It’s interesting that until about two-ish weeks ago, I’d never heard the word Arizmendi before. I was in San Francisco this past weekend, staying with friends in the Inner Sunset. We pondered what to do for breakfast. They suggested Arizmendi for pastries, and I’m all: but isn’t that way the hell over there in Oakland or something? And they’re all: I suppose there is one there, but you’re probably thinking of the Cheese Board, which is also a cooperative/worker-owned place like Arizmendi is. But this one is just around the corner from us.
And I’m all: Okay. So a couple weeks ago I’m supposed to meet someone for breakfast and this dining companion is normally an epic fail at coming up with restaurant ideas, but was insistent, I mean *insistent* that the best scones came from an Arizmendi in Oakland, as if it’s the only place in the world and super special. Sure enough, he rolls up with a cornmeal and cherry scone in a bag, brought over from Oakland. And it’s good and all, but I then directed us to a dim sum shop in the Inner Sunset to supplement this sweet with a little savory. Turns out, this whole Oakland thing was totally moot: both the dim sum cafe and those cherry scones were a couple blocks away from each other rather than across the bay. Due diligence, people.
But I digress. Peeps and I struggled into clothing and sunglasses, and shuffled that whole block over to Arizmendi in Inner Sunset where we not only got lucky with the queue (none, but huge when we’re walking out), but also cool seats in the little curblette just outside. Win!
if you’ve never been, and you love big doughy scones, try the cornmeal and cherry. It’s very popular. But the item that caught my eye, which I’ve never seen before, is the sourdough croissant. How is it possible to be buttery and flaky, yet still sourdoughy? No idea, that’s Arizmendi’s secret. On different days of the week they make specialty sourdough croissants, too. Friday was coconut croissant, which I just missed. Today there was almond, and the standard chocolate and plain sourdough croissants.
Also on order: cardamom shortbread. The cardamom has zing in this one, it was very delicious.
The fact that this bakery is worker owned is icing on the cake, all the baked goods within looked really great. I’d love to come back here, especially if it’s just around the corner.
Arizmendi (Inner Sunset)
For those city dwellers who only experience cheese coming from a deli fridge case, here is a working dairy not far from the beaten track where you can see the cows, take a tour of the dairy and bakery, and then buy the goods.
We bought some cheddar and one of the rindy-musty cheeses. The cheddar was the favorite, being tangy and sharp, with crystal crunchy bits in it that reminded us of Dubliner cheddar.
Cheese prices seemed to be a flat rate of $25/pound, an acceptable price for artisanal and extremely local products.
The dairy is easy to find, and once inside you won’t be overwhelmed by indecision because the variety of products available is kept at a minimum. There’s frozen grass-fed beef also available, and jars of nuts stored in honey. Without a tour, you can be in and out in less than 10 minutes, and if you’re not sure of what cheese or bread to buy, samples are provided.
My friend and I were on a slow meandering roadtrip to Frenchtown on a sunny autumn afternoon. A pitstop here provided the basics for a picnic snack and extras to take home. Very enjoyable.
Oh Spudnuts, how I have forsaken you. I have been trying to be healthy, and avoiding doughnuts. But you’ve pulled me back in.
I finally visited the Spudnuts in Old Town Goleta. I’ve been a fan of the potato-flour based doughnuts for ages, but try not to make a habit of eating *any* doughnuts. But I drove by it once in the morning which planted the seed. And then – serendipity – as I’m walking out the door at lunchtime for a healthy walk to the beach bluffs, I run into a co-worker who’s looking for doughnut recommendations. I’m almost superstitious of the timing on this. I blew off my walk and went to the doughnut shop instead to inspect the goods.
That’s when I discovered…their wicked wicked item that will be my doom. Custard-filled lightly glazed doughnut holes.
Lawd, it’s bad enough to have doughnut holes. They are the perfect size for me. And then to put a little custard into them? It’s the kind of commitment I can handle. Just enough, not too much. Three for a dollar.
I am not even going to show a photo, because 1. they are too evil to show. and 2. I ate them before I could take a photo.
You get photos of cake doughnuts instead.
Spudnuts – Goleta location
San Francisco is an all-around awesome city. I’m so grateful to have good friends here I can visit on a whim. I still ponder moving here myself.
On a short, 3 day trip during the workweek, I stayed with Becca and Damon in Bernal Heights. We walked, we talked, we played with cats and watched videos. And of course we ate. Today, upon arriving in San Francisco, Damon and I walked to a neighborhood favorite of theirs, the Liberty Cafe.
I’d been here once before, briefly, to pick up pastries and quiche. It’s an adorable spot with all the ambiance and accoutrements of a little cafe. It bakes bread and pastries, making everything smell incredible, it has bright indoor seating, or an outdoor courtyard, tucked away from the street noise. The food is a few dollars more, and it’s worth it.
Damon’s vegetarian, and I don’t have the biggest stomach real estate, so we shared our food, all vegetarian.
First, we shared a burrata and beet salad. While it was good, it was my least favorite item we ordered. I was hoping for more greens and beets, but the bulk of the meal was a bowl of gooey burrata. Which is good, no doubt, but there were barely any beets in the meal, and overall it was more about cheese and bread than salad. Plus, it was nearly $10.
