With 20 locations across the Bay Area—and so many in San Francisco proper that you pretty much can't swing your 10-cent paper bag without hitting one—La Boulange is clearly poised for a takeover. Maybe I'm also thinking of that recent 100 million dollar deal in which Starbucks bought the Frenchafornian cafe chain and will now serve their pastries at Starbucks all over the country.
Well, non-Bay area residents, what should you expect? Good intentions, to start. What I like about La Boulange is that they sell pastries that Starbucks, if they stock them, will definitely have to explain to some of their customers. Tropezienne: A tart made from brioche filled with fluffy buttercream. Canelé: a caramelized crusty pastry with a tender custard middle. Kouign Amann: a butter and sugar filled pastry dough that's layered and baked until puffed. For those interested in food, these pastries might seem like they're already having their heyday (especially kouign amann) but I assure you that when you say "canelé" most people have no idea what you're talking about.
Back to kouign amann. La Boulange regularly stocks a classic version, with the occasional chocolate filled pastry available. They've just introduced a new Berry Kouign Amann ($2.75) which I picked up to try.
Though this was one of those situations in which I, in theory, love both parts (ie kouign amann + berry jam), the actual product fell short. Instead of flakey, crisp layers of pastry that shatter a little when you bite in, I could easily pull the soft pastry away in chunks.
Maybe I didn't get a fresh one (one of my qualms with La Boulange is that I've often had a stale pastry) but this pastry was soft and limp on the outside. Ideally you bite into a kougin amann and think, mmm, fresh butter! I did get plenty of buttery flavor, but without the right texture, it verged on greasy. The berry filling had also made the middle a little soggy, and didn't add much flavor. Instead of the berry flavor being bright, it was muted, and I found myself wishing it wasn't there at all. I still have hope for this idea, but also wonder if kougin amann is meant for mass production. Only time will tell.
La Boulange locations can be found here