B. Patisserie, Pacific Heights, San Francisco

B. Patisserie is a venture with Belinda Leung and her expertly crafted viennoiserie. Our macaron instructor Thip (BMH’s review of Bonbini Macaron Class) gave her favorites in the city and B. Patisserie was her must suggest and we are thrilled we finally got to sample a few and look forward to return.

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We loved the drop lighting above the open bakery area. It was so fun to see the bakery team and Belinda work their magic._MG_8515

Upon entrance, you see several surprises along the walls, the pastry and sweet treat icons outlined at the front sitting area and a macaron tree in the back._MG_8512

We loved seeing fresh tartines (open faced sandwiches) made in front of our eyes. Next time we will order the mushroom, goat cheese on leeks tartine._MG_8516

There were several trays of macarons, tarts, chocolate mousse bombs and lovely desserts._MG_8514

The lemon tarts, chocolate toffee, vanilla meillefeulle, peach melba, cassis cake are on the cool, marble slab._MG_8513

The viennoiserie was why we at B. Patisserie. The croissants, chocolate croissants, 10 hour apple tart (intrigued right?!) and scones looked tantalizing._MG_8509

What we had to select was the Chocolate Banana Almond-Croissant for $3.75 because it was truly different from any other croissants we have seen and so many bakeries. Almond topping and inside banana and chocolate in the interior. This was literally bananas. We were so gosh darn happy.

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Have you ever had a perfectly tender, spinach, cheese and bacon quiche with the right amount of flakey crust. The B. Patisserie quiche has been one of the best quiches ever eaten. So good we got another slices. Yeah, our mouths are watering right now thinking about this quiche.

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The piece de la resistance and true specialty of the house if the Kouign Amann Nature for $4. This croissant like caramelized, custardy pastry is phenomenal. This is art and science at its best.

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Can you  really be happier? NO. Truly the best ever tasted.

_MG_8518We can not wait to return time and time again to B. Patisserie. If our father ever visit the Bay, this is where we would take him for his love of French pastries.

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Bonbini Macaron Class, Protero Hill, San Francisco

What do Cafe M, KoreatownMiette, Ferry BuildingMirtille, Civic Center,  Maison Georges Larnicol, Quartier Latin, ParisPierre Hermes, Galeries de Lafayette, ParisLaduree, Upper East Side, New York CitySucre, Garden District, New OrleansCafe de la Creme, Split? They all have in common macarons and our ardent obsession for these almond meringue delights. After our own failed attempt at Parisian Macarons and a lot of self-study, it was time for proper instruction.

The owner and instructor of Bonbini,  is Bangkok native Thip. She is delightful,  approachable and is quite thorough. Thip has scientific explanations why certain processes and steps are necessary in the macarons making process. The $85 price tag for the 3 hour class was worth every penny.

_MG_5346 Bonbini is the Papiamentu language that only spoken on the Caribbean ABC islands, Aruba, Bonaire and Curacoa and means welcome.

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Armed with instruction, we highly suggest taking copious notes on the additional tips and tricks of the trade. She offer her favorite brands of products, supplies and other tidbits throughout the class. She is also a former pastry chef at Luce in the Intercontinental and has lots of great suggestions for baked items (La Boulange de Polk, Tartine Bakery, b. patisserie, Gourmet and More) and Thai food (Marnee Thai) in the city.

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We found her macaon class via Yelp and booked it online. She also teaches how to make an opera cake, cupcakes and Kouign Amann. Located in her spacious home in Protero Hill, the kitchen is to die for. Double ovens, counter top, induction stove and large industrial refridgerator. She offered us tea, coffee, cupcake and macaron refreshments. _MG_5290

A Kitchen Aid mixer or hand mixer is absolutely necessary to get the egg whites into soft peaks._MG_5293

The Italian method creates more resilient batter and consistent macarons in which a sugar syrup is created and combined with the whipped egg whites._MG_5300

We created a mass (all the almond flour and dry ingredients) and incorporated some egg whites to create a paste._MG_5322

Another great tip is to let the macarons dry for an hr, but you can use a fan, on a cool setting (not a hair dryer) to make the “skin” develop and the macarons dry to the touch._MG_5330

Thip’s favorites are savory sweet macaron flavors including chocolate bacon and blue cheese. We loved the passion fruit, pistachio, hazelnut, coffee and chocolate flavors._MG_5335She highly recommended heat resistant, disposable piping bags to pour warm filings into the bag and then placing them in the refridgerator for later use.
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Each classmate was in charge of a tray (15 macarons) and single flavor of macarons (in our case sour cherry or bright pink). _MG_5339

Chocolate and coffee are the most difficult macarons and more beginner macaron makers need to advance to these flavors.
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Our class seemed quite happy with the demonstration, the explanation and execution. We wish we all got the chance to gauge the timing and readiness of the sugar syrup, the right level when soft peaks form and how to combine the sugar liquid with the egg whites to create the meringue. Overall, we were thrilled by the tips, which demystified macarons and would highly recommend Bonbini’s classes._MG_5348

Cafe Claude, Financial District, San Francisco

Our colleague shared with us that his two favorite French restaurants are Chez Papa Resto and Cafe Claude. We decided on a night of jazz and Cafe Claude in the Claude Lane.  The Claude Lane alley way reminds us of Cafe Bastille at Belden Place, but even better.

