There was something so charming about San Francisco-- the picturesque hills of Victorian houses, the toy-like cable cars, the dapper gents -- that it felt a little like being in a children's book. So somehow it seemed fitting that all over the city there were little shops specializing in treats, sweet shops selling delicious pastries, ice cream, pie, or donuts. Over our week in the city, we sought out some we'd heard of, stumbled on another, and enjoyed some of the best sweets the city has to offer.
Our first stop in San Francisco was at Tartine, which more than lived up to its reputation (and more than deserved the long line that snaked outside onto the Mission sidewalk). The cafe's interior looked like a cozy environment to sit and savor a creamy latte, but we got our pastries boxed. We opened them later on a picnic in Golden Gate Park, and shared the wide variety of pastries we'd selected. Two of the best (pictured top) were an almond lemon tea cake, and a creamy tres leches cake.
Back to the Mission on another day, we stopped at Bi-Rite Creamery, where we once again found long lines, and were once again rewarded for waiting. The strawberry balsamic soft serve was a little disappointing (not quite enough balsamic flavor), but the traditional ice creams, in flavors like brown sugar with ginger-caramel swirl, roasted banana, and toasted coconut, were rather tasty. The winner: honey lavender, which balanced not-too-sweet ice cream with an herby perfumed scent.
The only dessert in this entry that wasn't found in the Mission, and the only one that we stumbled upon by accident, was perhaps the most unique treat we tried. The Loving Cup, in Russian Hill, specializes in making a seriously undervalued dessert: rice pudding. I selected a cup of rum and raisin rice pudding, which tasted charmingly old-fashioned and incredibly delicious. The ingredients they use are local and organic, and they happily show nutritional information to tout their low calorie products.
But the sweetest highlight of the trip was a stop at Dynamo Donuts, which I'd been wanting to try since first reading about them in Readymade magazine over a year ago. Back then, I'd attempted to make their lemon pistachio donut, which had been a bit of a flop-- luckily that was one of the donuts on offer on our visit, so I could compare. We picked up a box of donuts for the family, and brought them back home to try out.
The flavors, in clockwise order from top-left: candied orange blossom, chocolate star anise, caramel del sel, mystery apple (we forgot to note the exact flavor), lemon thyme, vanilla bean, chocolate spice, maple glazed bacon, and the aforementioned lemon pistachio.
We sliced them up, sampled each of them, and debated on the best. The caramel del sel was fantastically rich, and the bacon donut was suprisingly satisfying, but the best may have been the simple lemon thyme (though no one else would agree with me, probably).
PS- And, in related news, I've had to go on a diet and start working out since I've been back. Even all the walking we did in San Francisco couldn't counteract the incredible sweets available everywhere. But it was totally worth it!