Category Archives: Bakeries

Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late: Eataly

A whole ball of burrata atop Roman-style pizza at Eataly.
A whole ball of burrata atop Roman-style pizza at Eataly.

The Bay Area’s first Eataly opened last month. And it’s a doozy.

Spanning three floors and 45,000 square feet of the Westfield Valley Fair shopping center in San Jose, it is the eighth Eataly in the United States and the 41st in the world.

Having visited the ones in New York and Las Vegas, I had a sense of what this one would be like. But it definitely dwarfs those two in scope and size.

Even on a Tuesday at 4 p.m., the place was hopping with plenty of folks checking out the wares.

On the top floor, you’ll find La Pizza & La Pasta, and Terra, Eataly’s two restaurants. Having heard how impossible reservations are to come by, I bypassed them.

A mere portion of the second floor that's devoted entirely to wines, beers, and spirits from Italy.
A mere portion of the second floor that’s devoted entirely to wines, beers, and spirits from Italy.

The third floor is also where you’ll find more than 1,000 gourmet specialty food products — everything from house-baked bread, handmade pastas and fresh-pulled mozzarella to shelves of olives oils, cheeses galore, tinned seafood, cured meats, and fresh produce.

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Hand Pies — With the Best Peaches In the World

The best peach hand pie made with the best peaches.
The best peach hand pie made with the best peaches.

Once you try your first one, there’s no going back.

I’m talking about Sun Crest peaches, the heritage variety so poetically immortalized in farmer Mas Masumoto’s famed book, “Epitaph for a Peach” (Harper One).

A freestone, yellow peach, it explodes with juice. Not too sweet, not too acidic, but just right, it has a full, well-rounded, harmonious taste . It reminds me of the nostalgically of cling peaches in a can, but way more intense and vibrant, and devoid of any syrup to mask its natural flavor. In short, it is the quintessential peach.

The Masumoto Family Farm in Fresno County lets folks adopt a peach tree, giving them rights to pick to their heart’s delight from their designated one when in season. But it is a commitment, an undertaking, and more peaches, perhaps, than most folks’ can handle at once.

Luckily, I’ve also spotted them at retailers such as Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco. Last week, when I saw a half flat was available (20 peaches for $34.99) via GoodEggs delivery, I jumped at the chance to buy some.

Behold -- the Sun Crest.
Behold — the Sun Crest.

Nothing beats just eating them out of hand over the sink. However, I also wanted to do something a little more grand, too. I found the perfect vehicle in “Peach Hand Pies,” a recipe by the gifted Southern baker Cheryl Day of Savannah’s Back in the Day Bakery.

The recipe is included in “Black Food’ (Penguin Random House, 2021), of which I received a review copy, that was edited by James Beard Award-winning chef and educator, Bryant Terry, who is the chef-in-residence at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco.

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Reem’s Chocolate Chip-Tahini Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies get an Arab twist with homemade halawa, sesame-like fudge, that gets folded into the dough and dotted on top.
Chocolate chip cookies get an Arab twist with homemade halawa, sesame-like fudge, that gets folded into the dough and dotted on top.

Growing up in Massachusetts with a mother forced to flee war in both Gaza and Lebanon, Reem Assil not only wears her fierce Palestinian and Syrian pride on her sleeve, but profoundly infuses it into her cooking and baking.

That’s why her new cookbook “Arabiyya” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy, is not merely a collection of more than 100 recipes that dive deeply into her Arab roots, but a testament to her hard-won battle to bring them to the forefront in all that she does.

The book’s title means “Arab woman.” And Assil exemplifies that inherent strength, never afraid to champion her Arab community at-large, starting in college, when she idealistically thought she could solve the issue of peace in the Middle East. When she realized that futility, she dropped out of school, and headed west to the Bay Area, were she became enthralled with its diversity and social consciousness.

It was here that she got the notion to start her own bakery, having grown up breaking bread at the table communally as the ultimate way to bring people together.

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Presenting Cold-Oven Pound Cake

The quintessential pound cake made with an unusual technique.
The quintessential pound cake made with an unusual technique.

This recipe is for those who can be forgetful.

The ones who sometimes neglect to add that vanilla extract to a batch of cookies, the ones who somehow didn’t grease a pan before adding the batter, or have hurriedly mixed in an ingredient at the very last second when it should have been stirred in at the start.

Yes, folks maybe like you and surely like me, as I’ve been guilty at least once of all of those things.

Ever forgotten to preheat the oven before sticking a cake in to bake?

No fretting about that with this recipe. That’s because “Cold-Oven Pound Cake” indeed gets slid into the oven before it is turned on. And boy, does this technique lead to one sensational cake.

It’s from “Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking” (Artisan Books, 2021), of which I received a review copy.

With her husband Griffith Day, they co-own the Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah, GA. Se is also a co-founder of the Southern Restaurants for Racial Justice that works to preserve the legacy of Black-owned restaurants in the United States.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late: Portuguese Tasty Desserts

Traditional biscoitos, both plain and chocolate-glazed, from Portuguese Tasty Desserts.
Traditional biscoitos, both plain and chocolate-glazed, from Portuguese Tasty Desserts.

Portuguese Tasty Desserts takes up a small footprint on El Camino Real in Santa Clara. But it welcomes you with huge warmth.

The minute you walk through the doors, you’ll be offered a sample of Portuguese sweet bread, and asked if you’d like a cup of coffee on the house to go with it.

This is a family-owned operation that first started when the original owners had a bakery in what is now the Santa Clara Town Center. As they neared retirement, they sold it. Those subsequent owners ran it for a good stretch, before eventually closing it. When they did, Teresa Defreitas, the daughter of the original owners, decided seven months ago that the time was finally right to open up her own Portuguese bakery at this site.

Cinnamon Portuguese sweet bread.
Cinnamon Portuguese sweet bread.

If you love sweet, fluffy, squishy, buttery-tasting bread, you need to pick up a loaf immediately. You can get a round, a square, a mini or my choice, a cinnamon version ($9.50). The cinnamon here is subtle, owing to the fact that it’s a mere single ribbon of cinnamon-sugar in the loaf, not a big spiral like you expect. It’s also a little haphazard, as mine was located at the very top of the loaf. Even so, it was delightful, with a taste reminiscent of Hawaiian sweet bread, but with a subtle hint of cinnamon.

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