Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Citizen Cake Patisserie, San Francisco CA

Citizen Cake is a bit of phenomenon given Chef Falkner’s appearance on multiple Food Network episodes and her loud/vibrant personality. Being unsatisfied with our purchases at Boulangerie, my family and I decided to stop by the Patisserie on a Wednesday in San Francisco to see what they had to offer and get a taste of what the hype was all about.

A small venue located next to the restaurant which was not yet open, parking was simple at a meter across the street and entering the quaint shop I was surprised at the strong smell of coffee and lack of “baking” smells. Two workers stood behind the counter chatting, greeted us pleasantly, and gave us time to make selections. Some tasty Tangerine jellies were offered as a sample while we browsed.

As a retail bakery and sit down cafe, there were a few customers sitting and chatting pleasantly while others purchased previously packaged cupcakes and chocolates from the wall unit. After browsing our group settled on a few candies at $1-$1.50 each, a piece of carrot cake for $6, a $3.50 cupcake, and a $6 Mocha Mi Su. With prices like this in conjunction with the reputation, expectations were high – alas they were not met.

While the Blood Orange Jelly was quite good, much like the Tangerine version, the selected Chocolate Caramel was too hard and almost like a Sugar-daddy sucked dunked in Chocolate while the Pistachio and Fruit stuffed chocolate simply didn’t work in any way – too sweet, too chewy, and sporting an oddly distasteful grassy texture like fruit leather in chocolate.

The Mocha Mi Su, Falkner’s take on Tiramisu, was actually quite good, but not at all what I expected in a Tiramisu. No lady fingers, too dense, minimal rum flavor – just layers of thick chocolate cake with some espresso flavor and a small dollop of crème fraiche. While a good dessert, overall, and plenty chocolatey, the minimal portion and exorbitant price tag simply didn’t warrant the purchase.

The Carrot Cake, described as “organic carrots, walnuts, coconut and currants with a hint of cocoa powder. Finished with cream cheese frosting and marzipan carrots,” was a very unique take on the classic cake and certainly makes me wonder why currants aren’t used more often in cooking as the tart flavor certainly topped any ol’ raisin. With that said, the cream cheese frosting was excessively dense and nowhere near as tasty as that on Kara’s Karrot cupcake and the use of cocoa was rather undetectable. As one could purchase two of Keller’s wonderful carrot cake cookies or two Kara’s Karrot Cupcakes for the same price, I was underwhelmed.

The final purchase, a Rocky Road Cupcake, was actually quite excellent and the best dish for the dollar, by far. Dense Devil’s food cake on the bottom, with a sinfully sweet marshmallow and El Rey milk chocolate mousse in the middle, then dipped in a crunchy shell of Scharffen-Berger Dark Chocolate – really, there was no way you could go wrong and this ranks amongst my top 2-3 cupcakes of all time.

Having tasted the Equator Estates French Laundry Blend and Bouchon blend the day prior I additionally chose a cup of the Equator Estates Citizen Cake blend while I was there and found it to be my least favorite of the three, though still quite excellent with an almost chocolate/peanut tone to it that certainly complimented the majority of Falkner’s creations.

All told, I’d come back, but choose different items and likely try some of the brunch/lunch options in the main café instead of the choices I made – I personally found it unfortunate that none of the restaurant desserts were available in the patisserie. Regardless, the prices are high - as is often the case with a “TV-Chef,” and better pastries are available in San Francisco – at least amongst the ones I tasted. I would love to find the recipe for that cupcake, though.

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