I had a small revelation this weekend about what makes a pleasurable pastry eating experience for me.
I realized its much more than just the lamination of the dough, the kind of butter used, and the freshness of the fillings. (Although I care very deeply about all of those things.) It also has to do with the light in the cafe, the kind of seating, and the character of the patrons. Because the full experience of enjoying a pastry involves so much more than just the actual baked good.
This is me happily sitting on my favorite spot at my favorite bakery, b. patisserie.
It's a corner seat, with a great view of the pastries in the case, the crowd of happy patrons, and the queue of people outside waiting to come in.
On a Sunday morning, the place is abuzz of activity. I love to watch people picking what they want, taking their first bite of a pastry, gush about them to their friends and family. It makes me so happy, almost as much as eating the actual pastries I purchased, like these.
If I were to buy these pastries and coffee and take them home, they would taste just as good. But the entire experience would be so different.
Other bakeries I frequent offer different kinds of eating experiences.
- The pastries at Craftsman and Wolves are at least as good or even superior to b. patisserie. But the experience is quite different. The pastries are presented like tiny works of art, the coffee is served in elegantly handcrafted ceramic cups. It's got much more of a young hipster vibe.
- Jane the Bakery serves some amazing pastries in the Fillmore District. There's almost no seating, though. So you either scarf them standing up by the window or your carry them across the street to the park. That's not unpleasant, but not my preferred mode of enjoying an almond croissant and a coffee.
- Le Marais in the Marina has pretty great pastries, and a lovely shop to eat them in. I just find the staff and the patrons to be too snobby and pretentious for my tastes.
Other pastry spots that have good environments for enjoying their baked goods are Neighbor Bakehouse in the Dogpatch, Thorough and Hearth in the Castro.
It's pretty simple, really. If I like the feel of a place and I feel comfortable and at home there, I'm going to enjoy whatever I order that much more. If I feel judged or anxious or unwelcome, I'm not going to enjoy the food as much. It doesn't matter how perfect their lamination is.