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Best burgers in the Bay Area 2011

Even better with foie gras on top. One of my top 5 bites of 2011.

Any place one can buy Kouign Amann in SF?

If you get a chance you should try her Butter Cakes (mentioned here as Louisiana Butter Cakes, but I recall they were called something else when I had them:, which are croissants tossed with butter and sugar. I actually prefer it to the kouign. She sold it a couple of weekends at Four Barrel but haven't seen them since. They were stickly and gooey and filled with caramelized goodness.

unique uni

Ame has a sea urchin bruschetta, topped with lardo and sea salt. One of the best bites of anything I had that year. Pictured here:

"The Best Thing I Ever Ate" in the Bay Area

Sam's Sundae at Bi-Rite Creamery - Chocolate Ice Cream, Olive Oil, and Salt is a good combo. It's one of those that you seek out because it sounds interesting and don't crave for it (although I do once in a while) afterwards. I'm more often in the mood for one of their other sundaes which include fruit.

Kumamoto Oysters at Hog Island Oyster Co. - I've had the Kumamotos at another location (Sea Salt in Berkeley) and they were pretty good. Not "the best thing I've ever had" good, but good.

Paulette Macarons (Hayes Valley), SF - anyone try it yet?

Revisited Sandbox yesterday and the macarons were in fact a little on the soggy side. Maybe I had gotten an especially good batch the previous time, although I still like the flavors and the fillings.

I agree with Patisserie Philippe. They are pretty disappointing.

Paulette Macarons (Hayes Valley), SF - anyone try it yet?

Thanks for the thorough review there HKF. The texture and bite of Paulette's is spot on, although the flavors and fillings just aren't as spectacularly good as what you get from Pierre Herme. The thick fillings seem to melt right into the cookie's with Pierre Herme.

I also want to address a new macaron maker to the scene:
Christopher David Macarons @ the Sandbox Bakery.

Sample flavors: butterscotch, chocolate, lemon, currant fig balsamic, coffee or strawberry lavender macarons

I think these were six that I was able to try and each one was great. The flavors were good, the bite was there too. Especially liked the coffee and the strawberry lavendar. I've only paid them one visit and will give them another go around, but just wanted to mention them to all the macarons folks out there.

Top 10 Tastes 2009

It might be off and on. The first time I had it it blew me out of the park. The second time was significantly inferior to the first. Still, the first one was one of the more memorable tastes for me this year.

Top 10 Tastes 2009

Off the top of my head:

- Watermelon Pudding @ Sea Salt
- Inside Out Burger @ Spork
- Fried Chicken @ PIzzaiolo
- Jesus Juice Sorbet @ Humphrey Slocombe
- Egg Salad Sandwich @ Il Cane Rosso in the Ferry Building
- Cannele @ La Boulange
- Japantown Sundae @ Sophie's Crepes in Japantown SF

Hot Chocolate 2009 - Open season

I've tried the Boulette's Larder version earlier this year, when they had setup a small heating station just outside their door. I believe they were using Scharffen Berger chocolate. I don't recall exactly how it was, but I think it was decent.

Not so hot, but there's a pretty good Iced Chocolate at Nopalito. May be a bit too cool for these parts, but they were one of the few to do an iced chocolate.

The best packaged hot chocolate mix I've had from the bay (I've tried Reccuiti, Marie Belle, all of the brands in Chocolate Covered on Noe, etc.) has been Woodhouse Chocolates in Saint Helena. No spices, just a very good straightforward hot chocolate. I can't comment on if they have an in-store version, as I ordered the mix online.

Gelato Cake @ Sweet Orchid Gelato in Fremont

If you're in the market for an ice cream cake I just wanted to recommend this little Gelato shop called Sweet Orchid in Fremont that serves up Gelato Cakes. The cakes are more like gelato cheesecakes than the traditional ice cream cake in that it's basically a graham cracker base with a huge puck of gelato on top. The tops are nicely decorated and the outside is walled with a decorative pattern of a sweet doughy concoction.

The owner of the shop (I believe she's Chinese considering that the shop is right next to a 99 Ranch) can make a "cake" in any of the gelato flavors they have available, which includes Taro, Green Tea, Red Bean, Sesame, Pumpkin, Melon Sorbet, Coconut Sorbet, and other traditional and more asian inspired gelato flavors, given 48 hours notice.

They also have a couple of cakes in the display case, featuring a couple of flavors if you want a cake on the spot. They also have self-serve yogurt in the back, pretty standard stuff I believe.

By the way, the attached pictures are of leftovers of their largest size (10") cake.

Here's the info:
Sweet Orchid
34460 Fremont Blvd (next to 99 Ranch)
Fremont, CA 94555
(510) 739-6300
Mon-Sun 11:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m.

Diestel Turkey Prices

Bi-Rite's selling the organic Diestel for $3.99/lb and the non-organic at $2.99. I believe that they're non-heritage.

Here's the Bi-Rite flier:

Best cookies in the Bay Area?

