Why is it that when I have a craving, be it for a creamy, sinful pastry or a simple croissant, it is never satisfied? Am I the only one that this happens to or are my expectations set so high, I am invariably disappointed?
As much as I enjoy cooking and entertaining, there are times that I like to venture out and try new places. I don’t always want to cook or bake, even though that is exactly what I should do. Things like French pastries or croissants, or a well made quiche and cheese and tomato toasties, these are what I crave for breakfast or after supper. I am constantly searching for a French patisserie or a little cafe serving European breakfast delights. I have yet to find one that satisfies my picky taste buds.
Does this happen to anyone else? I can envision what I want: a perfectly baked, beautifully layered Danish pastry with the right amount of sweetness and fruity jam, and the reality of what I get: an over baked, dry pastry, with sickly, sweet, gloppy jam. I want a crispy on the outside and soft, buttery and generously slathered with almond paste on the inside, almond croissant and what do I get: a plain croissant with no layers and almond paste that needs a microscope to pinpoint its location. This is my frustration. I have had great food experiences growing up in London and visiting Europe, Asia and the Middle East. I can picture and taste the food clearly in my mind and this is my standard of comparison.
To be fair, I have to say that most of my food experience in the US has been in Texas and Colorado and I am sure I would find high quality bakers and cafes in New York, Chicago or California. Also, to be fair, I did have a place that I liked to go to in Houston called the Chocolate Bar. They have an amazing chocolate cake called Aunt Etta’s cake and it is divine. But that’s all I like over there and if I am not in the mood for chocolate cake, then I am S.O.L.
Sometimes I think, well, my husband and I don’t really frequent high, end fancy restaurants and maybe that’s where all this great food is hiding…but, I don’t really crave food, food, just desserts or a good breakfast. Talking about fancy restaurants though, my husband did take me to this French restaurant in Houston one time for Valentine’s Day. First of all, the prix fixe dinners are wasted on us because we don’t drink wine, so right there it cost too much. Then I was very disappointed because the tart I ordered for my appetiser, was burnt at the bottom. So much for a fancy restaurant. Needless to say, we didn’t go back.
The last few weeks we have tried a couple of new places. I was hoping so much to have found a place I could enjoy regularly, but alas, it is not to be. Here are a couple of mini reviews:
Breadworks in Boulder, CO : My husband and I went for breakfast.
- He ordered a blueberry scone, I ordered a vegetable quiche and we shared an almond croissant. First thing, it’s expensive. Of course, it’s in Boulder and everything in Boulder is expensive. I don’t mind paying a high price if the product is well made. My husband complained that the scone was dry and not like mine (that’s why I love him) and it was dry. It stuck to the roof of your mouth and you had to wash it down with your coffee.
- My quiche was not that great either. The pastry crust at the bottom was soggy, the vegetables were bland and there wasn’t enough of them and it was filled with just egg milk custard with no flavourings. The piece was quite small for the $5.00 price tag. I know how to make a quiche and I made plenty at my parent’s restaurant. We didn’t skimp on cheese or filling and we charged a lot less for a much bigger piece.
- The almond croissant was probably the biggest disappointment. It was well made, nice and crispy, golden brown on the outside. It had nice layers on the inside, albeit a bit dry, and there was hardly any almond paste inside. At $2.65, I wanted a lot more almond. I had to slather on butter to compensate for the lack of almond.
All in all, we were out about $18 and it really wasn’t worth it and he has already said he has no intention of going back. Maybe their bread is excellent, because that’s primarily what they sell, but that too is expensive and I don’t need to drive all the way, deep into Boulder for artisan bread. We will probably try it again sometime because they do have pizza and sandwiches for lunch but we need to get over the mediocre breakfast first. Unfortunately, I didn’t snap any photos so I have nothing to show you.
Our second new place experience was at the Gateaux bakery in Denver. I was very excited about this one because it has great reviews and I was really craving an éclair or something fancy and French. So hubby and I made our way close to down town to get here. Of course, I am thinking cute cafe/bakery, lots of French goodies on display, those damn visions again. What we got was a cute little shop with none of the things I envisioned. It is mainly a professional bakery churning out custom cakes; very cute and very expensive custom cakes. They have a few small pieces you can buy but most are big cakes that you purchase whole. We decided on an almond cupcake, a small petit four type cake and some cherry pie bar (I think.)
- The petit four was pretty good, but different to what I am used to in a petit four. The cake was moist but very coarse crumb, probably because of the ground almond, but it tasted rough on the tongue. It was way TOO SWEET, with the cake soaked in syrup and layered with jam, it was cloyingly sweet. I could only eat less than half (of a tiny piece!) and gave the rest to Trace.
- The cupcake, as beautiful as it was, was not very good. The cake was a white cake and tasted like foam. The butter cream was not sensational, but good. The best part of the cupcake was the little chocolate, toffee decoration on top. That was delicious.
- The cherry pie bar was actually the best thing we had. It didn’t look very appetising but didn’t taste bad. It was dry and crumbly and coated with white chocolate but the taste was decent.
Here, we ended up spending almost $12.00. A bit excessive I know. Their cakes run upwards of $30.00 and honestly, don’t know if it’s worth it. I had a sampling of their cakes when I bought the cupcake and the petit four, and if that is how all their cakes taste, then I can’t say I will spend $50 on a cake. The cakes are beautiful but I need a cake to taste good too.
I didn’t let these disappointing experiences get me down. I just worked harder to find another place and the place I chose was Whole Foods. The Whole Foods on Pearl Street in Boulder is amazing. I can live there quite happily. They have a huge bakery and an impressive patisserie counter. I love their cakes, especially their Berry Chantilly (my birthday cake.) It also helps to know that these cakes and pastries are made using whole, natural products with no preservatives or additives. So, I decided to purchase a selection of little bite size pastries, a Danish for Laith and an almond croissant.
The Danish and the croissant were spot on. The pastry was crisp and flaky, but soft and buttery also. The balance of sweetness was perfect especially with the Danish. My almond croissant was filled with creamy almond paste in every bite. The layers were crispy and separated, and so soft and buttery. It was a perfect croissant. These were eaten too quickly so there are no photos!
The pastries I chose to try were a raspberry macaron, an apricot lavender macaron, tiramisu cups, and chocolate mousse cups. They looked stunning and they tasted very good for a supermarket cake counter finds. Granted, Whole Foods isn’t just any supermarket and I have to say, they rival boutique cake shops and bakeries. So it comes down to wondering, whether it’s worth schlepping all the way across town to a little cake shop when you have what you need down the road? I know where I am going next time I have a craving for a croissant or even a French pastry.
It’s nice to know I have some place I can go for some decent desserts and baked goods. This doesn’t mean that I will stop searching for new places. I am still on the lookout and have a few places in mind; just have to talk the hubby into them. My hubby is a very simple fellow, just give him a tasty curry or a hearty lasagne and he’s set. Poor thing has to go along with me on these hair brained treks to find bakeries and bistros. He is happy when they are good but most of the time we are disappointed.
What about you guys? Where are your favourite places or disappointing experiences? Are you picky like me and tear apart everything you eat? Don’t forget to list favourite food and where and which city you had them. I would love to try them if I ever visit.
Thank you for reading and hope you are having a fabulous week.