A Tour Down the Eaten Path

French Pastries in the Valley

Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, California truly lives up to its name, crafting rich bite sized chocolaty treats amongst other perfectly executed french goodies. It’s the kind of place where you catch yourself smiling at a complete stranger as you both bite into an oversized, perfectly textured macaron and then compare notes.

There were pillowy citrus, pistachio brioche buns, little pear tartlets, cookies, artisan breads, pastries and fresh sandwiches. Everything we tried was as delectable as it appeared to be.

If you’re on your way out to Napa Valley to enjoy a bit of wine and the beautiful vineyards, I’d recommend pulling over in Yountville for a treat.

~ Maggie

Photos by Maggie Murphy

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.

~ Maggie

Photos by Maggie Murphy

Nik’s Way

I’d been hearing about Nik’s Crispy Tacos for months. My sister brings all of her San Francisco houseguests to eat these fish tacos. My prairie raised, meat and potato eating, fish snubbing, Dad even loved them. I had assumed it was a hole in the wall type of place but it’s really like a taco stand inside a night club called Rouge. So…it’s basically a hole in the wall type of place.

I took only two photos for two reasons; I was tired from a day of flea market-ing and even though my sister warned me it could happen, I dribbled sauce all the way down the front of my outfit. As soon as I did this she said ‘You hate the fish tacos now, don’t you?!’, as if the fish tacos were a baby who puked all over my favourite new shirt. Which is to say that indeed I would be pissed at a baby who puked all over me, but only for one irrational moment, much shorter than the amount of time that I was pissed at the fish tacos.

The tacos are good, damn good with a lightly crisp batter outside and tender fish inside. The sauce, if you can keep it on your taco, accompanied by a crunchy slaw, is excellent. I’d advise visiting Nik’s after the sun goes down as I imagine the ambience is pretty cool with dozens of chandeliers lighting up the entirely red bar. Order them Nik’s way to get the cilantro guacamole and consider yourselves warned about the dribbling sauce.

~ Maggie

Photos by Maggie Murphy

Pretty Pieces of A City

I didn’t take any photos of anything distinctly San Francisco, which according to some is a very ‘San Franciscan’ thing to do. I did however, photograph a one legged bird, which you might say is symbolic of the inclusive nature of the city; All birds are welcome.

~ Maggie

Photos by Maggie Murphy

Foreign Cinema: Act 2

After a lively first course, my sister and I tucked into the Persian spiced fried chicken, blue lake green beans, carrots and grilled radicchio. This was not your standard fried chicken; it’s peppery, sweetness buried deep into crispy skin and through its juicy breast meat. The flavor and fragrance of this dish brought back memories of a dry dusty day in Fiji, a busy out door market and bags of bold spices, their scents swirling together on a hot breeze.

From a freshly printed dessert menu, warm off the press, I selected the Summer almond-apricot Opera cake, apricot buttercream and white chocolate mousse. It was a quiet way to end a vivacious meal. Though enjoyable, next time I’d end on a louder note, so to speak.

I’ve come to realize that dining out with me on a regular basis could be…a bit of a roller coaster. Actually, the only two people who might notice this is Murph and my sister because they know me so well. Within the first two minutes of being seated at a table, Murph can tell from my body language and demenour, exactly how the next hour and a half will play out. This stems from the fact that I cannot stand paying for a crappy meal, knowing I could have made something better and cheaper at home. Also, I am easily influenced by my environment, and visually a restaurant or any establishment for that matter, sets a particular tone. Going out for dinner has become more of a theatrical event for me in recent years. I risk sounding like a ‘food snob’ here but I want to be wowed visually as much as I want to be wowed by the meal. Walking into Foreign Cinema I was giddy like a kid on Christmas day. Murph would have laughed and shook his head; It’s almost embarrassing that I’ve become so predictable.

I hope 15 years from now I can call myself an expert in baking and or pastry depending on which road I take, but I’m no food expert and I don’t claim to be. I do know what I like and I like Foreign Cinema; I like the whole package.

~ Maggie

Photos by Maggie Murphy