Citizen of the Year: Citizen Cake
What, do you ask, am I doing blogging on Christmas Eve? Not to worry- as I type this, I am in the middle of that roughly 2 hour period between being totally ready to go and when everyone finally comes over. I am at my husband's parents house, all dressed, but no one else gets here for another couple of hours. So my husband, in-laws and I are noshing on some foie gras and drinking some mildly sweet French wine. Basically, I'm in heaven. I think the only person who loves foie gras more than I do is my father-in-law, and sharing the experience together is always a joy.
But I HAVE to blog now while the memory of my brunch is still fresh. My favorite all-time breakfast/bakery place on this earth is in San Francisco so I only get to visit it once in awhile when I visit family. Citizen Cake. Even the name is clever. I've loved it for years and often crave what I consider to be the best almond croissants this side of Paris. I'd ask my sister to bring some back to Los Angeles when she still lived the in Bay Area and practically grab anyone who was visiting SF by the neck and demand they try the flaky pastries. If I could mail order them to arrive every Sunday morning, I would. If I hadn't met my husband first, I would have married it. Wait, I think I did meet the Citizen Cake Almond Criossant first.....hm...........well, you get the idea. The reason why I love them so is because, unlike many average almond criossants, they are crispy on the outside and NOT soggy on the inside. The almond paste is completely evenly distributed throughout the entire criossant. How many times have you bitten into the end of an almond croissant, only to bite into pastry? Then to find that all of the almond paste is in the middle, formed in a massively unappetizing ball? The pastry around has turned soggy and gummy and you lose all of the flakiness that you're supposed to get? Not with the CC version. I finally figured out why. They take a perfectly crisp criossant and cut it in half horizontally, THEN spread an even layer of almond paste and carefully sandwich it back together. So carefully that you cannot see the cut, nor realize (until after the 50th time you've had one) that it was done. Then there is some of the same almond paste spread on top of the criossant, topped with crunchy toasted almond slices. It may be baked a second time to allow the top to crispen a bit- I'm still not sure about that one.
All the way into the city (from Marin) I thought about my beloved CC Almond Criossant. Would I order something in addition to it? Just enjoy it with a cup of strong coffee? I could practically feel the flakes of buttery pastry crumbling down my chin. We found a parking spot right in front and strolled into the cozy loft-like space. Yes, a cozy loft. I can't tell you why it has both urban hipness and warmth, but it does. Sat down, ordered an almond croissant to start as we perused the menu. The waitress then broke the awful news. They were all sold out of almond criossants, they only made 4 today. FOUR?! The place had only opened 30 minutes before our arrival! But I could not get angry- after all, I understand that San Franciscans must adore them as much as I so I could only admire their speed in getting to them before I did.
By the end of the meal, I was actually a bit glad I hadn't been able to have it. Because I ordered something off the menu which turned into my Citizen Cake Love #2. The minute I saw "Pulled Pork Sandwich" I knew I had to have it- it's one of those things that I see on TV or read about often but rarely have a chance to eat. I figured the CC version must be great, and boy- I was not disappointed. A pile of tender, vinegary sweet pork on a homemade bun, accompanied by fennel-seed pickeled vegetables and coleslaw appeared at our table. I piled the coleslaw on top of the meat and took a bite. YUM. Not overpoweringly sauced, the pork flavor was what stood out the most. To me, the taste of the MEAT is what is important- the sauces and accompaniments should enhance but not overpower, and this was the perfect example. I know that a pulled pork sandwich is a strange thing to have for brunch, but I knew Elizabeth Faulkner (the owner/chef) could pull off a version that would be perfect any time of the day and it was. And hey - what better to start off a day of crazy eating than with a pork sandwich? (I think I'll live to regret it but oh well!) So thanks, Citzen Cake, for denying me of my almond criossants so I had a chance to try your divine sandwich. I wonder if I can get that Fed Ex'd to me every Saturday for lunch........
I've included tons of photos of the other goodies at Citzen Cake. I know I went overboard with the camera but Citizen Cake truly inspires me- it's the perfect combination of style and substance, comfort and beauty, art and skill, heart and perfection. I am thrilled to see Ms. Faulker featured in cooking magazines and on the Food Network- although I do not know her personally, I have always admired her ingenuity, passion and ability to execute her vision into true quality.
If you are ever in the San Francisco area, I highly recommend going there for a bite to eat.
And to all of the food bloggers (and readers!) out there, HAPPY HOLIDAYS. I can't wait to read about all of your holiday culinary adventures.