A Place to Break Bread
Tartine Bakery has become a mecca for bread bakers. A week before I headed to San Francisco, my boss Aviv at Sidewalk Citizen Bakery, an accomplished bread baker in his own right, travelled to Tartine to do a short apprenticeship. I was able to taste their famed rustic sourdough bread that Aviv brought back to the bakery and it really is fantastic. Beautiful deep auburn crusts with a wonderfully chewy crumb, I understand what the hype is all about. That said, and maybe I’m biased, but the sourdough coming out of Sidewalk Citizen Bakery deserves as much hype.
When I hopped a bus to the Mission for an afternoon at Tartine, I was solo. The neighbourhood was humming, under a warm yellow sun. There is no signage to indicate that you have in fact arrived at the fabled Tartine, but I had already done a walk-by earlier in the week and knew my end point. The shop itself is very unassuming from the outside. Perhaps it’s simply the sun, flooding through floor to ceiling windows on a street corner location, but as I step into the bakery, it appears to glow clean, clear light from somewhere inside. There is a palpable feeling of hipness in the air, mixed with what I realized during my visit was an expertly tended sense of community.
I ordered the Jambon Royal & Gruyere pressed sandwich; it was gigantic and though the bread was as delicious as I remembered, it was quite heavy and far too much for me to eat. I grabbed a few morning buns to bring back to my sisters place for a snack later and they were lovely, with a great chew and hint of orange zest in the cinnamon, sugar filling. I also picked up a package of macaroons to bring back to share at home in the bakery and for comparisons sake. I found them to be a bit too dry and sweeter than I prefer.
If I could have a do over, I’d take at least two other people with me and order a few of the pastries and desserts to try. I’d also call ahead to order a loaf of bread, as is typically required in order to get one. I believe a little more research is needed on my part; a full diagnostic.
In all honesty I was a little underwhelmed by my eating experience at Tartine. It parallels that of the ‘friends setting up friends on dates’ scenario. They talk up this guy like he’s the most amazing man on the planet, or she’s the best human being alive and you’ll be perfect for each other! Expectation builds, anticipation fuels imaginative teaser trailers in your mind of how the fairytale will play out. If it gets to that point you’re generally pooched; it’s too much pressure, it implodes and you’re left confused and wondering what the hell happened. It’s likely, that this is in part, why I wasn’t totally blown away by my lunch at Tartine.
That said, a few minutes after I sat down outside with my sandwich, the local guys beside me struck up a conversation. Clint, Alexis and the bass guitar player were hands down, the best part of my Tartine experience. If I’d had a few extra days left in town, I’d have crashed their upcoming chilli/bbq party and called them my new best buds.
Tartine has cultivated a trendy, yet old world atmosphere in which the community comes together to break bread; beautiful bread.
Photos by Maggie Murphy