One of my favorite things about San Diego (aside from the palm trees, beaches, and cheap Mexican food) is its proximity to San Francisco. Hop in a plane and you can be there in about 2 hours (including baggage pick-up and BART). On a recent four-day binge vacation full of discovery, eating, and lots of walking up hills we sampled some truly spectacular sweets. Here are some of my favorites:
Mango Mochi at Creations Dessert House
Chewy, rice flour balls with fresh, juicy mango inside. These were well worth trekking over to Outer Richmond (even though there wasn’t much else to do there). I started with one order of three ($2.50) but quickly realized that wasn’t going to cut it. The dessert cafe had all sorts of tasty sounding items, including jelly drinks, tea, savory snacks, and lots of fruit-based dessert items. If you dine in, you also get complimentary hot tea.
Creations Dessert House
5217 Geary Blvd
Lemon Tart from Tartine
After gazing dreamily at all of the cakes, cookies, croissants, and tarts in the display case at Tartine, I was confident that it’s impossible to make a bad selection there. Everything looked so damn good that I went purely with my instincts, which were telling me to avoid anything too filling, and go for light and refreshing. So, a lemon tart it was. Tartine’s version was large, and low-profile, with smooth and creamy lemon filling, a buttery shortbread crust, and a quenelle of whipped cream on top. Simply perfect.
600 Guerrero St.
Waffle at Blue Bottle Coffee
No matter when we visited the Blue Bottle Coffee location at the Ferry Market Plaza, there was always a line — but waiting has its rewards, specifically a fresh baked waffle with caramelized sugar crystals on top. The waffle was golden brown on the outside, and light and fluffy on the inside. It had a subtle flavor of vanilla and was perfectly delicious plain. I’d choose this waffle over any breakfast pastry, and for $3, you just can’t pass it up. The waffle above is pictured with a basic drip coffee (boring!) For something more indulgent, I recommend the mocha, which is made with TCHO dark chocolate.
Blue Bottle Coffee
Various locations – see website for details
Glazed Doughnuts at Bob’s Doughnuts
On a previous visit to SF, we stopped by Bob’s for an apple fritter (one of the must-eat items from 7×7′s 2011 Big Eat). Admittedly, I wasn’t blown away, but I had to give this place another chance to satisfy my almost ever-present doughnut cravings. When we stopped by the second time, we got two doughnuts fresh out of the fryer — one glazed, one chocolate glazed. Both were so light and fluffy that they practically disolved in my mouth. I’ve never had a better doughnut. Another plus? Since we were visiting, we had 7-day Muni passes that allowed us to take the California cable car almost directly there… and I’m not too proud to admit that one of the things I love most about San Francisco is riding the damn cable cars.
1621 Polk Street
Ice Cream at Mitchell’s
This great little neighborhood spot is a total gem. Take a number, gaze lovingly at the cartons of ice cream, and do your best to wait patiently. After three solid days of eating every 2-3 hours, I wanted something on the lighter side, so I went with pineapple coconut, which was a good bet. I also tried a few other tropical flavors, including Macapuno (sweet coconut), which had a marshmallow-like texture, and ube (purple yam). If you’re torn between a sundae or a simple scoop, try the Grasshopper Pie, a mint ice cream with oreos and a fudge swirl.
Mitchell’s Ice Cream
688 San Jose Ave.
French Toast Josephine at Red Door Cafe
This place is a total trip. 14 seats, crazy decor, and you have to “adopt” a naked doll baby before you can get a table. I almost don’t want to give too many of the details away, because it’s best to show up in a good mood and just go with it. In addition to the fun atmosphere, (and the theatrics) the food was really, really good. It’s pretty tough to mess up French toast, but the nut, berry and banana covered bread (dipped in an egg custard batter with cinnamon and ginger) was ridiculously good. With the fruit on top, it ended up being a bit pricey, but considering the meal comes with a show (and hugs and kisses) it was worth it. So very San Fran and so good.
Red Door Cafe
1608 Bush St.
Lime Mint and Chocolate Sorbet from Scream
We found Scream Sorbet at the Saturday Ferry Building Farmers’ Market. After sampling a few flavors (including orange mate, coffee almond, and concord grape) we settled on two diametrically opposed flavors: Madecasse Chocolate and Lime Mint. Despite being served in a comically-small cup, both sorbets were packed with flavor. Even half-way through the intensely rich chocolate sorbet, my cravings were more than satisfied. The chocolate flavor was richer and creamier than any sorbet I’ve ever tasted — and more like gelato. Both flavors were tasty, but I give the Lime Mint the edge. It’s less filling, more refreshing, and has such a bright flavor profile.
Various Farmers’ Markets in the Bay Area – see website for details