If you blinked (or spent the long weekend sleeping off Thanksgiving’s gustatory excesses) you missed it, but the latest Bay Area restaurant to get in on the Cronut craze was Pizzaiolo (5008 Telegraph Ave., Oakland), whose morning coffee-and-pastry program is one of the best in town.
The Cronut, for the uninitiated, is New York City pastry chef Dominique Ansel’s croissant-doughnut hybrid, a pastry so wildly popular that it’s spawned imitators all around the country — a one-day pop-up at Stag’s Lunchette was the most prominent East Bay appearance. This past Friday and Saturday mornings, Pizzaiolo sold a miniature version, dubbed the “Cronini,” for $3 a pop, and it was outstanding: all of the flakiness and crunch you’d want from a fried croissant; a smooth, refreshingly cool pastry cream filling; and a sweet (but not cloying) white glaze on top.
By now surely you’ve heard of the Cronut, New York City pastry chef Dominique Ansel’s croissant-doughnut hybrid that has, within the span of a few months, become a worldwide sensation. Fried-dough lovers continue to line up at Ansel’s eponymous Manhattan bakery at 5:30 a.m. each morning, and hundreds of copycat versions have been spawned — everywhere from Zurich to Taipei to San Francisco.
Up until this point, it hasn’t, to our knowledge, been possible to snag one of these indulgent pastries in the East Bay. Oakland restaurateur Lexi Filipello (Stag’s Lunchette, Bar Dogwood) and independent pastry chef Amie Bailey are teaming up to rectify that situation by hosting a croissant-doughnut pop-up at Stag’s Lunchette (362 17th St.) this Sunday, September 8, from 9 a.m. until the pastries sell out.
A public service announcement for fans of Jaynelle St. Jean's excellent (and much-lauded) pies: If you're thinking about picking up a slice from the PieTisserie pie window located inside of the Mexican restaurant Nido (444 Oak St., Oakland), you can save yourself the trip. Sadly, as of a couple of weeks ago, the pie shop has closed.
The Pastry of the Moment is the cronut. Invented in New York, the croissant-doughnut hybrid, filled with cream and glazed on top, has inspired a Beatle-mania-like craze: The lines are so long, and people are charging $80 on Craigslist to get one for you. Unfortunately, they’re not available in the Bay Area (yet).
But the East Bay has seen its share of popular pastries: In 2009 there was a frenzy for Pizzaiolo’s doughnuts, which sold out regularly by 10 a.m. A little more than a year ago, Starter Bakery’s kouign amann made a much-hyped debut, and for a while it seemed to be everywhere a good cup of coffee could be found.
But there are a good number of local pastries that are more quietly appreciated. Here’s a rundown of some of our favorites:
For the legions of frozen confection lovers still mourning the loss of Scream Sorbet — especially during this recent heat wave — here's welcome news: Today and tomorrow you'll have a chance to satisfy your craving, thanks to a new collaboration between Scream and Bittersweet, the chocolate cafe. Via Scream's Facebook page: "We’re delighted to announce that Scream Sorbet is available this weekend at Bittersweet, one of our favorite local, artisanal places."
The sorbet pop-up will take place at Bittersweet's new location at 1952 University Ave. in Berkeley both today (8 a.m.-7 p.m.) and Saturday (9 a.m.-7 p.m.). Only pre-packed pints will be available (no scoops), priced at $10-$12 each, with a limited selection of flavors: Strawberry Lemon, Madecasse Chocolate, Lemon Shiso, and Pistachio.
Celebrate Easter this year with the dove-shaped Italian Easter bread known as Colomba di Pasqua, courtesy of Oakland-based Starter Bakery. The cake-like bread is a close cousin to the better-known Italian holiday loaf pannetone, which is typically served during Christmas.
On a recent Tuesday afternoon, I sat down with Dafna Kory, the proprietress of the Emeryville-based jam producer INNA Jam, to throw back a few shots of vinegar.
Well, that’s not exactly right. What Kory in fact set before me were several thimbles worth of shrub: a kind of syrup that she makes with equal parts vinegar, sugar, and fresh fruit. And though I did sip some of it straight up, mostly I drank it as Kory intended, mixed with seltzer water to create fruit-flavored sodas that struck a great balance between sweet and tart — as refreshing a cold beverage as one could hope for on a warm day.
A few months ago, the following Chowhound discussion header caught my eye: “Best Bay Area high tea? In a museum in Oakland!” The poster, “jaiko,” raved about crustless, open-face finger sandwiches and warm hospitality — as though s/he’d been invited over by “a group of good cooks [who] were in friendly competition to see who could produce the best ‘goodies’ that day.” By the time I’d read there were lemon curd tartlets to be had, I knew further investigation was in order.
Plenty has already been written about Starter Bakery’s remarkable, world-beating kouign amann (pronounced something like “Queen Iman”). Suffice it to say the hockey-puck-sized pastry — a distant, slightly sticky cousin of the croissant — is dangerously habit-forming: crisp and chewy, salty and sweet, and luxurious in the way that things made mostly of butter and caramelized sugar are.
If you’re a Bay Area cafe-goer, chances are you probably already know two or three different places that carry them. But maybe you didn’t know this: Oakland’s Highwire Coffee Roasters now sells an espresso custard kouign amann — decadence on top of decadence. Following a tip on Chowhound, I headed over to Highwire’s Rockridge Market Hall retail shop (5655 College Ave.) to check it out.
After a sneak-peek soft opening yesterday, today is the first full day of business for Uptown Oakland’s Sweet Bar (2355 Broadway), the highly anticipated artisan bakery from Mani Niall, the man perhaps best known for being a former personal chef to Michael Jackson.
When I stopped by this morning to check it out, who else would be on the speakers but the King of Pop? It turns out that today happens to be the thirtieth anniversary of the release of Thriller — a landmark event for American pop music, of course, but also one Niall credits with landing him that initial personal chef gig, and ultimately helping to launch his career in the food biz.
All and all, a fortuitous day to start this new project.