Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Bakery Review: Arsicault Bakery, San Francisco, CA

Arsicault Bakery, San Francisco, CA - visited May 24, 2018
One of my coworkers, sharing my love for all things butter and pastry sent me this link from Bon Appetit that named Arsicault Bakery the best in San Francisco. Now you know that’s just an invitation to me to try it, right? Especially since San Francisco is a mere Caltrain or BART ride away.

It was fortuitous that our annual user conference was in San Francisco shortly after she waved the article in front of me and even more fortuitous that, during a break in the day, several of us like-minded colleagues grabbed an Uber to make the 10-minute ride to Arsicault Bakery to load up on calories baked goods.
Kouign Amann on display
I had read the yelp reviews and heard from friends about the lines at Arsicault Bakery and that it was a good idea to get there when they first opened. Since they opened at 7 am and we had to be at the conference at 7:30 am, that wasn’t feasible. But fortunately, the break in our day coincided with a lull at the bakery so there was no line. We even managed to snag a table to enjoy our pastries and drinks. 

The bakery itself is small, certainly smaller than Jane the Bakery or b. patisserie. You walk in and there are two displays, bifurcated by the cash register. There isn’t a huge selection of pastries compared to larger bakeries or bread shops but they all looked mouth-wateringly amazing. I was there on a mission to try something from the croissant food group since the Bon Appetit article gushed about it so and I knew I wanted a kouign amann.
Anticipating the trip, I hadn’t had breakfast and I’d been up early to get to the city by 7:30 (40-minute drive to BART, 35-minute ride in, 5-minute walk – you do the math on how early I got up and went on my way) so I was ready to chew off my arm or leg by the time we got there. So I felt no compunction in ordering a ham and cheese croissant to eat there, a kouign amann to go and a chocolate almond croissant to go. Plus a Valrhona hot chocolate because you know, I had to wash down the croissant, right?
There’s a small eating section of Arsicault at the back that’s slightly elevated so you had to walk up a few steps. There are several tables and we were fortunate to be able to snag one. I think I inhaled the ham and cheese croissant. The croissant itself was delicious. So was the filling although I wished there had been a little more ham in there, probably because I was so hungry. I don’t have that high a bar for croissants other than they be buttery, flaky goodness. And buttery doesn’t mean “greasy”. Arsicault’s croissants were as good as advertised.

BUT – considering I was still a little hungry by the time I finished it, my good intentions to save the kouign amann for later went for naught. Yup, I broke into that thing with barely an internal struggle. OMG. It was fantastic. I liked the kouign amann from b. patisserie and I loved the one from Dominique Ansel Bakery in Soho. Arsicault’s kouign amann joined that hall of fame. It’s hard for me to pick one favorite of the three but it could be a case of I love the one I’m eating at the time the best. Arsicault’s was a little more buttery than b. patisserie and shaped a little differently than the traditional kouign amann but geez, it had me at the first caramelized, flaky bite. I admit to feeling a little sick after since I had it right after the croissant so that was a mighty amount of butter swimming in my bloodstream but hey, no regrets. It was that good.
Kouign Amann
I ended up buying another one to give to a coworker who hadn’t been able to come with us as well as a chocolate chip cookie to also partially try and partially give away to someone else who I knew had a weakness for chocolate chip cookies. And, okay, I’m not gonna lie. I bought another kouign amann for me to really have “later”.

I had half of the chocolate chip cookie later (much later) in the day. It was good but you know I’m a snob about chocolate chip cookies and am spoiled and uppity about it because very few things beat a chocolate chip cookie 10 minutes out of the oven. My bar is pretty high. This was good in that the edges still had some crunch and the caramelized brown sugar flavor was there. It was a little bit sweet for me but that could also be due to the fact that I’d already had a lot of pastries that day so I might’ve hit my sugar quotient.
Chocolate Chip Cookie

The chocolate almond croissant I didn’t have until the next day because I literally couldn’t fit it into my calorie count or waistband the same day I ate a croissant and a kouign amann. I’m normally so snobby about pastries that I don’t like to eat them a “day old” but I refreshed this in the microwave by heating it for 15 seconds and it was almost as good as the day of. I had run 3 miles before I ate  the croissant and it was a good thing as it made for quite the hearty breakfast. The croissant itself was just as good and flaky delicious as the one from the ham and cheese the day before. The chocolate almond filling was also good, if a bit rich. It was actually a bit larger than the norm but I love a challenge so yes, I ate the whole thing. Felt a little sick after because it was so rich but again, worth it. Even though I probably should’ve doubled my run to make up for it.
Chocolate Almond Croissant

Overall, Arsicault Bakery was amazing and their products were delicious. I definitely want to go back (after more running) and would definitely get the kouign amann again. Perhaps the chocolate almond croissant too.

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