Macarons in a variety of colors are always nice. Do it like they do in Paris fashion showrooms:

Paulette's in Hayes Valley has a great variety:

Paulette Macarons (Hayes Valley), SF - anyone try it yet?

I believe that they were $1.50 each.

Paulette Macarons (Hayes Valley), SF - anyone try it yet?

Macarons in NYC: $2.50 a piece at Payard, Maison du Chocolat, and Madeleine Patisserie.

Paulette Macarons (Hayes Valley), SF - anyone try it yet?

Patisserie Philippe Macarons:

Appearance: Not as smooth and clean as Paulette's, but a lot better than the ugly Miette macs.
Texture: When fresh, soft with a good bite through the shell.
Size: Gigantor, like Miette.
Filling: Too soft. It's almost like a butter cream rather than the more solid fillings that most other macarons have. Besides that, they are flavorful.
Flavors: Standards (vanilla, chocolate, pistachio, hazelnut, etc.), but mixes it up a little bit with Passionfruit.

By the way, if you head out to New York (was there last weekend), good spots for macaraons:
- Payard (UES)
- Maison du Chocolat (UES, there's a nugget of chocolate at the center of each, besides the flavored fillings)
- Madelleine Patisserie (somewhere midtown).

Paulette Macarons (Hayes Valley), SF - anyone try it yet?

I will have to pay Patisserie Philippe a visit for the macarons, but also for the other French pastries, since it's highly recommended a few posts up. I'll report back when I get a chance to go.

Paulette Macarons (Hayes Valley), SF - anyone try it yet?

So I've revisited Macaron Alley several times since my original post and have come to the conclusion that freshness is quite a factor in the outcome of the macaron. I've had stale ones from Miette that were too chewy, a few fresh ones from Paulette that lacked any of the toughness from my initial visit (Saturday mornings seem to be good times. They receive them every 2-3 days as needed) and consistent freshness from La Boulange.

The same general guidelines still apply though:

1. La Boulange's flavors are the weakest of the 3, but they're consistently fresher than the other two. Rum Raisin has unfortunately been missing from their selection lately, which I consider their best flavor.
2. Miette, though limited in choices, has great taste and good texture. Vanilla still the top gun here.
3. Paulette's variety is welcome, although stale at times. If you get a fresh one then all is right. The Jasmine tea and the Chestnut are my favs.

Paulette Macarons (Hayes Valley), SF - anyone try it yet?

Apologies for the staleness comment. I had found reviews of Paulette's on another site (rhymes with shmelp) and didn't notice that staleness was not mentioned here.

Paulette Macarons (Hayes Valley), SF - anyone try it yet?

So the GF and I decided to do a taste comparison of the Macarons from Paulette, Miette, and La Boulange. We bought every flavor from all 3 shops, tried them all and came to the following conclusions:

Strengths of Paulettes:
- Variety (12 flavors vs. the small selections of the other 2 shops).
- Color (vivid greens, reds, yellows. Looks really nice in a box)
- Shop to sit in and eat.
- French speaking staff. Having just returned from Paris it's nice to practice my limited French.

Weaknesses of Paulettes:
- Staleness (as noted in previous reviews here)
- General toughness to bite through, which is likely a result of the staleness factor. You have your initial bite into the macaron, but an additional squeeze of the jaw is needed to get through and separate the chunk from the main cookie. Also, chewy. On a sidenote regarding the staleness, I wonder if they have daily shipments from Beverly Hills or just on certain days? We did this tasting on a Friday and maybe, if these were several days old, they were extra tough.

Our favorite of the 3 shops was Miette. Despite the bland colors and the awkward size and shape, these had a good moistness, not too chewy texture and great flavor that Miette is known for (their Vanilla is great).

La Boulange bottomed out the 3, with bland flavors, although a better texture than Paulette. They did have one saving grace: The Rum Raisin macaron. Close to my favorite macarons of the night. This did just melt in your mouth and Rum and Raisin is a great mix.

I'd love to taste Paulette's macarons fresh out of the oven to see if the toughness is a result of the transport from Bev. Hills to here. Anyways, it's nice to have a shop dedicated to just macarons and I will definitely be looking forward to revisiting the them.

BTW, thanks RWORANGE for all the info.

Paulette Macarons (Hayes Valley), SF - anyone try it yet?

How does Bouchon Bakery's macarons compare to Paulettes and others (Miette, Boulange)? I skipped over them the least time I was there, but I wonder if they're worth trying.

Paulette Macarons (Hayes Valley), SF - anyone try it yet?

Thank you very much for that info. No wonder I was unable to find the Rum Raisin Macarons at Miette.

Paulette Macarons (Hayes Valley), SF - anyone try it yet?

I will have to trek out there to try this. I've just come back from Paris from a Macaron binge (Pierre Herme & Laduree are heavenly) and hopefully Paulette's and Miette will keep me fueled.

BTW, I was under the impression that Boulange's macarons were from Miette? Someone please clarify.