This past Saturday, I walked out of Berkeley High School a free woman.
I had just finished my advanced psychology exam. My sleepless nights spent studying had come to an end. There was one less obstacle between me and graduate school. I was ecstatic. I wanted to do somethin’ real crazy.
I went and got a haircut.
On my coworker’s recommendation, I went to Secret Agent Salon in Lower Pac Heights. The place is the perfect mix of spunky and sophisticated; more importantly, though, the stylists know their stuff. I felt completely safe in the hot seat — a feeling which cannot be underestimated, especially since my last salon experience had left me traumatized. I’d wanted softly blunt bangs, but instead gotten a hack job that I had to pin back for months. Not so, this time. I left Secret Agent Salon with bangs à la Jane Birkin, though, sadly/surprisingly, not her looks. Curses. I was still one very happy camper, and my day was about to get infinitely better once I realized that b. Patisserie was next door.
b. Patisserie is the bakery of Belinda Leong, former pastry chef of Michelin-starred Gary Danko and Manresa. The Pierre Hermé-trained artisan and her partner, Michael Suas, opened up this gem of a shop in San Francisco and immediately started garnering acclaim. The attention is clearly well-deserved, because each and every pastry looks and tastes phenomenal. I can say that even without having tasted the entire oeuvre. After having sampled a good number of their offerings, I just know in my heart-of-hearts that this place is perfection.
Their most popular offering is the kouign amann (pronounced “queen ah-mawn”), a pastry traditionally from Brittany, France. It’s as though a croissant and palmier got together and made a baby, except even better. Crackly, buttery, flaky, sugary, caramelized-y… it’s so much better than can be described, especially when folded around a seasonal pumpkin filling.
Just look at those layers! Be warned that you will inevitably emerge from your blissful eating totally covered in crumbs (as evidenced by the bits in the photo’s background).
Jay isn’t typically into pastries, but he got one of these gougères (savory puffs) seasoned with real bits of bacon, scallion, and onion — and then had to go back for another. They were fantastic.
This almond croissant was stuffed with tender slices of banana and chunks of chocolate. I could just cry.
Ever heard of bostock? Neither had I, but I knew I had to have it once the server compared it to french toast. Brioche is soaked in simple syrup and baked so that the crust gets caramelized and the insides melt custard-y soft. This bostock was flavored with raspberry and passionfruit and topped with heavenly frangipane. Decadent. Dreamy.
While many of these sweets were saved for later, we did have “real food” while we were there. For those who don’t have sugar flowing through their veins (unlike me), b. Patisserie offers an array of savory open-faced sandwiches. Jay got a tartine with black forest ham, smoked mozzarella, and swiss cheese with fleur de sel; I ordered one with shredded roasted chicken, anchovy aioli, watercress, red onion, and parmesan. Both were A+.
Have I mentioned that b. Patisserie’s interior is totally inviting? It beats out a certain other popular bakery’s shadowy, claustrophobic space by a landslide (ahem Tartine.). The place is bright, airy, whimsical; there’s even artwork of a tree adorned with real macarons that switches out with the seasons. It makes a girl wanna stick around for a while.
I think I’ve found my new favorite-of-all-time bakery. It must be said, however, that this kind of magic comes with a particular price — but, in my humble/glucose-crazed opinion, it’s worth every single penny. I can’t wait to return to aforementioned salon and get my bangs trimmed, if only so I can justify popping by b. Patisserie and trying out more of their treats.
Secret Agent Salon
2843 California St
San Francisco, CA 94115
2821 California St
San Francisco, CA 94115