“Hey, I just saw this guy walk past me holding one of your dessert boxes between his hands like a cherished treasure!” I said as I walked into Miette a few days ago, armed with camera bag and tripod, all ready to shoot. “And here he is again!” as I saw him behind me while I turned to set my gear down. He obviously figured one dessert was not enough, so I asked him what else he had come to get. He grinned and said: “I thought I really wanted the lemon meringue as well.”
Don’t you just love how adults go back to being like kids in a candy store (literally in this case) when faced with dessert? All that was missing was for us to start jumping up and down in delight – which, by the way, I just read somewhere, is good exercise.
Let’s see, when did my crush on Miette start…. oh yes, a couple of years ago, when I received a promotional e-mail from Tasting Table featuring the brand new Miette cookbook. The intro to the book came with a warning: “this book may induce spontaneous squeals of sweet delight”, followed by talk of scalloped edges. If nothing else, the cover photo sold me, especially when there was a mention of lots more photos inside.
I don’t know about you, but I only like cookbooks rich in fabulous color photographs, preferably with at least one photo per recipe. You can be publishing the best cookbook in the Universe, but if it is short on photos – or worse, it has none other than the one on the cover – I am not buying. I also think that food should be photographed in fabulous, luscious color. No wanna-be artsy b&w food photos for me, with very, very few exceptions.
But I digress… let us get back to what is really important here: Miette bakery and how absolutely divine it is.
I had been planning a visit to their San Francisco store when, to my delight, I found out there was one in my new Marin neighborhood at Larkspur Landing. I just had to swing by and at least have a look, which I did a few days before Thanksgiving, and it all looked really, really good. I only looked the first time because I had just come from lunch, but once back outside, I picked up one of the macarons offered as samples on a display table and…. OOHHEMGEE!! Can you say orgasm of the mouth? Because that is what that eggnog macaron was! And I don’t even like eggnog! I bit into it on my way to the parking lot, but I had to go back and get another one – the challenge being in the word ONE.
Miette’s macarons do not contain any artificial coloring, so they are not colorful and photogenic like most of the ones I have seen so far. But for the first time since I had heard of macarons from my friend Christian (and yes, Chris, I think of you every time I see or eat a macaron), I knew what the fuss was all about. I had tried macarons here and there in Hawai’i, even from really good bakeries, but my thought was always the same: Yes, ok, they are pretty, and sweet, and sort of taste of what they are supposed to, but… what’s so special about them that everyone is gaga over?
Now I know.
Miette’s macarons are sweet, of course, but not so sweet that the flavor of the filling is overwhelmed. If the label says geranium-rose macaron, you will taste the delicate flavor of geranium-rose: if it says grapefruit, it will taste of grapefruit. Incredibly – vanilla being, after all, vanilla – the vanilla macaron is my favorite because it is just so intensely perfect. That is, my favorite after the eggnog one, which – unfortunately – was only produced in a small batch as promotional samples for the season. Bwhaaaa! The flavors currently available at the Larkspur shop are: pistachio, grapefruit, geranium-rose, vanilla, chocolate, hazelnut and chocolate-orange. The summer seasons also sees strawberry and raspberry alternating in the line up.
Now that my macaron rave is taken care of, have a look at the image above and see why, on my first visit, I could only walk in, go around and out again, before coming back a few days later in search of more macarons. This place is so beautiful, colorful and filled with exquisitely-displayed delights that it is almost an eye-overwhelm. While I was there taking these photos a few days ago, I saw a few people do just that: walk in, have a look around, and then walk out, only to be back five minutes later. The manager said it is normal.
This morning, as I was leaving after another macaron stop-by, three wise ladies walked in and headed straight to the macaron jars, all excited. I heard one of them say to another: “But it’s your birthday!” as the birthday girl hesitated. So I hollered, “Happy Birthday!” – well, I was almost out of the door, so I had to holler.
My friends in Italy are slowly getting used to the fact that I have no problem talking to anyone. That is something I learned right here in California and fine tuned in Hawai’i, where everyone is so friendly, especially around food, and always ready to talk story.
Now, my next question was: can something that looks this perfect also taste perfect? I was delighted to discover that it can.
Miette is not just a pretty face, the substance is there to back up the facade. I have not tried everything, but enough to know that the quality is consistent throughout, with everything always fresh, ingredients are well balance and of obvious high quality, and everything is elegantly assembled and packaged. By the way, Miette means crumb in French.
Over the weeks, my friend Valerie and I went beyond macarons and tackled the single-portion desserts. It is a good thing that her husband Jack is such a willing contributor to the tastings. There may not be one hundred different desserts, but the line-up is pretty tempting: chocolate eclairs, banana cream tartlets, lemon meringue mini pies, caramel panna cotta, grapefruit mousse cake, coconut cream cake slice, chocolate & cream cake slice, and several cupcakes among other things. I like how everything is different in flavor and texture from one another, so it is never boring – not that anything this good could ever be.
