I was on a bus, headed to b. patisserie to try the kouign amann as recommended by San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic Michael Bauer, when a fellow passenger asked where I was going. California and Fillmore streets. He was puzzled, which didn't help my uncertainty of the location. "What's there?"
As I stepped off the bus, a woman passenger added, "it's a very good bakery." And an Asian kid came up to me to ask if I was looking for the bakery. He pointed it out and shouted back, "get the kouign amann" as he ran up the street.
I did. Only this time it was an orange cardamom version of the butter-drenched pastry from Brittany. Utterly dreamy, the pastry is so flaky, it shatters all over the plate and the table and your lap with the first bite. The same with the plump croissants, which I think could easily go head to head against those from most of Paris’ top bakeries.
The b. in the name stands for Belinda Leong, a former pastry chef at Gary Danko's haute French restaurant, who has done stages all over Europe, including with pastry superstar Pierre Hermé. She was most recently pastry chef for the two-star Michelin restaurant Manresa in Los Gatos, Calif.
What else to get? The bostock, tender little brioche infused with passionfruit syrup and topped with sliced almonds and berries. It's served warm, as light and ethereal as, well, a cloud. Or how about her vanilla-scented "grand macaron," layered with rose crème mousseline, fresh raspberries and rose petals? The coffee from Four Barrel is pretty great, too.
After seeing the David Hockney exhibit at the DeYoung on the day I arrived, my friend Giorgia and I headed to the Mission to check out another Bauer recommendation, Craftsman and Wolves. Billing itself as "a contemporary pâtisserie," it certainly looks the part. The vast, high-ceilinged space with brick walls and a pastry case at the far end looks as if it should be displaying edgy rock 'n' roll star jewelry, not delicate little cakes and such
The presentation is breathtaking, about as far from rustic as you can get. The triangular scones are so perfectly shaped you could build a structure with them. And though baker/chef William Weaver does the classics -- and very well -- Craftsman and Wolves is all about creativity.
There's a root vegetable croissant "laminated" with harissa butter, and a twice-baked croissant embellished with pear, almond and yuzu that's beyond crisp. His financier is sometimes flavored with kimchi. Cookies might come in flavors such as smoked molasses gingerbread or oatmeal raisin apricot.
If you're there for breakfast, get "the rebel within," a muffin flavored with Asiago cheese and sausage, and with a surprise soft-cooked egg at its heart.
The desserts I tried, a miniature lime tart with a toasted meringue piped on in loops and especially a "cube" cake flavored with pine, vanilla and kaffir lime are worth a detour as well.
Listen up: Werner also does an afternoon tea (Monday to Friday from 1 to 5 p.m.) by reservation. That's definitely going on my shortlist for the next time I'm in town.