Restaurant: Bouchon Bakery
Last visited: November 8, 2010
Location: California/Bay Area/Wine Country (Napa Valley/Yountville)
Address: 6528 Washington Street Yountville, CA
Price Range: $10-20
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
- Chef Thomas Keller’s original bakery
- Specializes in French pastries
- Freshly baked breads (daily)
- Freshly baked pastries
- Some savoury items
- Packaged specialties
- French baking techniques
- Bakery for French Laundry
- Gourmet pet treats
- Outdoor seating
- Take-out only
- My post on Bouchon Restaurant – Las Vegas
**Recommendations: The TKO and Chocolate Bouchon are the signature items, but I personally enjoyed the macarons most.
My Follow Me Foodie adventures didn’t end at day 1 or day 2 of the 2010 Foodbuzz Food Blogger Festival in San Francisco, California. It didn’t even end on my foodie filled day 3. In fact, that was the warm up and I was equally as excited to partake on my own dining adventures outside the festival. Along with my cousin, we made a day trip out to California’s infamous wine country also known as Napa Country, or Napa Valley.
First off, I have to thank my amazing cousin for these gorgeous photos. I’m trying to encourage her to turn her passion and hobby into a blog… I support that kind of stuff.
Visiting the original location for Chef Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, a small town in Napa Valley, was carved into the itinerary. To settle the curiosity, I only visited French Laundry, but didn’t have dinner there. This is perhaps one of the most popular tourist destinations aside from the several wineries. I know there’s a location in Las Vegas too, but this was the original Bouchon Bakery and that mattered to me. However you can see my post for Bouchon Restaurant in Las Vegas here.
There’s something a bit intimidating for me to write this post considering the fact that Thomas Keller is a world renowned chef and I am just a self-proclaimed foodie and food blogger. However I have tried a fair amount of desserts and that’s probably an understatement for anyone who regularly reads my blog. I was lucky enough to develop my love for pastries in my time spent in Europe, and I was hoping this would bring me back there. I would literally research and make a trip to Paris in search of the best croissant, or head to Marseilles with intentions on finding the best navettes. I don’t want to sound pretentious, but I just want to show my dedication to bakeries and desserts. The opportunity to pass on a baked good or pastry is simply forbidden in my books. I just want to give some history because I feel like I might get some hate for this post.
Walking into Bouchon Bakery was actually a bit underwhelming. I expected a big bakery with display cases full of desserts like Extraordinary Desserts in San Diego, but instead I discovered it was only a small take-out bakery. More than half the place is actually the kitchen where all the mass production takes place. The same bakery provides for local Napa Valley restaurants as well as Keller’s famous French Laundry restaurant. Nonetheless I was still excited to order our snacks before breakfast. Now here’s the biggest dinger, to be honest I wasn’t floored by the items I ordered, which were almost all signature items. Maybe I had it too high on the pedestal, but I found most of them good, but not great. I actually like Thomas Haas Fine Chocolates & Patisserie in Vancouver, BC, Bakery Nouveau in Seattle, WA and The Loaf in Malaysia better.
On the table:
Almond Croissant – 4/6 (Very good)
- Around $3.25USD
- This is one of my all time favourite pastries – the almond croissant. I had one every single morning in France. I love them and I’m always looking for the best one.
- I was hoping this would be the best croissant of my life, but I actually like the ones better at Thomas Haas Patisserie and Bakery Nouveau.
- It was very light and airy with layers of flaky buttery rich pastry, however I wanted way more almond filling. I could barely taste any of the creamy nutty sweet almond paste that is supposed to be sandwiched in the middle.
- It actually wasn’t that sweet and I wanted the croissant to be much darker in colour, to almost a chestnut dark brown. Authentic French croissants are much darker with a caramelized crunchy exterior, and this one fell short.
TKO (Thomas Keller Oreo) – 2.5/6 (Okay-Good)
- An oreo cookie is one of Chef Thomas Keller’s favorite snacks, reinterpreted here using a chocolate sable dough and a sweet white chocolate ganache filling. $1.50USD
- I was so surpised to know that Thomas Keller’s favourite snack is an Oreo cookie!
- This is a signature item, so I had to order it. It was a gourmet, or glorified Oreo cookie.
- It was a thin and crispy buttery dark chocolate cookie with a slight bitterness from dark cocoa.
- It was very reminiscent of an Oreo cookie in terms of flavour, but more sophisticated with the bitterness.
- The creamy filling, which I didn’t know was supposed to be white chocolate, seemed more like a melted cream. It wasn’t greasy but it just oozed out the edges as soon as I bit into it. The consistency of the cream couldn’t stand up to the cookie and it pretty much got overwhelmed.
Chocolate Bouchon – 2.5/6 (Okay-Good)
- These small chocolate brownie-like treats are moist, rich and named for their shape, which resembles a cork. We bake them with chocolate chips in the batter and dust them with confectioner’s sugar. $2.50USD
- This is another signature item. I think it’s packed with 400 calories and it’s the size of a shot glass. I didn’t think it was worth the 400 calorie intake either, on top of my already 2000 that morning. But, oh well!