Then there are always a couple of Miette’s signature cakes: the Chocolate Tomboy and the Vanilla Tomboy are usually present, and sometimes the Scharffen Berger one and the Princess Cake, though all the others are available for order with in-store pick up. You can see the full list here.
Here I have to insert another rave, about the Princess Cake this time. It is another divine experience: sponge cake layered with home made raspberry jam then topped by a mound of real fresh whipped cream and covered in white chocolate fondant. It should be called Paradise Cake.
Now it is time to mention the melt-in-your-mouth sable cookies, the addictive caramels, home-made marshmallows that are perfect for hot chocolate, and… well, the list is quite long and very tempting.
The other goodies I have tried are some of the candy, and I have mmmmmhhh-ed and yumm-ed and aaaahh-ed at the delights of their Turkish delight, and oh-so-good soft caramels. Their Twists & Twirls red licorice is a favorite for movie watching, and I am so getting some of my also favorite Italian candy pearls by Leone next time, though not for movie watching, just because. It is a good thing my puppy walks get supplemented with yoga, hiking and a new sport: running with the dogs up and down the long, carpeted hallway outside my apartment door all the way to the trash room, which is way at the other end of the building.
Seriously, if you want to work your bum and hips, all you need is a bunch of cardboard and a long hallway. Here is what you do:
1. fold down towards the inside the flaps of a large, empty cardboard box you just unpacked from your big move;
2. fill said box with loads more empty, large cardboard boxes, flattened;
3. bending over and walking backwards, pull the whole thing with both hands along a loooong, carpeted hallway all the way to the trash room. It is best if the hallway is carpeted because the carpet offers more resistance to the dragging action.
Repeat 2-3 times or as many times as there are boxes. For added difficulty, take two excited, wiggly pups along with you so they can get in your way. This also takes care of your cardio and works up a sweat. How good this is on your back and arms… I am not so rue about that.
Now that you have earned dessert, here is a look at what I picked up to photograph that day. I swear I shared them with one of my neighbors!
A guarantee and a warning: I guarantee that these desserts will not get smeared onto your belly and thighs just by looking at the images; you have to actually eat them for that. But be warned that serious salivating may be triggered.
The pastel tones of the store inspired my photo session with the desserts.
This is just my kind of chocolate cake: moist and light chocolate cake layered with whipped cream that lightens the chocolate intensity of the ganache surrounding it. I was undecided whether to pick up this cake, or a slice of the coconut cream cake, which I had previously tried and thoroughly enjoyed. I went for the chocolate in order to vary the colors and selections in my photos.
And here are the famous macarons, all ready for their close-up.
The Banana Cream Tartlet is another swirl of divinity, and it goes without saying that the white on top is real, fresh whipped cream, or I would not be raving about this bakery. In my world, awful stuff like Cool Whip and variations of do not exist.
The Turkish Delight is delightful and it is also very pretty to look at. My camera loves it as much as I do.
Dulcis in fundus, the Caramel Panna Cotta: two creamy layers that will make you close your eyes and moan as you spoon it into your mouth. The Caramel Panna Cotta and the Chocolate Pots de Creme (which I did not get, this time) come in these pretty little glass jars that get covered with a fitted plastic lid, so they are perfectly protected in transport. Of course, I am keeping both jars and lids and reusing them.
I added the three little pink sugared pearls because the lid had slightly smooshed the cream cloud. And if smooshed is not in the dictionary, it should be.
Miette is the creature of a lovely baker called Meg Ray, who started sharing her passion for cakes and pastry at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market in 2001. There are a total of four shops int he Bay Area: two in San Francisco – one in the Ferry Building, and on in Hayes Valley – one in Oakland, connected to the actual bakery, and the boutique store you have seen in this post which is located at Marin Country Mart in Larkspur.
So, are you headed to the refrigerator to see if you have any dessert you can eat? Or are you maybe headed out the door to get some? It is like watching the movie Chocolat and wanting chocolate. It made me want to bake chocolate cake and temper chocolate on a marble tabletop.
What is your super favorite dessert? Do you prefer pies, cakes, or spoon desserts (mousses, flans, bavarian creams et such)? Is it ice cream? Which flavor? or are you a “just give me any dessert and I am happy” kind of person?
If you head for your nearest Miette shop, let me know what you get.
LOCATION 1 – Ferry Building Marketplace, Shop 10 – San Francisco, Ca 94111 l (415) 837-0300 l map
Mon-Fri 9:00 am – 7:00 pm l Sat 8:00 am – 7:00 pm l Sun 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
LOCATION 2 – Hayes Valley – 449 Octavia Street – San Francisco, Ca 94102 l (415) 626-6221 l map
Mon-Sun 11:00 am – 7:00 pm
LOCATION 3 – Jack London Square – 85 Webster St. – Oakland, Ca 94607 l (510) 663-1300 l map
Mon-Sat 11:00 am – 5:30 pm l Sun 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Update of September 2017: I am sad to say that Miette’s Larkspur location has closed, but you can still enjoy Miette’s delights at the other locations.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like these other good bakeries, cafes and restaurants in Marin: