Come October, everyone gets scarier, but I feel the need to get sweeter.
I am the artist that photographs a moment, pictorially captures an experience, and subsequently diffuses it all into poetic prose.
With so much Halloween hype, I focus on the intensity towards all things infused with sugar. I am the quintessential sugar addict.
Around this time of year, I begin frequenting chocolateries and patisseries, eying and visually gobbling all they have to offer (often followed by multiple trips to the dentist, despite my attempts at self-control).
I often reserve some afternoon time for a succulent snack between lunch and a pre-dinner snack. Given the identity crisis of this meal placement, it has to be something that can be inhaled in smaller but intensely flavorful portions. Previously documented adorations of this bucket include Black Hound‘s artisan treats, Financier‘s delectable visuals, Naked Chocolate and People’s Pops.
A wander through San Francisco with the encyclopedic foodie Gastronomypix sometimes lures me towards a side of the city that is away from its glittering lights and sweeping bridge views. This time we ventured closer to a European style boxy house sequence on Mission Street, with more green garden squares that beckoned for lazy afternoons. And so we entered an oddly titled patisserie: Craftsman and Wolves, painted all black on the inside with an obvious negative floor space and contemporary ceiling lighting. The intriguingly named multifaceted contemporary patisserie was a nod to the hard work craftsmen put into perfecting their craft.
Overwhelmed with choices, the only thing stoned in certainty was that I was going to be rooted to the floor with my camera, gaping and snapping up the plethora of savory and sweet and beverage options, all of which were lined up in repeating reflections that were slowly languishing with swirling crowds.
I always admire sweet destinations that share the platform with their savory counterparts. Amongst the best looking was the bacon and grated cheese croissant, textured like wooden swirls and laying atop a wooden plank, altogether becoming a clever and rustic play on the eyes.
The well-known ‘rebel within’ seemed like a savory cake infused with black and pink peppers, greens and onion slices, which however paled in comparison next to the juxtaposed flavors of sweet corn, black mustard and thyme in a mini loaf that was topically textured with juicy corn nibs that begged to be gnawed.
Given my penchant for all things dunked in chocolate, this was my inevitable pinnacle of indecision. What I eventually chose was the chocolate salted caramel brownie, which though unadventurously named, was inventively constructed like a dark sandwich infused with visible salt grains and nutty interludes, with a central gooey choco-caramel layer. While slightly colder than I anticipated, my favorite salt and chocolate combination won me over.
The chocolate mousse-y looking square looked luxurious, as it was bathed in cocoa dust, topped with truffles that were connected with chocolate swirls in the shape of my favorite serpentines. Yet this did not seem as unique as its neighbors, relaying a feeling of déjà vu, evidenced by the ample quantities still left.
Other chocolate members included a rather dark chocolate cake topped with powdered sugar, and a sugary glazed loaf-like cake with a decadent looking high quality chocolate square perched precariously on the corner.
Being a patisserie, and being me, I innately seemed to gloss over the remaining lunch and savory items, focusing instead on anything that seemed to have an affair with sugar. Craftsman and Wolves’ affair with the wooden texture became obvious in even more items, like the mousse log topped chocolate and nut brittles, which looked like a salivate-worthy textural contrast .
Given my obsession for cookies, how I wish I had plucked the very soft-baked, peanut-butter colored, oat-y and hearty cookies that had the surface texture of wood, and were placed on ceramic alongside wood. They truly made me feel like a woodcutter seeking out his most delicious stock.
The berry cakes constituted of a bouquet of blackberries or goldenberries topped on a vanilla spongy layered cake. These were sprinkled with edible violet florets, giving a fresh and inviting feel. A bite from my berry loving friend gave me the luscious fruity and crumbly baked taste all at once.
The sugary stones were topped with crystallized sugar, a little too crunchy and tooth-ache inducing for me, but nonetheless glamorous when reflecting the light. The passion sesame croissant was visually more appealing, with a literal meltdown of passion crème forming a luscious topography on the its toasty brown surface, enhanced further with sesame seeds. What I liked most about this was that it retained its identity as a croissant, while including visual and aesthetic enhancements that worked.
Gastronomypix picked out the most whimsical of all treats – a jam jar diagonally filled with what seemed like custard (or yogurt), balanced with granola crumble. The jar was sealed and pricked with a pipette filled with saturated sugary solution. I am in love with edibles that leave some effort to the eater, like dripping a few drops into the jar and mixing things up. While the lack of chocolate and the ever-present cloying sweetness kept me away from this, its visual impact was stellar.
I am elated by the fact that contemporary patisseries encourage and share the changing face of gastronomic experiments on sugar. The love affairs of sugar with innumerable other ingredients are yet to be discovered, yet I’m humbled that chefs and artists spend time in trying. Halloween or not, this is a staple for the likes of me.
And so, momentarily, the tale of craftsmen, wolves, artists and sugar addicts comes to an end.