Thursday, April 20, 2017

Alexander's Patisserie

It has been a long time since I've written about the Alexander's family of restaurants.

Going to the Alexander's Steakhouses, in Cupertino and Mountain View really is what turned me into a bit of a foodie (and, ok, a bit of a monster for a while during the foie gras ban days).  "Alexander's" was one of the first labels I added to my blog, which I added explicitly because I was writing about the same place so often.   

I still visit the San Francisco Alexander's Steakhouse a couple times of year, although now I reserve it for special occasions.  Since I last wrote though, the restaurant group has radically expanded.  The original location in Cupertino moved.  They opened more steakhouses; in Pasadena, Tokyo, and Taipei (!).  They introduced a seafood focused restaurant, The Sea, in Palo Alto (which makes so much since given how often I rave about the seafood dishes at the steakhouse!).

And ... they opened a patisserie (ok, two now, one in Mountain View and one in Cupertino).  Oh, be still my heart!  Yes, my favorite restaurant group opened a pastry focused establishment.  They brought in a very accomplished pastry chef from Belgium, who worked at the famed Pierre Herme in Paris (which of course I've reviewed), and Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas.  Let's just say I was excited to try it, particularly after the accolades started rolling in.


In October 2014, I was invited to the pre-opening event for Alexander's Patisserie in Mountain View.  To say I was excited was beyond an understatement.  At the time, Alexander's was my absolute favorite restaurant, which I clearly visited way too frequently, and you know me, baked goods are always my favorite, so, this was a dream come true for me.  However, they weren't able to be fully operational at the time (read on for more!)

I still haven't actually been to the store while in operation, but I've tried their treats on several occasions.  I now know, definitively, that I need to go to the store.  I *need* to try their kouign amann, and I need to try their banana chocolate croissant. This place, as expected, has quality products.

Pre-Opening Event, October 2014

I gleefully accepted an invite to the pre-opening, even though it was in Mountain View.

But ... quasi-disaster stuck.  I went all the way down to Mountain View to find that ... their final permit did not come in in time.  They couldn't use the kitchens yet.  Doh.

They served coffee and macarons, and showed off the space, but, they weren't able to offer anything else.  The coffee was fine, and the macarons were all decent (good cookies with slight give to them and proper chew), but, macarons are really not my thing, and I'll admit, I was pretty sad.
Decaf Coffee. $2.75.
They served Equator Coffee at the time, but have since moved to Stumptown.  I had decaf.  It was strong, dark, and particularly good for decaf.
Coffee Macaron. $2.25.
I started with the coffee macaron, filled with coffee ganache.

This macaron somehow made coffee taste delicate.  It was clearly coffee flavored, but in a really light way.  My third favorite variety.
Pistachio Macaron. $2.25.
Next I had a pistachio macaron, filled with toasted pistachio ganache.

It was a beautiful green color, with decent pistachio flavor throughout.  My forth favorite.
Chocolate Macaron. $2.25.
Next came a chocolate ganache filled macaron, with in it nibs too.

I loved the rich, dark chocolate ganache filling.  The cookie was slightly chocolate flavored.  My second favorite, and I really just wanted to eat a big bowl of the filling.
Vanilla Macaron. $2.25.
And finally, simple vanilla, with Tahitian vanilla bean ganache inside.

It was my absolute favorite.  Super sweet filling, it reminded me of frosting, but I really did like the sweetness.  The thick filling was balanced by delicate cookies.

[ No Photos ]
Lavender:
Lavender is a flavor I don't generally like, so I didn't take one myself, nor take a photo.  But I couldn't help myself from stealing a bite of Ojan's when he had one in his hand, it was such a beautiful light purple color.  I don't generally like lavender flavors, and this was no exception, but, if you like floral desserts, the flavor was nice, and fairly subtle.  Second to last favorite though.

Passionfruit:
Another flavor I don't tend to like is passionfruit (although I love the real fruit!) so I only took a bite of Ojan's, hence no photo.  Very strong quasi fake passionfruit flavor, which, predictably, I didn't like.  Least favorite.

Tarts, April 2017

In April, I was invited to a pre-opening event for Total Wines & More, in Mountain View.