The restaurant was completely full and the jazz band was playing the standards including Misty.  She greeted us with a French good evening and the couple next to us spoke fluent French and shared steak frites.

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We started with a carafe of 2011 Syrah from Tolosa Winery, from the Central Coast “Mission 5″ for $26 (or $9 a glass).

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We worked through the crusty french bread with softened butter and enjoyed it with our syrah._MG_4931

Our dining companion enjoyed the Cabillaud À La Basquaise pan roasted local ling cod, sweet peppers, prosciutto, tomato, tapenade and made sure the plate clean.

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We also shared a Choux De Bruxelles brussels sprouts, sage, Hobbs smoked bacon for $6 and the chucky bits of bacon went well with the brussels, but we wish we ordered the herbed frites since the brussels were good.

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We enjoyed a Truite Amandine farm-raised trout, sliced almonds, cauliflower, raisins, sauce meunière, capers for $20. The flakey trout was buttery and went well with the texture of the almonds and cauliflower. The tanginess from the lemon and capers went well with the meuniere sauce. We highly recommend the dish._MG_4935

We didn’t make room for the dessert, but next time we will try the Mousse Au Chocolat bittersweet chocolate mousse, hazelnut brittle for $8.

Another dish we hope to sample are the escargots en croute garlic, butter, parsley, almond, pernod, shallots, anchovy, puff pastry for $10. The last time we had escargots were in Belgium at Aux Armes de Bruxelles, Rue des Bouchers, Brussels and we have not found comparable in the States.

Finally, we would return to Cafe Claude and try the poulet rôti half roasted chicken, sautéed swiss chard, niçoise olives, rosemary, lemon for $18. We loved the overall experience at Cafe Cladue lighting, intimate ambiance, our food and our server was very thorough.

Cafe Claude on Urbanspoon

La Boulange de Polk, Russian Hill, San Francisco

We visit La Boulange Bakery at least every few weeks for a coffee, a quick snack or brunch. Our last visit we had a tartine (open-faced sandwich) with some chips.

More recently, Starbucks purchased the Bay Area bakery cafe chain to learn best in practice fast casual food service. We all know Starbucks has not cracked the food component of their franchise, and La Boulange does this so well. In fact, Starbucks should also learn from Panera Bread. Like any chain, although stores strive to have consistent service, cleanliness and menu, each Boulange varies on these factors. However, we love the Polk location for solid execution and outdoor seating.

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As we were gazing at the baked treats, and taking a few snaps, a disgruntled passerby grumbled, “It is only food.” Not sure why this impacted me so deeply, but to me food is nourishment, food is art, food is a communal experience and above all, food is love.

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The Polk Street location has one of the best ambiances, seating and they serve fries (vs potato chips). We enjoyed a Boulange Club ($9) with turkey, bacon, avocado, tomato, lettuce, aioli, pain de mie served with the pommes frites. We enjoyed the ratio of ingredients and the taste of our sandwich, but loved the pommes frites with aioli. In fact, next time we may just order  a side of fries with aioli for $5 or with parmesean and truffle oil for $6 for snacking.

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In fact, La Boulange reminded us of La Boulangerie de Papa in Paris. There were flakey pastries, tarts, croissants, financiers, canelles and french bread which absolutely reminded us of Paris.

We couldn’t help ourselves but try La Boulange’s macarons and tried the pistachio for $1 each.  The other flavors to choose from include vanilla, chocolate, and coconut. Quite frankly, these can not be beat at Pierre Hermes or Ladurre (BMH reviews of Pierre Hermes or Laduree), however do serve its purpose when one has a macaron craving and needs a fix.

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Another favorite if the Healthful organic oats with low fat milk, flax seed & fresh fruit w/maple syrup, honey or brown sugar for $6. There is a kid size version (a rice bowl size) which is perfect for a lighter b-fast.

Boulange de Polk on Urbanspoon

Cafe Bastille, Belden Place, San Francisco

Cafe Bastille is located at Belden Place and down the well lit alleyway. Bastille is located right near to Cafe Tiramisu three quarters down the string of restaurants with outdoor seating and awnings.

The walls were adorned with French vintage memorabilia and it was quite vibrant and fun to glance over.

We decided on a three course Prix Fixe $32 and started with the escargots de bourgogne in garlic and parsley butter $10.50.

Our dining companions seemed to enjoy the French onion soup for $7.95 with a large crouton and layers of cheese.

The Lapin a la moutarde rabbit in mustard grain sauce for $19 was nothing to write home about. Although cooked well, the flavor was fine, but nothing memorable. In fact our dining friend, ate only a few bites.

The Steak Tartare for $13 was diced finely and was again nothing special or anything to write home about.

The one dish which was well executed and was devoured was the Mussels Marinere white wine, shallots, parsley for $16.50 with all you can eat french fries. The thin, nicely seasoned fries were very tasty and quite addictive.

We shared the triple chocolate mousse which was unfortunately not as expected. It was more cocoa like versus deep chocolate as one would hope.

The Lemon drizze and apple tarte with cream was quite delightful. A nice balance of lemon notes and tart.

Would we return to the Cafe Bastille, if we were in the area and looking for something French American yes. But, be selective on items and that most dishes can be one dimensional.

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