Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Bakery Review: Mix Bakeshop

Mix Bakeshop - visited January 12, 2019
In case you can't tell by now, I haven't really been baking this month. I'm still working remote and flying back and forth from Reno to the Bay Area. I only take a small hand carry which does not fit any baked goods and honestly, I'm not ready to tackle high altitude baking just yet. For now, I'm sticking to the professionals who've already mastered it.
Mix Bakeshop was my next place to explore. From the yelp reviews, they were initially known for their cupcakes then they bought a pie business and now they're known for that too. So I knew what I was pre-disposed to get.
There was no one in the shop when I walked in around the middle of the day which was a little surprising. And sometimes worrying. As you know, I'm a big believer in supporting small businesses and go out of my way to seek them out. Hopefully they have busy times and I just didn't happen to be there during one of them. Or I need to step up my bakery-patronage game and help them out.

For this first visit, I decided to go with a couple of mini pies - Salted Caramel Apple and Coconut Chess Pie. At first I was also going to try a slice of quiche but the only flavor they had was Spinach and Feta. I wanted something with a little more protein so I skipped the quiche and settled on a German Chocolate cupcake instead. Yeah, I know, we all make our own choices. That was mine. #dontjudge

So....let's talk about the cupcake first. I was on my way to a hair appointment after I left Mix Bakeshop and I hadn't had lunch yet. I had planned on the quiche but you know how that choice went. So I ate the cupcake for lunch instead.
You're going to judge me, aren't you? Well, before you do, let me tell you - go ahead! Because this cupcake was delicious and worth every bad choice I've ever made in favor of my sweet tooth. The cake was moist and had a tender crumb.
German Chocolate Cupcake $3.75
I love coconut so the traditional German Chocolate part of the cupcake was a win-win. Heck, I even liked the chocolate buttercream frosting between the cupcake and the German chocolate frosting. I mean, hello, not a frosting person and I liked this frosting. Not too sweet, not oily, perfect mouthfeel and flavor. I'm going to need to have this again. No joke.

Salted Caramel Apple cutie pie $5
Now, let's turn to the pies. I had the cupcake for lunch and no lie, I had the salted caramel mini pie for dinner. Yeah, I know, my A1C levels probably gave me the stink eye that day. Usually, I try to limit myself to one decadence a day but, well, I didn't this time.
I warmed up the little pie slightly in my toaster oven and it was perfect. I loved this pie. It was the perfect size for one person although I have to admit I felt a little full of pie by the time I finished it and I did have to give myself an hour break between the first half and the second had. It was rich, particularly because of the salted caramel blanketing the top. But oh so good.

I have slightly more mixed (ha, get it?) feelings about the coconut chess pie. But I think that's also my fault because I translated "chess pie" to "coconut cream" or "coconut custard" pie. Which this was not.
For the record, I don't think I've ever had a real chess pie so I can't compare this to what a chess pie is supposed to be. On the plus side, the crust was amazing. Like shortbread-amazing. The ganache was good, the creamy custard part was great, the coconut was delicious.
But there was also a liquidy corn-syrup-like layer as part of the filling. I didn't care for the sweetness or texture of that. That might be part of a real chess pie so I miscalculated there. I think I would have preferred an actual coconut cream pie. But with their amazing crust.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Bakery Review: Honey Bakery

Honey Bakery - visited January 11, 2019
One of the things I was concerned about missing when I moved from the Bay Area was good dim sum. Or any dim sum, for that matter as my sister told me there aren't any dim sum restaurants in Reno. Eek. Really? It's not even that I *have* to have dim sum all the time. When I was surrounded by it, I had it maybe once every few months, if that. But that's when I had the luxury of having dim sum everywhere I turned, including one down the street from my office.
Fortunately, yelp to the rescue. When I was still hunting down "top bakeries in Reno" I came across the 4 1/2 star-reviews for Honey Bakery. And whaddaya know, they mention it was a dim sum bakery. Say wha??
I was working from home that day but since Honey Bakery was less than 10 minutes from my house, it was a quick lunch time break to go check it out. It's set in a strip mall with a Save Mart and was empty when I walked in so I had time to peruse the display case.
There were the traditional Chinese-bakery items like pork buns, egg custard tarts, wife cake and coconut tarts. I'm fond of a good baked pork bun so that's what I ordered plus the coconut tart.
Thanks to the yelp reviews, I also knew enough to ask for an order of siu mai. The bakery will steam it for you if you wanted to wait 15 minutes.

I had to get back to work so I opted to buy it frozen and to steam them myself at home. As an aside, one thing I still can't get used to in Nevada is that they give takeout in styrofoam containers. And the stores give out plastic bags without charging you. At least for now.
Anyways, steaming the siu mai was easy. I had to create a makeshift steamer by boiling water in a large pot, placing the siu mai pieces in a round baking pan that fit at the top of the pan and covering it. Let it steam with the water boiling for 10 minutes and voila - delicious, fresh siu mai. Now I know where to go for the good stuff.
The pork bun was also tasty. It could've used a little more filling but the bread was really good. Standard traditional good Asian bakery bread.
Almost surprisingly, the coconut tart was also delicious. I normally don't "do" Asian desserts because I have the walloping sweet tooth born from Western culture but the tart was good. More like a cakey coconut sweet muffin baked inside a tart shell but good nonetheless. So glad I found this place and I'll be back.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Bakery Review: Rounds Bakery

Rounds Bakery - visited January 6, 2019
One of the things I've had to adjust to in my new area is they have real seasons here. As in winter and snow. I'm from a moderate climate where we have weather such as "sunny" or "rainy". Once in awhile we go wild with "cloudy". Here, winter means snow, not just rain. I actually don't mind the cold. And I like looking at snow when it's in the mountains. Driving on it is going to take some getting used to.
And I got used to it - sort of - by making a careful drive the morning after a snowstorm to do a couple of errands. One of those errands was going to Rounds Bakery, another entry that showed up on yelp when I searched for "best bakeries in Reno".
Rounds has a reputation of making the best bagels in Reno. Unfortunately, I'm not a big bagel fan. Too filling. They also had a plethora of doughnuts on display when I went in. Uh, not a big doughnut person either unless it's Stan's Donuts back at my old stomping grounds.

