Saturday, April 4, 2015

Bakery Review: Voyageur du Temps

Voyageur du Temps - brunch on March 28, 2015
My friend Queen of Cheap Eats was the one who first told me about this new bakery in Los Altos called Voyageur du Temps. Which is ironic because “cheap” is not how I would describe this place. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I reached out to my friend K since that was in her neck of the woods to see if she had heard of it. She had. K had been to Voyageur before and she thought they were expensive but also put out some of the best pastries she’d ever eaten. Since Queen of Cheap Eats said the same thing and I trust both of their taste buds, of course, I had to try it for myself. 
K and I regularly go hiking so it was easy enough to talk her into walking from her house to Voyageur last Saturday because her house was a mere 3 ¼ miles from the bakery. Round trip was 6.5 miles which we really would have to do because her husband was going to be out and couldn’t be our stand-by “can you pick us up?” if we wimped out on the walk home after the bakery visit. 
When you pull up (or walk up) to Voyageur, it may not look like a bakery at first glance. But on closer inspection, you can see a glassed-in section where the bakers work, complete with baker’s racks and even a sheeter to fold their dough.

There are tables for inside dining along with the bakery display case and the counter where you place your order. If you’re dining in, they give you a number to place at your table (you seat yourself) and they’ll come out and bring your order. Just outside the bakery’s front door is a sandwich board that lists what’s baking that day and what time certain items will be available. It turns out that’s a key thing to take note of as they do run out of baked goods regularly; it’s important to know when they replenish their stock, especially if you have a particular favorite.
When you get to the counter to place your order, you’re limited by what’s left in the display cases or behind the counter. For the most part, there’s a good selection. Or at least there was when we did our first pass. I was trying to balance between trying a couple of pastries that are supposed to be “the best ever” according from my two trusty sources, having a savory meal, and understanding that even a 6.5-mile walk likely isn’t going to burn off enough calories to cover more than an item or two.

I bought the pain au chocolat, a slice of apple galette for later at home and ordered a Croque Monsieur as my brunch to eat there. K bought a Croissant Au Chocolate et Amandes for $5 (chocolate almond croissant) which was the weekend special, a quiche for brunch and a few other items to take back with her. She had warned me ahead of time that the portions weren’t big and that she could’ve had two orders before she got full. Even so, I managed to be surprised when they brought out my Croque Monsieur. For $13, I thought that was a bit pricey for a full sandwich since it’s literally bread, ham, and cheese covered in a Mornay sauce. Voyageur surprised me by bringing out half a sandwich. Um. Okay. For $13, really?? Half a sandwich?

Fortunately, while I had been waiting for the (dinky) Croque Monsieur, I ate the pain au chocolat because I had just walked 3.25 miles on an empty stomach and was hungry. The pain au chocolat was amazing. The pastry was flaky and buttery and the chocolate – oh the chocolate. You could tell they used the good chocolate. Probably the best pain au chocolat I’ve eaten outside of Paris. Seriously. I couldn’t even blink at the $5 that it had cost me. Did I mention it was delicious?
Chocolate Almond Croissant
Quiche of the Day (mushrooms and peppers)
The Croque Monsieur was good but to be honest, I didn’t think it was so fabulous that it was worth $13 for a full sandwich, much less a half sandwich. You’re better off spending your money on the pastries and getting “real food” elsewhere. My opinion.

Croque Monsieur
After we had our light brunch, K and I took another pass at the bakery counter for what we wanted to bring home. I had been hoping for the chocolate almond croissant that she had gotten because the bite I’d had from hers was delicious. Alas, they were out. They were also out of the cheese baguette that K wanted and there wouldn’t be more for another half hour, per the sandwich board sign outside and the apologetic lady behind the counter. Not to be daunted, I went with a full-size loaf that looked like challah but turned out to be brioche. It was $8 and while I could have gotten something similar for a third of the price at an Asian bakery like Sheng Kee, by then I’d become so used to Voyageur’s prices that $8 seemed like a steal for such a sizable loaf of bread. It’s all relative.

Pain au Chocolat
Oh and because they didn’t have the chocolate almond croissant anymore and K flatly told me I shouldn’t get another pain au chocolat because I had already tried it (she had a point), I bought a “Croissant d’Echire” or a croissant made with Plugra, otherwise known as European butter. I’ve made croissants from scratch before at culinary school and we always used Plugra because (according to our German chef instructor) it had better flavor and more taste. Voyageur offers croissants made with Plugra and with American butter. K suggested I try one of each so I could compare the two but, if you’ve been keeping track of my food purchases so far, that’s a lot of flaky pastries to consume in one day. And we all know this type of pastry tastes best on the day it’s made. So I opted for the croissant made with Plugra. Even then I waited until we’d walked the 3.25 miles back to her house, I’d gone home and did some more moving around before I had the croissant.
Display of baked goods outside
Bakery display outside
I have to admit, the croissant was also amazing. While I’m not sure I could tell the difference between one made with Plugra and one made with American butter (I also can’t picture eating more than 1 croissant in a short period of time), the one made with European butter was delicious. Flaky, tender but also super flaky and crisp in the outer layers. It’s hard to describe. But it’s probably safe to say that, although I rarely eat croissants (except in Paris), I’m likely to have them even less often now unless they’re from Voyageur. I like croissants but don’t usually love them enough to take on the calories that come with them. The Voyageur croissant is worth every single buttery, flaky, waistband-expanding calorie. It’s both good and bad that it isn’t very big but what there is of it is also worth every penny of the exorbitant $4.50.
Apple Galette
Apple Galette
As for the loaf of brioche, I tried a slice of that too then put the rest in the freezer. That, too, was excellent bread but I can’t say it was 3X excellent like it was 3X the price from elsewhere. But I look forward to making bread pudding with it later.
Croissant d'Echire

Croissant d'Echire
Overall, Voyageur was a great find. It’s expensive and some items are worth the price and some aren’t. I’d recommend it more as a place to go to for your favorite pastry rather than a regular place for brunch. Drinks can also be expensive, depending on what you order, if you’re thinking of going for a drink and a pastry. K got an iced chai milk tea and it was $7.50. $7.50! I’m sticking with my $5 pain au chocolat.
Voyageur Part 2 - I ended up going to Voyageur again this morning while I was out running errands. No 6.5-mile hike to go there and back this time as I was out getting the oil changed on my car early in the morning, doing a few other errands then hurrying home as I had to do some work this weekend. I decided if I had to work Easter weekend, I was going to buy myself some comfort food while I was holed up at home in front of my laptop while the Saturday sunshine outside beckoned and I had to regretfully ignore it.
Cheese Baguette
This time around, the cheese baguette was available and I also decided to try a chocolate hazelnut danish. Both were good and in the $5-$6 range for each one. The cheese baguette looks deceptively large in the picture but that's actually on my smallest cutting board so it was more like the size of an individual sourdough bread bowl. I only had a bite of the danish since the baguette was more than sufficient carbs for the day. It was flaky but not as memorable as the Croissant d'Echire or as tasty as the chocolate almond croissant or the pain au chocolate.
Chocolate Hazelnut Danish

Chocolate Hazelnut Danish

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