I was there to admire the store and sip on wine, and, let's be honest, I was excited to check out the food.  Savory bites were provided catered by places ranging from Michelin starred Chez TJ to casual Pok√©works, but my eyes were on the Alexander's Patisserie table from the moment I walked in.  It took a lot of restraint to wait to go for the sweets until after I had some savories first.
Easter Themed Display.
They easily had the best looking display, decorated for Easter, with tactful, not plastic, "grass", chocolate eggs, and bunnies (and yes they made all the larger chocolate creations too!)
Tarts!
Their offering was mini tarts, beautifully presented perched on top of a "soil" of cocoa nibs, in clear glass "planters".  It might sound tacky, but really, it wasn't.

The crew did an impressive job of keeping the display perfectly stocked throughout the event.   While other tables ran low, they never did.

I guess I expect no less from an Alexander's establishment, but they were true professionals, and, I believe the head pastry chef himself was there at the event.

I have a confession though - just like I don't really like macarons, tarts aren't really my favorite either.  I like pie crust, I like puff pastry, I like many other vessels for fillings, but, tart shells?  Meh!  So, I wasn't thrilled to see tarts as their item offered.

The tart shells were about as good as a tart shell is going to be.  Buttery, nice texture, a bit crumbly, not too hard.  And at least they tasted like something.  As Ojan put it, "you don't need to just eat the insides out of them".  But let's talk about those insides.  Spoiler: swoon!
Chocolate, Vanilla, Lemon Tarts.
On my first round, I tried all three.  Yes, all three.  And yes, I said my first round.  I'm sorry, I like my sweets!  In my defense, I *did* ask if it was ok when I went back for seconds.  The tarts were too good to listen to social norms about acceptable levels of consumption.

Chocolate Tart: cocoa nib praline / 66% dark chocolate ganache.

Those who have been reading my blog for a while might notice something here.  Chocolate.  I don't eat chocolate at night (caffeine).  I rarely make exceptions.  I don't even really care for chocolate desserts that much (but, I *always* have dark chocolate in the morning alongside my coffee).  So, I wasn't excited for the chocolate one, really.  Still, I knew my opportunities to try Alexander's Patisserie were limited, and I wanted to make the most of it.

It was glorious, just like the chocolate filling in the macaron.  The base layer had cocoa nibs in it, a surprise to me, wonderful bits of crunch.  On top of that was dark, thick, decadent chocolate ganache.  I'd say that I'd love to eat a whole bowl as pudding, but actually, it was too rich to want to do that.  Maybe a *small* bowl, with some whipped cream on top?

Anyway, the amount here was just right, and it was a fantastic bite.  It had a cap of more dark chocolate and a touch of edible gold leaf for some bling.  My second favorite.

Vanilla Tart: Tahitian vanilla ganache / vanilla mascarpone cream.

This. Was. Amazing.

I had zero expectation for this.  "Vanilla", aka, bo-ring, right?  No way.  (Side note: I wished I had re-read my notes from the macarons to remember that they made an amazing vanilla ganache, and perhaps I would have been more excited!)

Anyway, the vanilla ganache was a thing of wonder.  It was thick, sweet, and intensely vanilla flavored.  I'll be honest ... I didn't think vanilla *could* taste this good.  It was incredibly rich, even more than the chocolate.  There is no way you could have a bigger bite of this.

On top was vanilla mascarpone cream, also glorious.  Also wonderfully vanilla flavored, also sweet and rich, and somehow complimentary to the ganache.  How does one rich sweet vanilla element compliment another rich sweet vanilla component?  I don't know, but, it did.

One could take three bites to eat each of these, if he or she had restraint.  And I did, the first time, as I didn't know it would be so wonderful.  But when I went back for another, it was all I could do not to eat it in a single bite.  I settled for two wondrous bites, knowing I'd actually appreciate it more that way.

Seriously, fantastic.

Lemon: lemon cream / lemon zest / lemon segments.

And finally, lemon.  I almost didn't take this one, and really, I shouldn't have.  I do not like lemon desserts.

And this ... well, it was a lemon dessert.  The lemon cream tasted like lemons.  I did not like that.

However, the meringue on top was excellent, sweet, fluffy, light, airy.  And I give them kudos for the perfect execution of the toasting of each and every one, and the fact that these delicate treats were not damaged at all in their display!  Still, I wouldn't want another of these.
Alexander's Patisserie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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