Preview of Craftsman & Wolves, San Francisco
When I was planning my visit to San Francisco, I scour the Web and read food magazines for any new places I should visit. Interestingly enough, since my parents and I subscribe to Bon Apetit my mom casually mentioned about there’s a section about San Francisco and there was a small box on a corner of a page that mentioned Craftsman & Wolves insane “the Devil Inside” foie gras, caramel, chocolate muffin (here’s BA’s blog version of the said piece and that said muffin is from the bakery’s site). I made it a “must visit” on my itinerary and eventually met at San Francisco, the passionate, visionary co-owner of this pâtisserie William Werner.
William was a former pastry chef at Quince and been in the food and hospitality business for more than decade. I met him twice throughout a particular Saturday to view both his kitchen in the Bayview District and later on at his bakery at the Mission that will open this Saturday, June 16, 2012.
His vast, clean kitchen functions both as research and development and stocking his bakery. There was a large sheeter, commercial sized stand mixers, proofer, and as expected, lots of rolling sheet pan racks, shelves neatly organized of baking tools and ingredients to create his pastries. He even mentioned of using sous vide techniques for some of his pastries, as you’ll see in a moment, and this pâtisserie was inspired by both French and Japanese pastry arts.
During his years working as part of the management team of The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, California, he traveled to Japan a number of times and was intrigued how the Japanese bakeries really cared about their products, keeping it consistency good, and the beautiful packaging of their product – every time. All of that is part of his mission for his venture, Craftsman & Wolves.
Construction of Craftsman and Wolves at Mission; Starting from top row then left to right: Caramelized hazelnut financiers, Savory financiers, Blueberry brown butter muffins, Cocoa carrot muffins, The Rebel Within and its cross section
On the top of this group of photos (before all of the food porn), is how the venue looked like while it’s still under construction. Admittedly, I should have taken a photo of their beautiful, futuristic, custom designed box since it does reflect the design of the space. I can imagine how cool it would look like. There was a 20-foot refrigerated pastry case installed for their pastries and cube cakes installed by the time I took that photo, and there’s great natural light from the skylights above. William told me that there would be some tables near the front of the shop and bar seating across the pastry case with a small kitchen in the back for finishing the pastries and making sandwiches and salads.
If one does look at the pastry menu, it is part quintessential French pâtisserie but heavily accented by Asian flavors with seasonal sensibility since they’re located in a city of great produce. As for beverages, their coffee is sourced from Sightglass and their teas are exclusively from Taiwan.
Of the pastries I’ve tried when we visited, we had the wonderful caramelized hazelnut financiers that was delicately crisp on the outside but soft, intense hazelnut flavor and buttery on the inside.
The savory financiers: zucchini, olive oil and pistachio made me think of the best zucchini muffin (but in a larger financier shape than its sweet counterpart) I’ve ever had. It’s spring in every bite because of its vegetal flavors and not heavy on the palate.
The blueberry brown butter muffins is my Platonic ideal of a blueberry muffin. It’s heavily studded with fresh blueberries, moist yet fluffy crumb, and the craggy streusel topping gave it a lovely texture contrast. Frankly, I don’t mind eating through half a dozen in one sitting.
The cocoa carrot muffins were wonderfully chocolate-y without being sweet and it’s incredibly moist and had a lofty amount of shredded carrots. (You can almost say it’s good for you because there’s a high ratio of carrots.)
As for his possible signature pastry, The Rebel Within, it’s the most unusual (in a very good way) savory muffin that is stuffed with a sous vide whole egg whose yolk is still soft and slightly runny despite it’s a few hours sitting out. The pastry itself is studded with chunks of sausage, herbs and cheese. I am salivating at the thought of how it would smell if it came out directly from the oven.
Their aptly named section of the menu “Separation Anxiety,” mainly because it does cause this anxiety attack if those particular snacks or candies are completely eaten. I wish his storefront is within a five mile radius – not 2,906 miles – and I’m internally weeping because of that.
His chocolate white shoyu (soy sauce) caramels and salted coffee caramels would have to be my favorite caramels outside of France, especially the former. Imagine a salted chocolate caramel that is wonderfully soft and not too chewy. But you would replace the salt with the delicate white soy sauce that would amp up the chocolate flavors because of its salinity but it has a subtle fermented flavor that makes it off-the-charts delicious. The salted coffee caramel was delicious as well. Initially, it tastes like excellently made salted caramel but after a second, the coffee flavor kicks in without overwhelming the buttery, salted caramel flavor.
The smoked almond brittle reminds me of my childhood when I used to eat a particular Chinese almond candy but of course, it’s a lot more sophisticated and made with higher quality ingredients. The crackly brittle is sweet enough to balance out the crunchy, smoky almonds.
His “Our damn fine granola” is easily the best snack food I don’t mind eating from morning up until dinnertime. This addictive granola is made of bran flakes, rolled oats, pistachios, flaked almonds, local California honey, and cinnamon. When I ate it with my breakfast with Greek yogurt one morning, I thought the yogurt was superfluous and even hindered the granola. It’s fantastic on its own. Don’t bother mixing it with anything else.
In conclusion, people of San Francisco, I envy how you have such a unique bakery all to yourselves! New York City doesn’t have a bakery like this. Sure, NYC have former restaurant pastry chefs that ventured out on their own and they sell good to very good pastries. However, I don’t think NYC bakeries dare to venture out to the slightly stranger, daring flavor combinations (that actually does taste good).
This is one of the reasons why, I love San Francisco. It is proud of its own city, embraces its free spirit and not afraid to experiment.
To view more of my photos of this visit and its pastries, please scroll through the slideshow below (or click through my Flickr set):
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