San Francisco Cookie Tour
aka: Where Rachel sacrifices herself to try almost 2 dozen cookies around SF for the benefit of others…
This past July, I visited San Francisco for a weekend to see Mr. R while he was busily working on a project there for work. Since he needed to be in the office, and I was only planning on seeing him for dinner, I decided I needed to devise a plan to keep myself from sleeping the days away in the hotel room. Commence project SF Cookie Crawl…. Inspired by an article in 7x7SF, I mapped out an ambitious 12.5 mile walking route hitting 11 tasty stops. My legs gave up by the time I reached Knead Patisserie (J), but in the end I had visited 13 local bakeries and brought back an embarrassing number of cookies for a single girl. The real victory perhaps is that all but 1 cookie made it back to the hotel for an official picture and taste test
A: Starting point at the hotel
B: Batter Bakery
Batter Bakery has a small sidewalk kiosk open during the work week on California street, but have also recently opened a storefront location on Polk street where I visited. Mr. R had been picking up treats from this place on his way to and from the office during his stay, and I have to say I was jealous he had found the bakery kiosk that I had been hoping to happen upon on previous visits to the bay area. The bakery had so many appealing treats to choose from, but I stuck to cookies and picked out the polka dot (since a good M&M cookie is on of my favorite things) and the sand angel, a batter bakery proprietary cookie that no one has yet been able to identify. The Polka dot was a solid cookie with a crumb that was chewy, bready and tender. It was thick, not overloaded with chocolate candies and had a sweet brown sugar flavor. The sand angel was the more compelling cookie. With a more sandy crumb than the polka dot, the flavor was snickerdoodle plus so much more. There are other spices in there, but I couldn’t tell you what, I guessed cardamom but that wasn’t it according to the owner. Just another indication that my palate needs practice.* If you live in SF, make sure to pick up a punch card at the register for a free treat after every 12 purchased!
C: Hookers Sweet Treats
The acclaimed cookie here is a caramel praline, but unfortunately it wasn’t on their baking agenda the day I visited. The proximity of the tenderloin and the saloon-like atmosphere inside with lots of young scruffy-hip men and the occasional pit bull made me feel rather out of my element so I passed on the peanut butter cookie of the day and backtracked into more comfortable territory.
D: Bumzy’s chocolate chip cookies
Apparently, the white chocolate chip macadamia cookies are supposed to be good here, but I strongly disagree. To begin with, the atmosphere was off. A too large, white, sterile space with a tiny plastic box of cookies at the counter. I think the idea is to bake throughout the day and only serve warm cookies, but it gives an empty, unpopular vibe. The cookie looks appealing, but warm is also probably the only thing going for it. It was cloyingly sweet with a strong fake butter taste. I didn’t detect any actual macadamia nuts. Mr. R. also did not approve of this cookie. I don’t recommend.
E: Chantal Guillon Macarons
A pretty little store on a vibrant shopping street, this bakery had about 15-20 different flavors of macarons to chose from priced reasonably at $1.70 a piece. I picked out the chocolate, pistachio, and salted caramel macs. Many had floral flavors and I prefer to smell my flowers, not eat them so that limited my choices. The salted caramel macaron was the one cookie that did not make it back for an official picture. My plan was to only eat half, but the cookie was so perfect it was my favorite cookie of the day and the most utterly satisfying thing I have eaten in a long time. The chocolate and pistachio macarons were not as good as the caramel, but still very little to find amiss with these sweets. The shells are perfectly moist on the inside and crisp on the outside with no air bubbles. They are sandwiched and matured with just the right amount of filling. My only complaint was that they were a little stingy with the pistachio filling and it was slightly too firm.
F: Delessio Market & Bakery
The recommended oatmeal raisin cookie here is another one I would skip. The spices were nicely done, but the texture was chewy in a moist, underbaked sort of way. No textural interest here. I would go back for lunch though. Their array of salads looked so colorful and appealing I wished I hadn’t already eaten.
G: Goody Goodie
With an eclectic mix of signs on an otherwise empty looking section of sidewalk, you could miss this place, but I encourage you not to. The cookies weren’t obviously displayed, but were cooling on racks by the oven. I was also offered a shot of milk with my cookies, but declined since I wasn’t going to dig in right away. I walked away from here with 3 cookies: peanut butter, the circus cookie, and the namesake goody goodie. The PB was good, but didn’t stand out amid all the other cookie hits of the day. It was thick with a good sandy texture and more sweet than nutty with maybe a touch of honey. The puddle of sweetened peanut butter on top sadly didn’t add much. The circus cookie (7×7 recommended) is a popcorn chocolate chip cookie. Sweet, but not cloying, it is a bright cookie base studded with milk chocolate. The popcorn adds yet more sweetness, but it is the creamy/salty sweetness of butter. The popcorn does add a textural interest, but it got a bit soggy and I’d avoid this cookie for the same reason I avoid popcorn: the kernels got stuck in my throat. By far my favorite cookie was the goody, goodie. Studded with milk and dark chocolate and cocoa nibs, I was afraid the chocolate would overpower the cookie base; instead, everything is incredibly well balanced and I’d go back for this one again! The mix of milk and dark chocolate means that no bite is either too bitter or too sweet, and the nibs add sweetly raw and earthy undertones. A really good cookie.
H: Mission Beach Cafe
The brunch line that was still lingering here at 3 pm was probably not a good sign. I was told I could just go to the counter to pick up their acclaimed chocolate chip walnut cookie, but they had long run out. Oh well, plenty more cookie stops to come!
I: Anthony’s Cookies
On the way to Anthony’s I made sure to stop by both Tartine and Bi-rite market. Tartine is more than worthy of it’s own post, so I won’t include it now. Bi-rite makes these crazy yummy pistachio cranberry biscotti with orange zest that I just love. Now that my sidetracking is over, back to Anthony’s. Inside a cozy red storefront, the place is down to business. A long wooden table for mingling over cookies and milk is the only distraction from the milk fridge, the counter, and the rows of cooling racks behind it. Multiple flavors are offered daily and the cookies and cream is the one I came for, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try a few others: cinnamon spice, toffee chip, and candied pecan chip. All the flavors were good, but the cookies and cream certainly stood out. When I tried this cookie back at the hotel, I immediately started scheming how and when I would get back there to get more before going home. The cookie base is chewy and richly flavored. The Oreo is infused into the cookie so seamlessly that it doesn’t distract from the wonderful chewy texture and as the initial flavor of the cookie dough fades away, an amazingly distinct Oreo flavor comes forward that left me searching for a cold glass of milk! And I did make it back the next day to get a stack to bring home.
J – L: Knead Patisserie, Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous, Leonidas Belgian chocolates
By the time I reached Knead Patisserie for their chocolate fleur de sel, they were closed for the day. I really did want to get to Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous for the peanut brittle cookie made with homemade brittle, but the thought of 2 more miles on foot or figuring out the SF bus schedule made me decide it was time to go back for a shower and a nap. With a few extra goodies from bakeries that I came upon unexpectedly, I had more than enough cookies to make up for missing a couple bakeries that I had originally planned! And the weather was so unusually warm, that skipping my end of the line hot chocolate at Leonidas was not something to rue.
So that’s it. A very long post for many good cookies, a few great ones, and a few misses. Next time I visit, I will have to continue expanding on this list. Recommendations are welcome!