Monday, June 17, 2013

Thorough Bread at The Castro : Almond Croissant FTW!

If we take a step back and take time to observe the stories of many successful food place, we will start to see connecting dots and overlapping pattern. One of them is signature dish and I don't think I will ever get bored in promoting how significant it is. It's the sugar that attracts the ants. It's a woman's specific appeal that gets a man hooked.

Have you ever been to a restaurant just for a plate of dessert that you really love?
Have you ever traveled so far just for that talk-of-the-town burger?
Have you ever waited in a queue just because you can't not have your favorite meal?

If you answered yes to one of them, then you probably know how I feels to this humble bakery in the Castro area, San Francisco. This 'rainbow' area is fascinating for me because it has so much colors, vibrant, and decorated with stylish shops and bars, not to mention the old Victorian houses.

Thorough Bakery is one of them that pulls me to this area. As you might have notice, I'm such a sucker for patisserie. I searched on Yelp on what could accomodate my craving. Discovered Thorough Bakery and man I made the right choice.

I would definitely come back here just for the Almond Croissant. It was beyond any croissant that I ever tasted before. If you drop by here, you'll see that among other pastries, it is the fastest item to run out. Almost every table here will take an almond croissant with them.

Flaky crunchy exterior as it should be, it has a hidden layer inside that gives the sweet tasting caramel-like flavor. If you take a closer look, you'll notice it is also topped with some sort of sugar icing. Have that with the burnt-smelling almond. One bite, and I bet your current threshold for good croissant will be raised to a few bar higher. Have it warmed, and another bar is yet again, raised.

It is one of the things I miss the most from the whole #WanderUS trip. And I blame Leia (that's how I name my NX300) for taking such pretty shot that drools. I myself can't help it. If you know any good almond croissant in Jakarta, do let me know!

Coming back to where we started, that's how powerful a signature dish can be. If you allow me to take it to the extreme, learn from Rotiboy. One product. One price. Look at how many branches they have. And there's no sign of stopping. That's something for you, foodplace owners to ponder while thinking of your next strategy.

In the mean time, let me know which menu from which foodplace that gets you coming back for more. Tweet me at @Wanderbites.


Fellexandro Ruby 
Food / Travel Storyteller & Photographer


Thorough Bread & Pastry
248 Church Street,
San Francisco
(Between 15th Street & Market Street)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Bouchon Bakery (The One In Yountville Part One)

If I were asked what's the one thing that makes the whole #WanderUS trip worthwhile, I would answer with Yountville. This little town 90km north of San Francisco, is a gem for foodies and anyone who's up for out-of-town kind of enjoyment. Think of serene Ubud in Bali combined with the lines of food place in Melbourne alleys.

This town has a certain pull that I couldn't describe. Maybe it has something to do with Thomas Keller and all the things he did there. I don't know for certain, but I'm hooked. So much that I was willing to wake up at 5AM, take a cold shower at 12C, go for an hour of ferry ride and another hour of bus ride to get there. But I take pride of discovering my own way to Yountville. I talked to a lot of people and everyone responded the same. They said it is impossible to go there unless I rent a car and drive there. Guess what? I made it with public transport.

Ferry ride to Vallejo. A view of SF from afar. 

Vallejo Ferry Terminal & Tourist Center.

Halfway through. Napa Valley vineyard on left & right along the way. 

Here we are! 

It's 9.30 AM and a long line of people are already in place to grab some of Bouchon Bakery's goodness. Yours truly is one of them. Came with empty stomach, I was immensely overwhelmed with so many options to choose from, but considering I'll head to lunch at Bouchon after, I grabbed a few quick bites and a cup of cappuccino.

Cookies & macarons to the rescue! So much sugar for breakfast, but I suppose there's never a wrong timing for desserts and such right?

This Nutter Butter is a winner for me. Sandwiched in two thick crunchy cookie, the chunk of grounded nut spread was as dense as scrumptious could be. It is also fulfilling in a way. I was munching it halfway when I realize if I pursue it further, I'll end up ditching the macaron altogether. Plus the colorful macarons are sort of jumping off from its box, drawing my attention to be tasted. Leia, the NX300 did well in portraying that right? I must say, I'm glad making the decision to bring her over. The touch screen focus really helped in making drooling pictures like this.

The Nutter Butter. Look at that chunk of nutty fillings.

Enough geek talk. And so I dug in with full curiosity.

What does Thomas Keller could offer in macaron department? Let's analyze. It is bigger in size compared to the common macaron. It almost fit the whole circular area of my palm. You can almost call it gigantic. Purposefully made to psychologically justify the price maybe ($3.25 each)? On the first bite, I must admit it lived up to its hype. It has that beautiful 'feet' that rings around it. It is light and crisp outside, soft and chewy on the inside. Out of the four flavor I picked, Coconut must be the one that speak to me the most with its rich flavor, followed by Pistachio, Coffee, and Caramel. Again, with the size, I could only finish half of each. Packed the remaining for late night cravings. ;)

Kudos to Leia, the NX300 for this shot. Touch screen focus is awesome!

