shopping is not just a necessity, but a hobby. I’ll find any reason to traipse down to the grocery store to pick up one item that I need/five that I don’t. For me, then, creating a relatively healthy, fully enjoyable meal from what I have already is a double triumph: an act of skillful preparation and of fiscal responsibility.

And that, friends, was Saturday. The weekend is off to a good start; tomorrow will bring the Folsom Street Fair and (I hope) further dining adventures.

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*Primarily because I don’t often cook with polenta, though Cooking With Polenta is a definite goal for the coming year.

**At least, but I’d be embarrassed to admit how long it has actually been. OK, it has actually been a week and a half.

Happiness is a Warm Bun

Morning Bun (with one bite missing).

It is a truth generally acknowledged that Haight Street needs a bakery. “Generally acknowledged” might tend toward hyperbole, but this deficit is one that crosses my mind most days. I’ll concede that I’m more enthusiastic about bakery goods than is the average citizen, but a well-appointed street like Haight shouldn’t be without a bake shop. By way of example, consider that my street has every other desired amenity: a natural foods store, a hardware store, package stores, bars, and restaurants*, a chocolatier, a music store, and a taxidermy shop. But no bakery.

The Chocolate Hazelnut Croissant -- one of my two favorite Boulange breakfast items.

Fortunately, Boulange de Cole is a few short blocks from my house. The Boulange Bakery empire began in 1999, when Pascal Rigo opened La Boulangerie (2325 Pine St.). Since then, the bakery group has added eight additional locations in San Francisco and four outside the city. Reflecting the Bay Area’s tendency toward seasonality, the Boulange bakeries have rotating specialties in addition to their fixed menus.

In most cases, I shy away from chains, both in disagreement with what they’ve come to symbolize (and what they often take away: from a neighborhood, from a city, and from our economy as a whole) and because their product is often inferior to those produced by small operations.

Not so with La Boulange. For one, the chain is a local chain, which in my book is not quite so egregious as national-chain status. More importantly, though, their product is outstanding. I’m gonna tell you straight, I’ve eaten a lot of croissants in my day, and La Boulange’s are among the best I’ve had. (Acme Bread’s croissants are also praiseworthy.) My dad joked that I should be getting comped for how aggressively I promote La Boulange, but he was a believer once he tried the Ham and Cheese Croissant.

My favorites are the Chocolate Hazelnut Croissant and the Almond Croissant; I order each with roughly equal frequency. The chocolate-hazelnut duo is one I came to love while studying in Berlin, where Nutella wasn’t reserved for dessert (or used as crepe filling), but was a standard breakfast spread. Where hazelnut was a common candy bar ingredient. La Boulange’s croissant is breathtakingly flaky; I sigh in contentment thinking of how much butter must have gone into the production of that dough. Wrapped inside the croissant are small pieces of chocolate, about the size and heft of charcoal drawing pencils. Not every bite includes chocolate, but the chocolate taste is strong enough to bridge the gaps.

The Almond Croissant is richer than its chocolate-filled cousin; I reserve it for occasions when I’m exceptionally hungry, when I plan to linger over my breakfast, picking individual slivered almonds from the crossaint’s exterior. It is devastatingly good with a cup of coffee (with just a splash of milk) and a few of the bakery’s gherkins, served in a canning jar alongside the other condiments, sweeteners, and coffee sleeves.

I realize I should count my blessings; Boulange de Cole isn’t that far away, and its [extremely-relative] “distance” from my house prevents me from going there four times a week. Still, having a Boulange right around the corner would be perfect: on lazy days, I could get a croissant to go and eat that croissant in my still-warm bed, reading my internets and sipping stove coffee**. On more ambitious days, I could get showered and dressed(!), eat at one of the bakery’s antiquey, rough-hewn tables, and gaze longingly at the display counter, considering what to try on my next trip. Think about it, La Boulange: I’m making an offer you can’t refuse.

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*Albeit not great restaurants, but there are a few taco shops and a below-average diner with great art nouveau murals.

**Percolated coffee, which I make once in a while, usually on weekends. Weekday mornings are too hectic, yo.