“No picture, no picture, pictures not allowed” stated the small oriental lady behind the counter. Really – of bread? Get over yourself. After a night of the most gracious and unpretentious service ever at The French Laundry I find it rather humorous that Boulangerie holds itself to such a high standard – especially when Tartine sells a cookbook to teach you how to exactly reproduce many of their favorites! Despite the quality of many of their items, in a trip that contained a number of fantastic breakfasts, Boulangerie was the worst of them all and the service left a whole lot to be desired.
Arriving shortly after opening and securing a meter with no trouble at all, we entered Boulangerie and were instantly struck by the small shop size and lack of tables, yet mesmerized by the wonderful smell and wide open preparation area in the back. Browsing the selections we were more or less accosted by the pair of salespeople who glared like hawks from behind the counter – while samples of the chocolate and vanilla poundcake as well as the bread pudding were available I was almost hesitant to take any given their glares. Realize I said almost – sample I did and while all three were good, none were mindblowing and the bread pudding was actually very bland and wet.
After another few moments and 2 customers passed (perhaps regulars as they were treated with respect and even a smile) we made our selections which were taken to the street and/or car to consume.
For myself, after a stellar Croque Monsieur at Bouchon and a great Ham and Gruyere Croissant at Tartine I decided to sample Boulangerie’s example which, unfortunately, was served cold and the server refused to warm stating “we have no microwave.” Seeing that we arrived literally 20 minutes after opening I do wonder when this was actually made since it was not even warm. While well flavored and loaded with cheese, the bread seemed soggy and the ham was skimpy – I ended up discarding about half.
My other selection, fortunately, fared much better than the Croque – another Almond Croissant. Perfectly flaky and absolutely loaded with almonds, this dish was actually still warm at purchase and the filling was delicious – perhaps as good as the version at Payard in Vegas and perhaps a reason to actually return to Boulangerie…or at least I thought so until the following day when I tasted the version at The Butler and the Chef.
My Aunt’s two selections, an Apple Torte and Cream Napoleon, were certainly not anything to write home about. The cream in the Napoleon was actually quite flavorful and may have even had a rosewater component to it, but the pastry itself once again seemed soggy – as though it had been prepared much earlier in the day than one would guess from our arrival time. The torte – bad. A soggy and buttery crust topped with what very well may have been canned apples was vastly too sweet and uninspired – very disappointing.
My mother, a big fan of the Macaroon and inspired by my Pistachio citrus brioche at Bouchon the day before opted for a sugared Brioche and five bite-sized Macaroons. Like the croissant, the brioche was served still warm and was actually pretty good, though mostly sugar and butter flavored without much undertone or nuance and certainly not as good as that at Bouchon or Aqua.
The Macaroons – okay, I’ll give Boulangerie some credit here, they were pretty darn good. While much smaller than those at Bouchon, the crispy outside yielded to an incredibly soft cookie with wonderful flavoring and the prices were certainly more appropriate than those at Miette. Selections made included cherry, currant, raspberry, pistachio, and lemon with particular favorites being the Currant and the Cherry, both of which were every bit as good as the Macaroons at Pistachia Vera in Columbus (my all time favorite.) The award for best Pistachio macaroon, however, still goes to Bouchon.
All told, I found Boulangerie to be very disappointing and the fact that there are so many in the city surprises me. Perhaps I simply arrived on a bad day, perhaps I chose a bad location, perhaps my standards are too high, or perhaps something else was at play but in my opinion the food was mostly average with a few impressive highlights and the service/attitude left a lot to be desired. By the way, I took a lot of pictures since I’ll not be back; might as well preserve the memories of that croissant and those two macaroons since the wonderful city of San Francisco simply has too many better options to explore.