December 15, 2013

A Pastry is Worth a Thousand Words {Review of b. Patisserie}

Alluring, dainty, delicate, elegant, enticing, refined, reminiscent of Paris . . . are just a few words that came to mind when I saw the selection of sweets at b. Patisserie, the hottest new place to enjoy French desserts in San Francisco. The pastry pictured above recalls my absolute favorite dessert in Paris, a rose macaroon filled with lychees, raspberries and rose petal buttercream—a legendary creation of master pastry chef Pierre Hermé—called the Ispahan, my all-time favorite dessert in Paris!! It is wonderful that b. Patisserie is bringing some of the fashionable flavors of Paris pâtisserie to California.

Another parallel between b. patisserie and Parisian pâtisserie shops is the selection of beautiful pastries. I've never seen anything like this in San Francisco before! Americans are accepting of sloppy cakes. Whereas in France, dessert presentation is as important as the quality of the flavors. In Paris pastry boutiques, you'll find only the fanciest pastries, small works of art, lined up perfectly and displayed under glass shelves. I love that b. patisserie has created a place that replicates this Parisian experience. Merci beaucoup to Belinda Leong, head pastry chef & owner, for delivering authenticity and quality.

Kouign Amann with Pumpkin Filling! Yum!!!!

If you can only try pastry at b. Patisserie, then you must sample the signature kouign amann (pronounced "queen ah-man"), an incredibly buttery, flakey Breton pastry. It's a sophisticated version of the croissant. Kind of like a croissant went to grad school and got a PhD in irresistibility. How lovely you are! Your reputation precedes you! I already knew that I must sample the kouign amann before I arrived, after reading a blog post by Kathy YL Chan as well as an SF Eater review. Even the acclaimed food writer David Lebovitz described the kouign amann at b. Patisserie as better than most versions in France in his review of San Francisco Sweet Spots.

Then, as I was waiting in line, the woman ahead of me asked: "Have you tried the kouign amann?" Then she proceeded to give me the down low: "Oh, my! It is soooo good! Like a croissant but better, more buttery and..." then she lowered her voice and whispered, "there's a filling inside!"

"Kouign Amann Nature" and "Kouign Amann Seasonal" (with pumpkin filling)

I sampled both the pumpkin-filled kouign amann and the regular "kouign amann nature," which is filled with a sweet almond paste. Both were divine—as rich and buttery as promised! I prefered the pumpkin to the almond filling, which was a bit too sweet. The creamy pumpkin filling offered the perfect balance and satisfied my pumpkin craving.

On other visits to b. Patisserie, I have tried the Grand Macaroon (mentioned above), the Vanilla Cassis Cake and the Pumpkin Cheesecake. My favorite was the least "French": the Pumpkin Cheesecake, a combination of pumpkin cheesecake, plain cheesecake and moist pumpkin cake resting on a crunchy butter cookie. Second place was the Vanilla Cassis Cake featuring layers of creamy vanilla buttercream, vanilla cake and intensely flavored berry jam—prepared from fresh cassis berries.

Vanilla Cassis Cake

My only disappointment at b. Patisserie was the Grand Macaroon (pictured and mentioned above). It definitely has aspirations to match the Ispahan by Pierre Hermé, acclaimed Parisian pastry chef. In my opinion, this subtly aromatic macaroon found at the famous Ladurée tea salon in Paris is the most exquisite dessert in the world! So it is hard to compare. b. Patisserie's version of this delicacy is quite good but still has room for improvement. The macaroon was too crunchy, and the buttercream didn't have much rose-petal aroma. Perhaps I visited on an off day because this was the only dessert that I didn't love—whereas everything else that I tried at b. Patisserie was truly exceptional.

Minimalistic but elegant interior of b. Patisserie
Etiquette Tips: 

{When eating cake}: If the cake is dry like a cupcake, you may use your fingers to break the cake in pieces and eat it one piece at a time. If the cake is moist such as a layer cake with buttercream or a cake with custard filling, proper etiquette dictates that you should use a fork. If the cake is served with a sauce, you should use a spoon and a fork.

{When eating kouign amann}: This one is tricky! You may use your hands with caution but will need to use a fork to "attack" the moist filling. Even using the proper utensil, a kouign amann presents an etiquette challenge. It is difficult to be tidy as the pastry is very flakey. By the time I finished my pumpkin kouign amann, the area around me looked like it had been hit by a small avalanche of pastry flakes. Best advice: Do not attempt to eat a kouign amann on a first date! Enjoy at all other times!

Aftermath of the Pumpkin Kouign Amann 

Copyright © 2013, Lisa Alexander. All rights reserved. 


@the_bear_clan said...

Wow! I am on my way right now to get some Kouign Amann Nature! Love the tip on how to eat the different types of cakes. I had no idea!

pastry girl said...

I'm going there in a week with a friend for an adult play date!!