On the corner of 18th and Guerrero in San Francisco, Tartine Bakery is an unassuming spot that you might almost miss if it weren't for the lines that seem to form around this place. Since it first opened years ago it has been a hit with pretty much everyone. And now all these years and 3 cookbooks later it still manages to pack folks in on an almost daily basis. I vaguely remember going here way back around the time it first opened. My first impressions were the food was kind of pricey and the bread seemed a little on the burnt crispy side. Who knew then folks would crave this California-nized French bakery and it's ways. Certainly not me, and I was even less impressed as the lines grew. I hate lines, I don't need a croissant that badly to wait half an hour for it. There are many other places in this foodie town to get bread things to nosh. Be that as it may, I found myself in the neighborhood on a random Thursday and as I walked by I noticed THERE WAS NO LINE?!
It was a ham and scallion quiche which they heated up before serving. The main thing I like about traditional quiches like this is they make the eggs taste almost creamy as was the case here. There were copious amounts of ham bits which help complete the creaminess though the scallions were lost on me and I didn't get their flavor. The crust was very flaky and buttery tasting though for me it was a bit on the overdone side. Very dark brown to black in some areas and some parts were hard to cut into with a fork. The filling I'll give thumbs up to but the crust, just too hard for me. At $5.75 a slice it's a decent size, though as with most things, could have been a little bigger.
The gougere is a savory puff pastry filled with gruyere cheese and assorted spices. When you pop these open it is pretty much air on the inside. The cheese and spices are cooked into the pastry. In this case the spices tasted of the Italian version as I could taste things like basil and oregano. For the most part I like this--it was light, crisp and almost a piece of cheesy bread. Sadly, this wasn't heated up to serve and I couldn't help thinking that would have made it taste even better. At $3.75 a pop I do think it's a bit on the expensive side, especially when you consider it's hollow on the inside.
Since this was a French bakery I couldn't leave without trying the classic dessert--the eclair.
Vanilla bean custard, semi-sweet dark chocolate coating served in a crisp pastry shell. I have to say I thought this was quite spectacular. The filling was a fresh cream and unlike a standard custard filling it was light and airy, more soft pudding than thick custard. I could easily of had a bowl just the filling. The chocolate topping was also a great flavor as it was more semi-sweet dark chocolate to compliment the creamy filling and the two together were very yummy. I liked that the pastry shell actually held together. Sometimes the filling is too wet and makes the pastry soggy--not here. It was one complete flavorfully sweet bite after another. At $4.95 each it was totally worth it.
Overall I was mostly happy with the offerings at Tartine Bakery and whenever you can finish a meal on a high note like the eclair, it makes everything a winner. Though I can't say I'd wait in a line just to try it again. I realize many folks have gone here and that my review really isn't going to make a difference in the long run, I mean they haven't survived this long without putting out stuff people want. Tartine has it's following and they serve way more than just the three items I had. It's also big on the tourist circuit which can be a headache for those of us who live here. My thing is, if you want to check it out I would highly suggest avoiding going on the weekends unless you will be there right when they open as you will have to wait in line and if that isn't your thing, move on. If you want to avoid the lines and have the opportunity you should hit them up during the middle of the week between breakfast and lunch and after the lunch rush. Otherwise, there are always plenty of bakeries in town baking delightful treats and most are worth checking out--without the wait.