Thursday, April 30, 2009

Panaderia La Mexican Bakery, San Francisco CA

Portion three of my interview day entailed a bus-ride from the VA to San Francisco General – conveniently located in The Mission area of San Francisco – home of Dynamo Donuts. Having heard wonderful things of the bacon-laden option I finished my interview at 4:00, bid my farewells, and changed back into my jogging shoes. Rushing through the streets of The Mission past any number of unique Hispanic, Korean, and Chinese options I finally saw the sign for Dynamo – and the metal awning closing before my very eyes. Stopping the clerk I was informed that they’d been sold out of donuts since “about 2:00” and that he’d merely been selling coffee. He invited me to come back the next morning, but alas my schedule didn’t allow for such – there is always next time.

As I was walking away I was somewhat disappointed but plenty excited to proceed to my next stop (Humphry Slocombe) until I was stopped by a well-dressed couple who stated “Don’t worry, their donuts aren’t that good – if you want to try something awesome there is this little Mexican pastry shop up the street called Panaderia – go there and get whatever the clerk recommends as fresh baked.” Having already passed a Mexican Bakery and being admittedly impressed by the display I figured “Why not?” and continued along until I found the small shop exactly where they said it would be.

Walking in the door I was instantly struck by the wonderful smell of apples and cinnamon – and the fact that I couldn’t read a single word on the wall, menu, or pastry cases! Taking the advice of the couple I asked the clerk “What’s good?” only to get the response “What you like?” Stating I wasn’t sure didn’t seem to get me anywhere as I once again received “What you like?” as a response. Not wanting to drag this on for too long I responded “Something fresh, with fruit” and the man smiled and led me to the case where he stated “Get this, and this.” Asking what they were (and having it written down so I could remember) I was told a Mexican Wedding Cookie with Guava and an Empanada de Calabaza (pumpkin.) $2.20 cents later I emerged with my prizes and dug in.

First opting for the Empanada I must admit I was somewhat skeptical due to its plain appearance – a skepticism that resolved the moment I bit through the flaky crust and tasted the burst of pumpkin-pie-esque flavor. With hints of cinnamon and vanilla the dainty pastry worked excellently and was almost like a hostess fruit pie yet far more tasty. Not too sweet, not too heavy – I probably could’ve eaten 2-3 if I weren’t planning on ice cream and a subsequent dinner.

My second choice, the Mexican Wedding Cookie, was another wonderful surprise and reminded me of a better version of the Russian Tea Balls my aunt makes each year at Christmas – but with chunks of almond and walnut plus a wonderfully tart compote that tasted of strawberry and cherry at once. Eating as carefully as I could I still managed to end up with about a teaspoon of powdered sugar on my black suit (a fact noted by myself and chuckled at by the cashier at Humphry Slocombe – who additionally noted her love for Panaderia when I attempted to explain myself) but it was absolutely worth it – and the dry cleaning bill!

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