Sugar High

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Best Under-Appreciated Pastries of the East Bay

by Cynthia Salaysay
Fri, Jul 19, 2013 at 2:57 PM

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:

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Friday, July 5, 2013

Scream Sorbet Pops Up at Bittersweet Cafe

by Luke Tsai
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 at 6:30 AM

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.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Starter Bakery's Colomba di Pasqua

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Mar 19, 2013 at 12:00 PM

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.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

For the Love of Shrub: INNA Jam’s Vinegary New Project

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Mar 12, 2013 at 12:00 PM

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.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

High Tea at the Pardee Home: A Hidden Gem

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Feb 26, 2013 at 10:00 AM

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.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Hail to the Kouign (Amann), Now with Espresso Custard

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Dec 4, 2012 at 8:00 AM

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.

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Friday, November 30, 2012

A First Look at Uptown’s Sweet Bar, Home of the ‘Fauxnut’

by Luke Tsai
Fri, Nov 30, 2012 at 4:58 PM

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.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Where to Get Your Pan de Muerto Fix

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Oct 30, 2012 at 8:00 AM

By this point I’m sure you’ve got your Halloween plans locked down, but what about the week’s other ghostly holiday, El Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), which is coming up on November 1 and 2?

As per usual, here at What the Fork we’re mainly interested in what tasty treats the two-day festival has to offer, and the holiday’s signature food item, pan de muerto (“bread of the dead”), is well worth seeking out — a not-too-sweet respite from your trick-or-treat-fueled sugar rush.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mooncake Time

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Sep 25, 2012 at 8:00 AM

This year’s Mid-Autumn Festival falls on Sunday, September 30, and for billions of Chinese people around the world that means one thing: mooncake time.

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Free Cake! Punsters, Do Your Best (or Worst)

by Luke Tsai
Fri, Jun 29, 2012 at 11:52 AM

The newest arrival to Emeryville’s Powell Street Plaza is a franchise of Nothing Bundt Cakes (5745 Christie Ave.), a Las Vegas-based chain of bakeries serving, you guessed it, nothing but bundt cakes — “modern yet nostalgic” versions of those ’70s throwbacks, in a variety of sizes.

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