Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bouchon Bakery, Yountville CA

"In the end, a great meal is not about the food and the wine. A great meal is an emotional experience. We try to make it an extraordinary one by creating a beautiful place, one filled with staff who cares about it as they do about their home, and care for you as the most important guest in it...a great meal is not one that fills you up. A great meal is a kind of journey that returns you to sources of pleasure you may have forgotten and takes you to places you haven't been before."

With quotes like that you know his food is not a joke, and I will admit a bias to Thomas Keller's concepts and food. From peanut butter and jelly to quiche to gnocchi to bread and butter to cookies and cakes the man simply does amazing things with food. The best french toast I've ever eaten, the best quiche, the best cookie, the best gnocchi, the best roll, the best meal....and service that never fails to make you feel like the most important guest on earth. With those things in mind my Vegas vacation entailed two visits to Bouchon Bistro and four visits to Bouchon Bakery, my NYC trip entailed dinner at Bouchon Bakery, and my trip to San Francisco was prefaced by lunch at Bouchon, dinner at The French Laundry, and lunch dessert at – you guessed it – Bouchon Bakery.

Smaller than the Vegas or NYC branches, the original Bouchon Bakery is tucked into a small slot on Washington Street in Yountville and 75% of the store is actually the bakery while 25% is retail space – but oh what a retail space it is. Seeing many of my favorites (TKOs, Banana Muffins, Macaroons, Nutter Butters, Bread Pudding) it was nearly impossible to make a decision – especially taking into consideration my TFL dinner reservations.

Visiting Bouchon and the bakery with my mother and Aunt, both of whom had some Macaroons brought home from NYC, a number of selections were made and per usual all were excellent.
For myself a single Citrus Pistacchio Brioche was selected and proved to be a great choice given my dinner plans. Very light yet supremely buttery with wonderful essences of lime and orange, the subtlety of the brioche was wonderful and just as good as the brioche at Aqua the next night – if not better. While I generally prefer my Brioche as a savory over a sweet, I must admit this one was superb and one of 4 pieces of brioche that day (the Croque at Bouchon and 2 with the Foie at TFL.)

For my aunt, a new cookie in Keller’s repertoire was selected – the TLC. As delicious as it sounds, the TLC is an Oatmeal cookie with Pecans and Brown sugar and its lightness was greatly appreciated despite the sometimes heavy nature of oats in a cookie. Along with the carrot cake cookie, TKO, and Nutter Butter this was yet another winner and the best cookie of the trip. My aunt additionally purchased one of Keller’s Peanut Butter Cups which I experienced in NYC. Honestly, how can you go wrong with Chocolate and Peanut butter?

My mother, additionally opting for a light option, decided to try one of Keller’s famous pistachio macaroons and purchased a mocha ├ęclair for later. A huge fan of the Macaroon, my mom was mightily impressed by the size of Keller’s version and named the cookie her favorite macaroon of the trip. While she wouldn’t commit to it being better than Pistachia Vera in Columbus, I personally believe Pistachia to still be the best, albeit much smaller. With regard to the ├ęclair, this was consumed while I was at The French Laundry, but a small taste was saved for me. Creamy and buttery with an airy coffee cream inside I quite liked it – my mother loved it.

All told, I’ve not yet tried an item at Bouchon Bakery that didn’t at least challenge for “best overall” in its category. Great ingredients and classic technique from the mind of a brilliant chef generally yield excellent results. If I lived near a Bouchon Bakery I’d have a weight problem, no doubt.

1 comment:

Rich said...

how does this bouchon compare to the one in new york? i went to the one in new york last week. i thought the macarons were too big and a tad too sweet for my taste (especially the strawberry one). i like the smaller ones at le maison du chocolat and jean-georges better. although bouchon bakery makes the best souffle i've ever had!