Back in August, I wrote about a cake made with stout at Miette’s in San Francisco and Oakland. It had been chosen by Alton Brown of the Food Network as one of the Top Ten Sweets in the United States. And while it was very tasty, I lamented the fact that it was made with Guinness stout rather than a local beer. I’ve noticed that a lot of foodies who insist on local food ingredients and even wine are completely blind to the concept of local beer. It’s a head-scratcher, with the most famous example I know is that locavore pioneer Alice Waters until very recently served soulless imported beers at her famous restaurant Chez Panisse.
The restaurant’s website describes Waters as an “American pioneer of a culinary philosophy that maintains that cooking should be based on the finest and freshest seasonal ingredients that are produced sustainably and locally. She is a passionate advocate for a food economy that is ‘good, clean, and fair.’ Over the course of nearly forty years, Chez Panisse has helped create a community of scores of local farmers and ranchers whose dedication to sustainable agriculture assures the restaurant a steady supply of fresh and pure ingredients.” While I don’t quibble with her influence and importance in creating the idea of how important using local ingredients is, the fact is that it took 35 years to extend that idea to beer. I find that incredibly sad and to me it says quite a lot about how slow much of the food community has been to embrace craft beer while at the same time they’ve been so quick to champion artisanal cheese, bread, chocolates, preserves, charcuterie, pickles, coffee, tea, wine and much more. Happily, things are finally changing and a growing number of self-avowed foodies are accepting craft beer as an equal to other artisanal foodstuffs.
So I was thrilled to learn that another local company, Blue Bottle Coffee, was making a pastry — in this case a coffee cake — using a local stout, Magnolia Stout of Circumstance. Dave McLean’s Magnolia Gastropub makes some great beers (and has really good food, too) so I was very keen to try the coffee cake made with his beer.
Blue Bottle Coffee has six locations in the Bay Area (five in San Francisco and one in Oakland; and there’s a seventh location in Brooklyn, too) and last week I stopped by their Kiosk location on Linden Street in San Francisco.
Waiting in line at the Linden Street Kiosk.
It turns out that the co-founder of Miette, Caitlin Williams Freeman — who made the other stout cake — sold her interest in Miette and started making pastries for her husband’s company, Blue Bottle Coffee. Her most famous pastries are the art-inspired creations she makes for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. But it was the beer confections that caught my interest.
Blue Bottle Coffee’s coffee cake made with Magnolia’s stout.
The coffee cakes are sold in a small, round personal size. They’re quite tasty, with a melange of different flavors. There appear to be oats, chopped walnuts, caraway seeds and possibly dried currants in the cake. The stout brings out a nice balancing sweetness that’s treacly and molasses-like. That sweetness also balances the dry cake and makes it nice and moist so that when you bite into it you get both dry and wet sensations. I’m not actually much of a coffee drinker — I prefer tea — but I can see how this cake would be a perfect compliment to their coffee, which as I understand it are some of the best.
The Blue Bottle Coffee Cake close-up on my kitchen counter.