As we walked from Castro to Mission, we accidentally stumbled upon Tartine. I had read about Tartine in several books and magazines, and delighted that we found it. I was initially drawn to the crowd of people and the warm aroma that filled the air, and as I searched for the name of the bakery, there was none. I wouldn’t have known what it was if it wasn’t for the small sign in the window. Although I knew that we would soon be consuming a big fat greasy burrito in Mission, I had to try it. Pastry chef Elisabeth Prueitt and her husband, baker Chad Robertson, has been recognized by several magazines and appreciated by culinary geniouses around the world. This bakery has also been recognized by the James Beard Foundation with nominations for two consecutive years.
Their pastries are prepared with expert French techniques, using organic flour and local eggs. Customers wait outside the door for cookies, tarts, cakes, and Chad's naturally fermented, organic, hearth-baked loaves of bread.
I looked around to see what every one was eating, and because it was lunch hour on a Saturday afternoon, most people were enjoying quiche, pressed sandwiches, Croque Monsieur (open faced sandwiches topped with cheese, herbs, ham and/or seasonal vegetables) while sipping on coffee and reading the newspaper. People were seated at very rustic tables and chairs made from wood. Customers ranged from families with small children, to individuals enjoying the Sunday paper, couples, and girlfriends chatting over lunch. The savory Croque Monsieur and sandwiches looked very rustic and delicious; but my eyes were drawn to the pastires and cakes! It was obvious that the pastries were hand crafted with thoughfulness and care. I asked the lady behind the counter what was popular and she suggested the crossant, brioche bread pudding topped with mixed berries, and the lemon tart. I ordered one Lemon Cream Tart ($6) and one crossant ($3). My sister and I settled in on a stand-up counter near the window.
I took a bite of the crossant while my sister started on the lemon tart. This crossant was unlike any that I have ever tasted. The appearance alone was enough for me to know that I was in for something good. The pastry was the same size of the typical American crossant , but tasted like what I imagine I would find in Paris. The outer layer was a deep dark brown with hints of golden yellow. As you bite into it, you find a crispy, flaky layer filled with a soft buttery center. I saved the majority of it for later (thinking of the burrito that was ahead of me) and put it aside. Later on in the day, I took the crossant back out thinking I would eat just half of what was left; however I ate the remaining piece without a single bit of guilt. It had been hours since I bought it, and it tasted just as good. The buttery goodness was worth every bit of the calories!
The Lemon Cream Tart was elegant and dainty. A creamy lemony filling sat atop of a buttery pastry shell. The dollop of whipped cream was adorned with candied kumkwats. My sister and I shared it and savored every bite of it. I expected to take some of it home with me (grabbing a take-out box from the counter); but to my surprise the tart was so delicious, that we ate it all up.
The two of us truly enjoyed this serendipitous occasion. I was thrilled that we found this bakery in such a diverse neighborhood. I will surely be back for more the next time I visit!
600 Guerrero St. (@18th Street)
San Francisco, CA 94110