Tartine – San Francisco

You can now purchase my handmade candy bars and marshmallows at http://www.bonbonbar.com/

Lemon Meringue Cake

First off, isn’t that cake gorgeous? I think it’s emblematic of Tartine. Stylish, but ultimately simple and somehow bountiful. The Lemon Meringue Cake has a chiffon cake, lemon cream, caramel, lemon syrup, and Italian meringue. I’m willing to call the inclusion of caramel a stroke of genius.

The day before we visited Tartine, I happened to read through the entire Tartine cookbook. I have to admit that while many of the techniques described in the book seemed clever and useful, I didn’t mark any recipes to make soon because they seemed pretty traditional — either French or American. Croissants, Chocolate Pudding, Pumpkin Pie, Shortbread, Fresh Fruit Tart, Frangipane Tart, Lemon-Buttermilk Pudding Cake, etc.

But I’ve been converted. Once you go to Tartine, you get it. They’ve made the classics their own, and then some. Their food sparkles, culinarily speaking. Now, I want to make just about every recipe in the book.

I think of Tartine as the Chez Panisse of bakeries. Indeed, Alice Waters wrote the foreword to the cookbook. The emphasis is on fresh, seasonal, often local ingredients prepared with a loving attention to detail.

Tartine is in the Mission District. For a Saturday lunch, we spent a long time looking for parking, a reasonable time in the line that went out the door, a while standing up and eating our cake as we waited for our sandwiches, and a while sitting down and eating in two chairs we snagged at the communal table. Traffic there and back in the rain was a bit rough. As I finished off what I could eat of my cake, I took a long look around at the beautiful food and lively people… and wondered if I’d ever have the time and energy to make the trek there again before I move back to Los Angeles in February. Sadly, probably not. But at least its cookbook will allow Tartine to pop up again on my blog someday. And if you’re in SF, I hope that you can make it there and enjoy it as much as I did.

I believe that I’m still full from this meal…


Passion Fruit and Lime Bavarian. Chiffon Cake, Lime Syrup, Passion Fruit Bavarian Cream, Coconut, Whipped Cream (to adhere coconut to cake). Loved the tartness of this, with just the right sweetness. The bavarian was somehow fluffy — very different from the ones I’m familiar with. Liked all the textures, esp coconut w/ the chiffon and a little bavarian. The chiffon cake seemed a little moister than the one in the lemon meringue cake.


Three Cheese Pressed Sandwich. Bellwether Farms Jersey Carmody, Straus Cheddar, Cowgirl Fromage Blanc. Every bite of this was a little different, due to the configuration of the cheese. Pickled Carrots great, sour & spicy. Three sandwich pieces too much for an average person — and too tempting b/c so good. Perfectly butter-y toasted bread.


Jambon Royale & Gruyere Pressed Sandwich. Niman Ranch cured and smoked ham with Dijon on country bread. A lot of mustard on this, but I was happy with that, and the whole thing. Just the smell of it brought me back to France.


Gruyere Gougere with Fresh Herbs. This was a bit too soggy inside to completely enjoy, but the flavor was good.

7 Responses to “Tartine – San Francisco”

  1. Gary Says:

    “I didn’t mark any recipes to make soon because they seemed pretty traditional — either French or American. Croissants, Chocolate Pudding, Pumpkin Pie, Shortbread, Fresh Fruit Tart, Frangipane Tart, Lemon-Buttermilk Pudding Cake, etc…But I’ve been converted. Once you go to Tartine, you get it.”

    As an amateur, I have always tried to make the classics, but really well, and maybe with a little twist. But in the U.S., my thinking is that it’s enough just to cook really well, if only very good simple recipes. Most of my friends don’t do that much (they go out to restaurants, they don’t really cook much), so they are always thrilled to get something just really well made, at home.

    Then again, there was the time many years ago that a friend asked me to make a recipe she’d seen in Gourmet. It was a chocolate mousse cake (loaf-shaped) that was made of three thin chocolate meringues with two layers of mousse in between them, with a layer of whipped cream on the top. This went against the philosophy expressed above, but it was absolutely worth it!

  2. Michelle Sisemore Says:

    Hi Nina!

    Remember me? We all went camping together last summer? Jane, Lawrence, my husband David and I….

    Anyhow, I’ve been following your food blog ever since. YUM!

    I have a huge supply of Meyer lemons that are begging to be transformed into a yummy dessert. Any suggestions? Point me in the right direction!!
    Something simple yet delicious?

    Good luck in LA

    Michelle Sisemore

  3. liz Says:

    My burning question is:

    Do they include the Lemon Meringue Cake recipe in the cookbook? Because I am a total sucker for a good lemon dessert and that would make the book purchase pretty much a sure bet for me.

  4. Nina Says:

    Gary – Yeah, it’s always a great treat to eat something that I think I already know what it will taste like…. and have it surpass my expectations through its taste and uniquecharm…. and “just having a bite” turns into eating the whole thing. It’s a nice mix of comfort and excitement.

    Liz – Yep, the recipe’s in there, and is just dying to be made… 🙂

  5. Susan Says:

    Hi, Nina–

    Sorry that you’re sad to leave the Bay Area, but I’m so glad to hear you’re coming back to LA! I’ve so missed your entries on LA eats and sweets, especially the WLA goodies. You’ve led me to great places. In fact, my sister and brother-in-law are coming out from Chicago to visit and we’re going on the “Nina tour”! Hope it’s not too much of a bummer to come back here. I’m not thrilled about living here, believe you me, but hopefully there are some good things here to look forward to. Welcome back–we’ve missed you. : )

  6. Nina Says:

    Thanks so much, Susan. 🙂 Hope the Nina Tour goes well… hehe. One thing that I don’t think I’ve written about that I love in LA is the calzone at Frankie & Johnnie’s on Sunset. It’s just delicious, and I like to say that it’s the size of a sleeping cat…. Since 2 people can share one, it’s also one of the more affordable thrills in LA! Definitely check it out if you get the chance.

  7. Sweet Napa » Blog Archive » The Chronicles of Napa, Part 1 Says:

    […] We also had the Lemon Meringue Cake again, but the chiffon cake was too dry for it to do its magic. […]

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