Fortunately though, one of the things I read in the yelp reviews and, frankly, one of the reasons I went to Rounds Bakery was the mention of a cronut. You don't find many places that do cronuts, other than the famous Dominique Ansel Bakery, creator of the original cronut. So I had to try it here.
There were only a few cronuts at the counter and the helpful counter guy pointed out the flavors they had left: chocolate, nutella and German chocolate. Knowing that once again, I couldn't eat all three flavors, I went with the remaining Nutella cronut. I was a little surprised to find it sprinkled with walnuts rather than hazelnuts which most Nutella desserts are paired with but that was fine.

Props to Rounds for offering the cronut and they did a decent job of making it a cross between a croissant and a doughnut. No knocks on them but you have to remember I had had the real thing when I was in New York. No one beats Dominique Ansel for the cronut. This was a good try and I liked the flavors. The Nutella was only drizzled on top rather than stuffed inside the cronut itself so it wasn't too Nutella-y. Still I'm glad I tried it.

Next time, I'll see what all the fuss is about and go for a bagel or a straightforward doughnut.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Bakery Review: Homage Bakery

Homage Bakery - visited January 5, 2019
At the end of 2018, I moved to a new home. I'm not talking I packed my stuff in shopping bags and drove it over down the block or to the next town. No, I moved. After more than 4 decades in California, I packed up my whole house, scheduled honest-to-goodness professional movers and moved out of state. I landed in Reno, NV to hopefully soon-to-start my "semi-retirement". I say "semi" because I actually am still working, both remote and commuting back to the Bay Area. At least for a few more months.
The adjustment has been easier than I expected, maybe because I have family and friends here and have already been to Reno multiple times. It also doesn't hurt that one of the ways I familiarize myself with a new area (mostly when I travel) is I check out the local foodie scene. Actually, let's not kid ourselves. I google "top bakeries in (insert wherever I am)" and armed with the GPS on my phone and loose pants, I set off.
I have to give credit to my friend, Mary, though, as the first person to tell me about Homage Bakery. They did appear in the "top" list so it was an easy choice to go there on my first exploratory bakery run.

And I have to say, Homage did not disappoint. It's housed in what appears to be a former actual house, as I'm finding many places in Reno are. You go up a set of stairs to enter the "house". There are eating areas on both sides of the entrance and the counter and coffee bar are further in.
My greedy eyes drank in all of the baked goods and it was hard to narrow my choices. Past experience has taught me I can't eat all the things, no matter how greedy my eyes are. I was disappointed to find a sign for "kouign amann" and it's corresponding shelf was empty. Empty, I tell you. My hopeful query to the lady behind the counter brought the confirmation that yes, indeed, they were out of my favorite pastry.
At first I consoled myself with getting a "chocolate bombe" and a croissant bread pudding to go. I thought the bread pudding might be a somewhat-substitute for my erstwhile kouign amann. As I was paying for my pastries, I noticed the flyer at the counter announcing that one of the breakfast specials for the day was "Banana Bread French Toast". Whoa, unnotch that belt buckle, I'll have one of those.
Banana Bread French Toast
I've never had banana bread French toast. Thankfully I came to my senses and rectified that lack in my life. It was delicious. Freaking delicious. Worth every minute of the hour I spent in the gym later that day. It literally was slices of very delicious banana bread (and remember I am a snob about banana bread) made into French toast, topped with slices of fresh banana, drizzled with caramel and sprinkled with nuts.
I applaud Homage further for making a straight-up banana bread. No raisins, no nuts inside the bread, nothing but bananas and all the goodness required to make drool-worthy banana bread. Never mind that I was near-sick by the time I finished it. Because finish it I did. It was too delicious to leave a crumb on my plate, diet be damned. Oh wait, I forgot I was on a diet at this point. Never mind. It was worth it.

Hot Chocolate

Croissant Bread Pudding
And in case you're keeping track, I wasn't on a diet when I ate the bread pudding drizzled with caramel sauce either. So there.
with caramel sauce

The bread pudding was good, although a little wet on the bottom by the time I was not-full enough to eat it. I did warm it up in my little toaster oven at home before I drizzled the caramel over it and it was good but it wasn't a kouign amann. Still, it was good.

But, let's talk about the chocolate bombe. Holy chocolate gods, thank you. This was amazing. The chocolate wasn't too overpowering or so rich that you could only eat a mouthful. As I proved with every forkful that made its way to my mouth.

Chocolate Bombe
It was the texture of the cake underneath the dome that lured me. Perfect fudginess. More dense than a typical cake, not quite as dense as a brownie or fudge. In other words, let me say "perfect" again.

The best "homage" (get it?) I can pay to anything I try from a bakery is a desire to make my own. Sure enough, as soon as I finished this bad boy, I was on amazon searching for those dome-shaped silicone molds so I can try this at home. Yup, I'm willing to temper chocolate, brush the inside of these dome molds, fill them with (I need to find) an amazing cake and decorate/garnish it. Or go back to Homage at the first opportunity (and after I log another 20 hours at the gym) so I can have another chocolate bombe.
This was a great first introduction to Reno's bakeries.