- Michael Barajas
- Almond Joy and Dreamsicle tarts from Bakery Lorraine.
If you need an excuse to start (or enliven) a relationship that involves an overnight, here's one: buy the breakfast-friendly pain au chocolate at Bakery Lorraine; one is really too much for a single person. At least you can claim that.
Your case would be even further strengthened by said pain topped with hazelnuts, a new creation of BL's Jeremy Mandrell. While the straight version is airy and lusciously lubricated by dual bands of chocolate, the nutted variant adds a layer of toasty crunch. Think deconstructed
Nutella. Then forget that thought. All of which is not to suggest that the plain, chocolate-free croissant, Platonically perfect with its glazed top and just-open-enough crumb — easily the city's best example of this Parisian classic, is to be shunned. The only reason for rejection, in fact, is price.
There are perfectly acceptable (though admittedly not as perfect) croissants and pains au chocolate at Central Market for $1.49 and $1.69 respectively. An online search revealed that a croissant in Paris goes for .9 euros, or the equivalent of about $1.17 — though we doubt that these are the truly artisanal models. At BL both the pain au chocolate and the croissant are $4. We will be limiting our consumption.
Mandrell and his partner Anne Ng come by their penchant for perfection, and perhaps pricing, legitimately: they met while working for task-master Thomas Keller, a man who has been called "America's preeminent chef," at Bouchon Bakery in California wine country. Skipping over some likely salient details, the pair moved to San Antonio in 2010 and started Bakery Lorraine in 2011. Its first public appearance was at the Quarry Farmers and Ranchers Market, and it was here we learned to love the fig and frangipani tarts. We also learned of some of the couple's quirks. "We don't do raisins," states Mandrell. Not to worry — candied mango is a perfectly acceptable substitute in an oatmeal cookie.
Now occupying permanent digs in a handsomely restored cottage on Grayson in the orbit of the Pearl development, BL, which still appears at the Quarry on Sundays along with producing pastries for Local Coffee, has expanded its offerings. (The pair apparently learned not to need sleep at Bouchon.) Ng's macarons (note: these are really not the same as the double-o macaroon) are displayed front and center, and it's as legitimate to select on the basis of color as taste; all of the ethereal, meringue-based confections I've sampled have been sensational, though I admit to being doubly seduced by the hue and taste of pistachio. There are three or four different muffins daily (the pumpkin — magnificently moist, delicately spiced and topped with a crumble coating — makes seasonal seem desirable, not obligatory ), along with an array of $3 cookies, among which the local pecan with chocolate chip is as preeminent as Keller. The triple-ginger, really more like ginger cubed, is another winner. Oh, and the triple chocolate should also not be tossed out of bed, crumbs notwithstanding. These I will find harder to limit.
Local sourcing is not limited to nuts for cookies, however; a supremely custardy quiche came blessed with zucchini from the backyard garden, the robust coffee is roasted at Brown Coffee on W. King's Highway, and both eggs and the chickens for the best chicken salad sandwich I have ever had come from a farm near D'Hanis. It was pure serendipity that the chicken for this sandwich, tucked into one of those Platonic croissants and accompanied by wilted kale, house-made mayo and cucumber, had been smoked over pecan wood by Justin Parr at Hot
Wells; in the near future, the same task will be performed by the BBQ/Brew duo at Pearl's soon-to-open Granary. We hope for an equally assertive smokiness. The packaged sandwiches are meant to be "grab and go" according to Mandrell, who has no intention of doing them made-to-order. Apparently even obsessives have their limits.
511 E Grayson
Best Bets Airy macarons, substantial cookies, pricey croissants, and creative sandwiches.
Hours 6:30-6:30 Tues.-Fri., 11-4 Sat, 9-3 Sun