Bread And All That At Tartine Manufactory

Almost too pretty to drink: the Speaker Box cocktail at Tartine Manufactory.

Almost too pretty to drink: the Speaker Box cocktail at Tartine Manufactory.

 

I should rename myself Carb Gal because when it comes to artisan bread, I have no will power.

So when I recently met a colleague for dinner at Tartine Manufactory in San Francisco, I was all set to indulge in some very fine bread — and to take a loaf home for later. But no such luck on the latter. More often than not, the bakery-restaurant runs out of retail to-go loaves long before dinner, and reserves the rest for the evening service.

I may have left with an empty hand, but in no way with an empty stomach.

We still managed to order some slices of oat porridge bread to enjoy at the table. The thick, substantial slices were made for spreading butter on. It really does have a cooked grain, porridge-like flavor. This is bread you could happily eat all on its own and be satisfied. But if you know Tartine, you know that already.

Loaves reserved for dinner service.

Loaves reserved for dinner service.

What you might not know is how inspired the cocktails are, and how beautiful the food is in a naturalistic, non-contrived way.

The Speaker Box ($14) was as pretty as the first cherry blossom in spring after a hard winter. Pale pink, it was a spritely, fruity dazzler of Santa Rosa plum-infused mezcal, vermouth, and house-made umeboshi that was capped with frothy yuzu bubbles and a  red shiso flower.

A soft glow envelopes the dining room at night.

A soft glow envelopes the dining room at night.

The starters all sounded so wonderful that I actually ordered two in place of one entree. The California halibut crudo ($18) was one of the loveliest looking dishes of raw fish I’d ever laid eyes on. The thin slices of fish were arrayed on a round plate, then dotted with cubes of honeydew, torn mint leaves, purslane, and tiny orange, pink and fuschia petals. Tamarind mint water was spooned over it all, adding a subtle fruity-tangy-fresh tingly taste.

Halibut crudo.

Halibut crudo.

A duck salad with the most amazing Asian-influenced sauce.

A duck salad with the most amazing Asian-influenced sauce.

Five-Spiced Duck ($20) caught my attention because it featured peanut butter miso hoisin. Imagine the taste of Asian peanut noodles but amped up with more umami and caramelized sweetness, and a little bit of mustard for added piquancy. The peanut butter and miso round out the hoisin. It’s bold and exciting, and the kind of sauce you want to put on everything.

The Ginger Cardamom Pie may be $20, but it’s billed as large enough to serve four. OK, so there were only two of us. But we both love ginger. We both love cardamom. So there was no waffling; we just had to have it.

And we were glad we got it.

Ice cream pie -- oh my!

Ice cream pie — oh my!

The 6-inch pie is the epitome of festive holiday time with its warm, spicy baking spices and a fun torched meringue top. There’s ginger in the cookie crust, a smear of quince butter, a mound of cardamom ice cream, and loads of salted pecans.

The only drawback is the pie is frozen solid, and I mean rock-hard. It is impossible to cut into wedges at the table unless you refrain from eating it for 20 minutes or so to let it thaw a bit. Instead, your best bet is to just have everyone stab into it directly with their fork.

It may not be the most civilized way to eat the pie. But it works. And when ice cream pie is this good, it waits for no one.

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Tartine Recipes To Try: Champagne Gelee with Strawberries

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And: Salted Chocolate-Rye Cookies

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2 comments

  • I could easily call myself carb guy — love bread, in particular, so I’d love this place. I often find starters more interesting than main courses, so often order two, also. Plus main courses are often huge, so that’s a more reasonable amount of food. Sounds like a terrific place — thanks.

  • Love getting a loaf of bread from Tartine. At T Manufactory, it’s so huge I have to split it and give it to someone else. (The original Tartine Bakery lets you buy half a loaf) Somehow, I’m sure you would have had no problem with one whole loaf. LOL. BTW, I had the same issue with the Baked Alaska at Liholiho Yacht Club, frozen and tough to eat. They probably need to have better timing on bringing out the dessert before bringing to the table.

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