Added this photo just to make you envious. =p

And here's another one.

10.17 AM and I was sugar high. Indescribable happiness. I was all smileful, like I could take on the world.

10. 20 AM and I have a good forty minutes before Bouchon opens for lunch. Guess where I went to? Now here's a hint. And I'll spill more of it on the next post.

Here's a clue for the next post. Dare to make a guess? ;)

Yountville, I missed you already.


Bouchon Bakery 

6528 Washington Street
Yountville, California
Ph: 707-944-2253
Opens: 7AM-7PM daily

Here's how to get to Yountville from SF using public transport, in three simple step:

1. Take any Muni / Bus that heads to San Francisco Ferry Building
2. Find the pier that heads to Vallejo. You can buy the ticket on the ferry. Ferry schedule here.
Its an hour ride and there's wifi on the ferry. How awesome is that?
3. Take either one of this Vine Bus:
- Vine Express 29. This go straight from the Vallejo Ferry Terminal to Yountville. But only run two trip in the morning: 6.15 and 7.15. Schedule here.
- Vine 11. This go from Vallejo Ferry Terminal to Napa College, then transfer to Vine 10 that goes to Yountville.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Get Lost While You Travel! (The One In Twin Peaks)

Seriously, get yourself off-tracked in the middle of nowhere again and again and again until getting lost is something common, then it is no longer a factor for you. In most cases it will even do you more good than harm.

Try this. During my days in San Francisco, I purposefully did not buy any local phone number or any data plan whatsoever. Bye bye mobile internet! This led me to lots of drama and lessons I wouldn't have otherwise. 

Let's Get Lost

I was on my way to Twin Peaks. With elevation of 281m it is the highest point in the city of San Francisco after Mount Davidson. Equipped with the free unofficial map of the city given by my Airbnb host and a few Google Maps photo captured from the desktop PC in our common room, I took off feeling I've loaded myself with all the information needed.

Getting Lost Helps You Find Yourself

Reality bites. After the first bus dropped me off, I couldn't find the next bus I supposed to ride on. Being the Mars man that I am, I refrained from asking and continually consult my map. Seventeen minutes passed and I still have no clue where I am and no appearance of any bus whatsoever. The map is useless as it only show the main roads.

I realized how self-dependent I am, sometimes to the extreme that I can't trust others even for the minor things in life, just because I want to do it myself. Just because I thought I can do it better. Things as easy as asking direction, is something I rather not delegate even though it might just be a 'hello' a way. Oh how I hate to depend on others.

Getting Lost Show Who You Really Are

Lost. I could turn abruptly panicky. I could call the journey off and went home. I could find the easy way out. I could disdain my oath, bought a sim card with data plan and off I go with the help of internet. But I realized I didn't do all that.

Left with no choice, I started asking random people. Turns out a big part of me is actually social.

After the third attempt, guess what? The bus stop was just two blocks away from where I stood. The drama didn't stop there though. Turns out the bus that Google told me to ride on does not go to Twin Peaks. WHAT?!

Now long story short, six different people after, the bus driver, a bus passenger, a random guy in a parked car, a 6o year old granny, and two guys on a jog, I finally reached the peak and welcomed by this beautiful view. 

Total human connections made: 9. 

My faith in humanity is restored. I have no problem since in starting new conversation with new people. I might have just found the antidote to my extreme self-dependency sindrome.

Getting Lost Will Take You To New Place You Wouldn't Found Otherwise

Like this lovely little stairs. Which actually leads to nowhere, but hides some beautiful flowers and plants.

Or, this hipster like colorful house on the hill.

Getting Lost Opens Your Senses

Being there in the city unknown to you for the first time. Having no internet to compass your way with Google Maps, puts you in a different state of awareness. In this case my senses are heightened. I take a look at each road, street names, bus stops, and houses in details, stored the picture well so that I can remember it for the way home. 

In the end, it helps you to sip the experience in a whole, and not letting the moment pass through just like that. I can still remember everything vividly. Right to the chill air that hit my spine. 

Getting Lost Makes The Journey Twice More Worthwile

No kidding. It finally took me at least two and a half hour to get to the top. When others can reach it in 20 minutes with a tour car using a different access, I took the long walk. And when I got there, this view is just breathtaking awesome. The whole city is at the tip of my feet and at the range of my two eyes.

But the joy doesn't stop there. Why?

Now You Have An Interesting Story To Tell

I just did. And no one will have the exact same one as I did. It makes mine original.

Oh, and on my way back, I got lost again and ended up in Castro, a 'rainbow' area dominated with gay and lesbian. But that's another story to tell. ;)

So the next time you travel, get loose, and decide to sip in every dead end as a part of the journey. Forget the internet, and choose to have human connections. Get lost, and discover yourself instead.

Geting lost is fun!

Fellexandro Ruby
The Wanderlust

(For those of you who wonder, all photos taken by Leia, my new Samsung NX300. Gotta love the result!)
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