Our final item, and the one I loved the most was a perfect mushroom and leek pizza, about $16. Everything about it was perfect. The crust was crisp and chewy, and just the right thickness for my mood. The leeks was soft and buttery, and the mushrooms were not too cooked and now too raw. Just right! I wish I could have eaten more of this.
Afterwards, we took a walk up Bernal Hill to admire the San Francisco skyline and take in some of the unexpected gorgeous sunny weather.
Liberty Cafe – Bernal Heights neighborhood
Really, how could I drive through Avenal and not stop here? Even the guy working there recognized us.
It’s the annual roadtrip to Nevada!
The first leg is driving to Sacramento and pitstop at my brother’s. I used to drive via the bay area, but the last few years have been taking I-5, by cutting over around Hwy 41. Winding through the area, one city I pass is Avenal. Last year I finally stopped there for tacos and loved it. Now, it’s an expected stop to get some cheap tacos.
Ooooh, lovely $1.50 carnitas tacos.
We also stocked up tortillas, chiles and dried beef for camping. And we got a popcicle for the road, because that’s how we roll.
Going on the recommendation of Phil and some of his breakfast club friends, we checked out Princi in Soho for its pastries.
We got the millefoglie mixed berries slice and a cannaolicini to share.
The ambiance is hip and contemporary: a large open space with rows upon rows of baked goods spanning the length of the restaurant under a glass table. People can work their way down the line, picking out items while the staff behind the table collect them together on a plate or box.
It’s communal style dining, with long tables. Groups naturally sit across from each other, and wall is lined with a countertop. Surrounding all this is a longer trough-like water feature with a gentle cascade bubbling out of copper taps. It turns the dining experience into a little zen space – which is a blessed bit of calculated calm when London outside keeps bustling along and even the restaurant itself might be very busy.
Bonus: free wifi!
Princi (Soho / West End)
Ah, arrival in Heathrow was swift and easy. The flight was Air New Zealand and while sitting anywhere in the 50s rows means the main meal will have run out of the most popular dish by the time the food cart rolls around, the flight itself was fine. What with all the in-flight movies and entertainment.
Upon arriving in the country, we set off on the Piccadilly Line heading towards the Barbican, where we’d be staying while in London. The Underground is dead easy, especially if there aren’t many changes needed and we only had the one at King’s Cross.
We were hungry and when we met up with Phil and dropped our bags in the flat, we headed off to run a few errands and find food. His neighborhood is easy walking distance to Moorgate, Liverpool, Farringdon and with a little jaunt, Brick Lane.
Brick Lane was one of my favorite neighborhoods for exploring when I used to live in England. Very vibrant, quirky, with a diverse range of cultures and the only shops I knew of that was open 24 hours a day, 7 days week – the bagel shops!
The Beigel Bake provided cheap eats during my poor student days in the ’90s. I first came upon it while at Kew, when I’d join the Kew Club for little outings, including the London Ghost Walks. Oh, to have cheap carbs available at any time of day or night.
Little has changed except I’m no longer poor and no longer a student.
Bagels are 20p. The salt beef bagel is £3.30. You don’t have to dig deep for this.
I sampled the wares yesterday, propped up at the wall counters with the service woman screeching “MORE SALT BEEF” to the back.
Like I said, little has changed.
Beigel Bake (Shoreditch)
My friend Michael, co-owner of the Big Sur Bakery, came through town and we met up for dinner. He also generously brought some baked goods down with him that he passed on to me.
The chocolate croissant comes with two lines of chocolate, so this is great to split down the middle and share with someone without tearing up the fine layers of pastry. The croissant itself isn’t as light and flaky as others, but it’s made with quality ingredients and the denser flavor is unique.
The coffee cake was a very generous slice, and went well with some tea. It stayed moist for the next day as well, so I was able to share it with a friend. It was very enjoyable.
The ginger scone was a favorite, although it is more like a sweet American scone – almost cakelike – compared to traditional English scones. It was delicious to eat simply out of hand with no accompaniments and the ginger added a lovely zing to it. I brought the scone on my slight to las Vegas the following day and it was infinitely better than the stuff sold at the airports. Saved my life, it did!
Michael also gave me a loaf of wonderful multigrain bread that I would have loved to eat, but there wasn’t time before my trip. I gave that loaf to my parents, who are reported to have eaten it with butter and gruyere and enjoyed it a lot.
Thank you, Michael!
Big Sur Bakery
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
Post new year’s brunch, and I need delicious to start 2010 off right. Renaud’s does not disappoint.
Croissant. Flaky, buttery, crisp, and shredding in tender pieces.
Fried egg sandwich for my friend, with lovely dripping yolk, tomato, mushrooms and ham, between perfectly toasted bread.
Croque Madame for me, like Croque Monsieur but with a fried egg on top. Ooooh, with ham, melty cheese and lots of bechamel to pull it all together. We ate them with side salads, coffee and iced water.
You can look at my photos, but it’s not the same as eating them yourself. Suckas.