Monday, April 06, 2009

Waking Up to Bouchon Bakery

It seems like everyone visiting Napa Valley comes to Bouchon Bakery for morning pastries and coffee. Even on a weekday morning when I visited, the tiny-yet-perfectly decorated French bakery by Chef Thomas Keller was packed with foodies who have read about the bakery’s chocolate bouchons or macarons.

I can just imagine the crowds on the weekends.

But Bouchon is worth a visit, crowds or not. Keller started the bakery as a place to make bread for his nearby restaurants, which include the highly acclaimed French Laundry. He and his team then branched out to making an array of pastries, tarts and sandwiches in the traditions of French patisseries.

Some people mock Keller’s Bouchon Bakery as being a chain, now that he’s opened larger versions in New York City and Las Vegas. If this is a chain, I’d gladly petition for one in my neighborhood!

Walking into the bakery, you’re hit by the rich sight of perfectly baked breads against the wall, waiting to be taken home to accent any rustic country dinner.

Or you might get entranced by the displays of muffins and specialty baked goods at the front of the counter. Just trying to decide what to get at this point may be one of the reasons why the line seems to get held up at the front as people try to get a glimpse of every perfectly shaped baked item.

In the refrigerated section, you’re inundated with more options, including the top row of macarons of every flavor. The rest of the counter includes an assortment of desserts, all pretty and varying in style—from the uncomplicated bread pudding to the sophisticated tarts.

I was surprised to even find jars of foie gras for sale (at $50 a jar). While I’m not a big consumer of foie gras, I can see how this would make a decadent and luxurious country picnic for some.

The other end of the room has a window view into the bakery, where you can see Keller’s expert team baking everything on site.

The bakery is on the same grounds as Bouchon Bistro, painted in a rich maroon color contrasting with the light and bright color scheme of the bakery. In between the two is outdoor seating where many people gather under the morning sun to enjoy their treats. I started off by having this chantilly éclair that was almost pencil thin but so enjoyable with its light cream piping and tasty filling of custard and chocolate.

Then I moved on to Bouchon’s macarons, which are much larger in size than others I’ve tried recently in San Francisco. These were the size of hockey puts, but tasted light and airy. I tried the caramel and espresso flavors, and each had an airy light crunch when I first bit into one. The interior, though, was light and soft with a slight chewiness in the center. I thought the caramel was maybe a bit too sweet for me, but I really enjoyed the coffee undertones in the espresso macaron. My only regret is that I didn’t buy more to take home for later.

I was so enthralled by the offerings at Bouchon Bakery that I didn’t even pay attention to the prices of each items. All I know is that the éclair, two macarons and a package of shortbread cookies I bought to bring home came out to $19.85 with tax. (I found out later the macarons are $3 each.) While I didn’t try everything (it would involve many more future visits that I am now scheduling in my mind), I can say the things I did purchase was worth every penny.

Bouchon Bakery, 6528 Washington St., Yountville (Napa Valley). PH: 707.944.2253. Open daily, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.


Workshop Cooker said...

I have to admit that I have a hetero man crush on Thomas Keller. His attention to detail and unwavering pursuit of perfection can be quite an intimidating inspiration. I can only be jealous that the Mrs. and I do not live close enough to enjoy a spring day starting off at Bouchon as well.

Anonymous said...

where's Tues post?

egg to the apples said...

Love the croissants, they are amazing!It is now my breakfast stop every time I'm up there. (The pastries go well with a glass of bubbly from chandon)

foodhoe said...

dang single guy, you are making me want to go to Napa! This sounds like a great bakery