If the line that’s constantly snaking out the door and around the block from Tartine is any indication, this wonderful bakery and café needs no real introduction. Located in the Mission District on the corner of Guerrero and 18th Streets on the same block as Delfina and a half block from Farina, Tartine is worth seeking out. You need to know the location for as far as I can tell, the shop has no sign facing the street at all. Perhaps they don’t really need one?
Tartine offers a full range of pastries, cakes and, the thing that our friends and we cherish the most, freshly made bread. Their country loaf is our friend, John’s, favorite thing in the world. He may even like it more than… wine (you thought that I was going to write “sex,” right? Silly! Of course he prefers the bread over that!) We’ve seen the bread at Delfina and recently, we think that’s what we had at Zuni as well.
As much as we’re delighted to have Tartine country bread out, nothing beats getting a loaf, or two, or even three, fresh from their ovens (everything is baked right on site) and devouring some in the car as you’re driving madly home to eat more accompanied by your favorite glass of red wine! The line to get into Tartine is the only thing that prevents us from going there every single day for a fresh loaf.
We’ve worked out an informal system with John for managing the line and enjoying the bread with some semi-regularity. If one of us happens by the bakery during the day, he might order a loaf picked up either later that evening or the next day. Then, we’ll call each other to coordinate who might be able to fetch it. Picking up is easier than ordering as you can cut the line right to the front.
Tartine bakes bread on Wednesdays through Sundays. It’s out of the oven at 5PM and ready to be picked up after that. The bread keeps well, so if you manage to resist eating the whole loaf the first night, you can have it again later. (John’s been known to get up in the middle of the night and sneak a few pieces more. I don’t know how he can stay so thin!)
The bread itself has a thick, chewy dark crust that hides a softer, stretchy, mildly sour interior that is truly amazing. Words fail me now and I cannot adequately describe the wonder of this bread. More than once I’ve ruined my dinner for eating too much of it. I’d never complain about just snacking on it alone. But I do like it with butter or cheese as well. I had some with a sundried tomato tapenade and olive oil cured artichoke hearts at John’s recently that was stunning. It goes pretty much with anything.
As I already mentioned before getting completely distracted, Tartine offers other things, too. So you can get pastry, cake, coffee, sandwiches, etc. All of these are also very good. In fact, we had their Passion Fruit Lime Bavarian Rectangle for our wedding reception at The Slanted Door in 2008. The cake is light and very passion-fruity and coconut-y. Really good!
Dining at Tartine takes a bit of energy and strategy. First there’s managing the line. Then there’s finding a table. The place is tiny so inevitably there’s hardly any seating free. I always feel like I’m at some super-trendy bakery in New York while there. I can’t think of anyplace else in San Francisco that’s as mobbed (or as good) as this. In New York you’d come across this kind of thing a bit more often.
Writing this has already made me crave some of the country bread. Aside from the “plain country” (that name seems so demeaning as a description of this culinary masterpiece!) they also make it with walnuts, sesame seeds and with olives. I didn’t know about the olive loaf! I’m going to have one of those very, very soon.