- It was a very rich, dense and moist, made with bittersweet cocoa and surprisingly not that sweet. There were some chocolate chips in it and it wasn’t really chewy like a brownie but more like a dense bittersweet chocolate cake. It’s actually quite basic and there’s no molten chocolate in the middle or any other surprises.
- It’s a good thing it’s bite sized because I wouldn’t want more than one, or even half really.
- See these Bouchons being used in a Rocky Road ice cream dessert at the Bouchon restaurant in Las Vegas here.
Pecan Tart – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)
- Around $4.50USD
- This was a standard pecan tart. It was very good and well made as a pecan tart, and I don’t have them too often, but I also found it nothing outstanding.
- I think the crust was made with ground pecans and it was very crunchy, but not hard. It tastes almost like a nutty cookie shortbread and then there’s a layer of creamy sweet pecan filling. At last it’s topped with a layer of softly caramelized pecan pieces and edible decor. There weren’t any obvious spices or additional flavourings.
- It wasn’t too sweet and it was nice and chewy with a well made crust, whipped cream and chocolate covered pecans on top.
**Pumpkin Macaron – 6/6 (FMF Must Try!)
- This classic French pastry filled with rich buttercream has been adored for centuries. Precise baking produces a cookie that has a light and crisp outside and a soft and chewy inside. These two textures are what make the macaron such a special confection. The flavors of our macarons change with the seasons. $3USD
- These were hands down my favourite of everything I tried.
- This was the most expensive macaron I’ve had, but it was worth every bite and it’s actually quite large (a bit smaller than a McDonald’s burger patty).
- I’ve had Parisian macarons from Paul Croteau Confections, Bakery Nouveau, Say See Bon and Gyo-O and this one was the best.
- The pumpkin macaron is seasonal and it was amazing! My favourite of the 2.
- It tastes like a super moist pumpkin pie sandwich, but even better because I’m not a huge fan of pumpkin pie due to the texture.
- It was very light and airy as a macaron should be. It had a crispy meringue shell with a chewy and super soft and moist middle. I loved the creamy pumpkin ganache filling that wasn’t greasy at all and it has the perfect amount of sweetness and pumpkin spice. Delish!!
**Pistachio Macaron – 6/6 (FMF Must Try!)
- I liked the pumpkin one better, but this was just as delicious and well made.
- It was chewy, creamy, crispy, nutty and moist and it has a very unique floral taste to it. It was obviously pistachio, but I could almost taste some Amaretto or almond flavour too.
- Around $3USD
- It was a good cafe latte, but also not the main focus here.
I didn’t try these, although they’re probably pretty tasty. Chef Keller hates to waste and I really respect that, so all the scraps at French Laundry are used to make gourmet Foie Gras Dog Biscuits!
Based on numbers, does that mean even the goodies from Saint Honoré Boulangerie in Portland are “better” than Bouchon Bakery? O_O
I won’t go into the sweets part as, well, you know me; however, I would like to give my $0.02 about your blurb about this place and Thomas Keller: Regardless of who he is, you are giving your honest opinion. There are times were chefs or restaurants rest on the laurels. In the past, it might have been fine, but, in this more fast paced, easier travelling world, well, that simply does not work. It is up to people like us to give our $0.02 to remind them that and that things have evolved and, well, other places might have caught up or surpassed them. The fact you have tried different places means your tastes are more varied and allows you to provide a better comparison point than if you tried only a handful of local places.
@KimHo – some of them… yes I would say so! BUT I tried more chocolate stuff here.
Thanks for the support Kim! You do make great points and I’m feeling confident in what I wrote. Very true, that a name can sometimes only carry so far and that before you know it someone can be catching up or even surpassing you. Thanks!
Awesome you got to visit French Laundry and the original Bouchon! Napa is definitely the next place I’d love to visit.
I checked out Bouchon in Vegas and got the same impression as you about his pastries. We ordered a whole basket of croissants, jelly donuts, sticky cinnamon buns and scones and they were all OK (like you said, maybe we just had way too high expectations). Also I think it would have helped if it was slightly warmed up!
How come you eat those kinds of full-of-calories food but stay skinny? You should tell me the secret.. =p
Love your cousin’s photos…very artsy! I love that first picture…contemplating which macaron. Great post and I value your opinions.
@vivian – exactly!!! Like it was all good, and there’s nothing wrong with them… but they’re not mind blowing. I’m thinking I need to make a bigger dent though… although I did try the “signature” items (which aren’t always best I guess)
@Jenn – lol Jenn, you are too kind! The pictures you see are already +10 pounds :)… it’s really an illusion and angles 😉
@laura – thanks for the sweet comments and I’ll be sure to let her know! She’s great at photography!
I never could figure the love Americans have for Oreo cookies. Too bad you didn’t eat dinner at the French Laundry, would have loved to read your impressions of it. Since I’m not a dessert fan. didn’t realize that macarons predated oreos(two layers with a cream in the middle); the chocolate bouchon looks go though even if you didn’t find it amazing. Keep up the good work.
@Bow – OMG! You are SOOO right!! re: Macarons and Oreo cookies!! So true!! I prefer softer and chewier cookies over harder and crispier ones…. I would think most people are the same… but I guess not. Thanks for your supportive comments Bow, always appreciated!