It is 2 A.M. and I can't sleep.
I can't sleep because I'm thinking about croissants. Hot, flaky, almond laden, dusted with powdered sugar croissants. And not just any pastry either but croissants from Tartine Bakery.
It has almost been a whole year since I indulged in this deliciousness. One. Long. Year. I don't know about you but I often day dream about bread. I mean, I eat it too but I'm not ashamed to admit that my mind often wanders to reflect on the pure, simple, heavenly joy of hot homemade bread so soft and fresh that it can't even be cut. You must tear it. Then you smear it with silky white butter and top with a drizzle of tupelo honey.
Are you drooling, yet? Well, there's more.
Last June, my partner and I took a trip to San Francisco. The trip was, in part, to celebrate my 30th birthday. We were spending a few days in the city, a day in Napa Valley, and then renting a car to drive down SR 1 to Big Sur. But first we needed to take in as much of the Golden Gate City as we could in a few days.
There are always a few bullet points I *must* research before venturing into a new city. Those places of interest are not limited to but mainly include: best cocktail bars, best bakeries/donuts, and best bookstores. Tartine Bakery came highly recommended and it makes sense, it is pretty much an institution in the Golden City since its introduction in 2002.
The bakery is located in the Mission District. A green building on the corner of Guerrero and 18th Streets and was a fifteen minute Uber ride from our pensione-style hotel, San Remo, in North Beach. We went the day of my birthday. We got up fairly early and despite it being the first day of summer, we were met with the famous San Francisco foggy chill.
When we arrived, there was a line down the street. We waited for over an hour to get to the counter. I didn't care. It was a beautiful crisp morning. Steam and the aroma of bread wafted into the street. Pastries and hot coffee were on the horizon.
Now, there was a fair amount of debate I came across in my online searches. Many swore by Tartine as THE bakery with THE best pastries. There was even a New York Times food columnist that touted it was his favorite bakery in the entire US. Others, mostly locals, shied away from the trendy, touristy vibe the bakery had acquired. Sentiments similar to NOLA natives cringing at mention of Café Du Monde being the absolute best in beignets.
I've never been one to intimately care about 'what's trendy,' but I DO like to seek out the best in food and drink. Sometimes that means it is a trendy, hip spot but trendy, to me, does not simultaneously mean 'bad' or 'hackneyed.' Sure, it can end up being a trite spot but this was not the case. Good food is good food and boy was it good food.
We ordered two black coffees, a toasted almond croissant, a Pain au Chocolat, and a ham quiche. All savory and sweet desires spanned out before us. It was hard not to order more but it was my birthday and I knew I would be drinking and eating my way across the city for the rest of the day. Who am I kidding? I was drinking and eating my way through the whole trip. Why else travel but to indulge in all the culinery delights of a new place?
The croissant was everything I dreamed it would be. Warm and flaky. You could taste all the lucious butter the bakers used in creating the little golden moon. The quiche, fluffy yet dense with salted ham. The Pain au Chocolate, brittle to the bite and then gooey and rich.
I often wonder if there is a word for 'delighting in lush descriptions of food.' I've searched for it to no avail. Sometimes reading the depictions of food are the most provocative passages of a novel or tantalizing lines in a poem.
I once attended a reading given by Neil Gaiman at the Texas Theatre in Dallas in which he read from his novel, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane. In his selected passages, he read several pages in which the young protagonist worries over burnt toast and jam.
In Elisabeth Bishop's "Going to the Bakery," the speaker relishes in "gooey tarts [that] are red and sore," "loaves of bread / [that] lie like yellow-fever victims / laid out in a crowded ward," and milk rolls, "still warm / and made with milk, [the baker] says. They feel / like a baby on the arm."
Bishop, could you be more divine?
I just want to go back. Back to Tartine and gorge myself on perversities of sugar, pluck out berries from their blue black space in the cracked tributaries of a scone, and crunch down on the bronze hull of the freshest loaf.