Croquembouche and Citizen Cupcake
2 Stockton St. (at Market Street) San Francisco Tel. (415) 399-1565
After reading several threads on Chowhound's SF and Bay area message board about croquembouche and Citizen Cake, I had sweet things on my mind. The chowhound board had also alerted me to the news that there was now a baby cafe version of the dessert-orientated restaurant cutely named Citizen Cupcake in the Virgin Megastore in San Francisco's Down Town. As F and I were in the Union Sq area shopping for a wedding present on empty stomachs I suggested we stop there for a quick something to eat. F was happy as this also delivered an impromptu opportunity for him to buy a few new cds.
Citizen Cupcake is cafeteria-style so you have to queue and then make your order. This was s l o w. Admittedly I had a very excited customer ahead of me, ordering vast quantities of cookies to pick up the next day. I noted that the staff were extremely friendly, helpful and interested in him. The slowness didn't bother me because I was having great difficulty choosing what delightful-sounding morsel I would order. I was uhhm-ing and aah-ing between a panini (mozzarella and prosciutto or 3 cheeses) or the cheese selection. I was in a savoury mood otherwise my decision-making would have been hindered further by the sugary display of dozens of cupcakes and cookies also on offer. As my place at the front of the queue materialized I saw an order of the cheese I had been contemplating go to another table. It looked perfect, and so my decision was made.
There are four cheeses to choose from, each served with something a little different. I chose the French goat cheese which was presented on a rectangular tray, The miniscule piece of cheese, 2 large red ripe juicy cherries and a baby handful of Marcona almonds contrasted decadently with the shiny dark ceramics. A small square bowl at the end of the tray held a decent number and variety of crackers. The cheese was authentic and pungent, no mild imitations here, and probably shouldn't be chosen by someone who is more used to their cheese pre-sliced in a cellophane wrapper.
Quality doesn't come cheap and I am sure some people might balk at the $6 price tag on this tiny dish. For me, who wanted something very tasty but not too filling, it fitted the bill. F had a glass of sauvignon blanc. I would have loved to pair my cheese with a red wine but because of medication I am currently unable to drink so I settled for the very gauche option of a bowl of latte instead.
The staff really seemed to passionate about working there. I decided to buy a slab of chocolate to pair with my latte, from their selection of all sorts of yummy looking sweet things to buy and take home. One of the servers came over to discuss chocolate with me, asking which flavour I had tried. She then told me she had a little of another flavour at the back which she would bring me to sample. I think it was from her own personal supplies, so I was taken aback and touched by her kindness.
The bill for wine coffee and cheese was $15. The chocolate, another $4.50. Steep prices for a simple caff in a music store but for top notch ingredients I can't really complain.
The Belgian Dolfin chocolate really was excellent. I chose earl grey, noir, which luckily was so mildly flavoured that the tea flavour was barely discernible but the inclusion of very finely chopped tealeaves made the bar ever so slightly crunchy.
The sample the server generously gave me was of their new Masala milk chocolate. I thought it would be Marsala as in the Spanish wine but I'd missed the subtle difference in spelling and was in fact alluding to an Indian spice mix of cardamom, cloves, ginger and cinnamon which, as I noted to F, made it taste like Christmas. I am not a milk chocolate person so I found this one to be too sickly and sweet. I personally would stick with their dark chocolates instead.
In the evening we drove to Mountain View to the house of B and C who were throwing a party to celebrate their recent marriage in Tahiti. The pretty garden was circled with tables weighed down with mountains of French foods. Little quiches, salads, and baguettes topped with pates, saucissons, duck mousse or roquefort cheese with walnuts, eggs mimosa and all sorts of other delicious things. The star of the show was a "Piece Monte" the traditional French wedding cake made of Croquembouche. I was pleased to find this settled an argument I'd been having with F. I thought the wedding cake was actually called a "Croquembouche" and had been arguing the point with he, who insisted it is called a Piece Monte. He's French, and of course I should have taken his word, as it appears he was right. The French contingent explained that each little caramel covered choux is indeed called a croquembouche but collectively, when assembled to create the mountainous, glorious-looking cake they are instead labeled a 'Piece Monte'.
Croquembouche and Citizen Cupcake