Macarons at Miette
Though traditionally made with almond or hazelnut flour, not all macarons are gluten-free. Luckily, Miette makes their macarons the old-fashioned way, with two coarsely ground-almond meringue cookies sandwiching flavored buttercream or ganache. All the flavors are good, but the coffee (top) and chocolate-orange (bottom) are personal favorites for their intense flavor. And thanks to the almond flour, the cookies have a ton of chew.
Hazelnut Chocolate Brownie at Greens
Beware Nutella fans. This brownie ($3.50) is addictive. The over-sized brownie is a little dense—in a good way—as your teeth sink in, the intensely chocolatey crumb starts to melts a little, blooming chocolate flavor on your tongue. Big chunks of hazelnuts make sure that the nutty flavor is just as prominent as the chocolate. A rich and decadent brownie that makes you wonder why you need flour in the first place.
Florentine at Fillmore Bakeshop
Florentines are definitely an underrated sweet—because what's not to love about two thin almond cookies sandwiched around bittersweet chocolate? At Fillmore Bakeshop, each chewy cookie ($2.25) is easily palm-sized. The main star of the cookie are the almonds, with their toasty, caramel-like flavor. These are elegant yet satisfying cookies that would be great for a GF dessert plate.
Fillmore Bakeshop: 1890 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115 (map); (415) 923-0711
Vanilla-Coconut Cupcake at Kara's Cupcakes
It's a telling sign that Kara's keeps their selection of gluten-free cupcakes on a pedestal—they're great examples of well executed gluten-free cake (which is not an easy thing to do.) There were five GF flavors when I visited, but the vanilla-coconut cupcake was recommended, and I'll second the gesture. The base cake has a soft, moist crumb that is slightly springier than normal cupcakes, but otherwise tastes like good vanilla birthday cake. The frosting is a tangy cream cheese, the chewy shards of real coconut adding a burst of tropical flavor.
Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin at Jane
Gluten-freers looking for a good coffee shop should hit up Jane on Fillmore. There's always gluten-free options (and vegan ones, too) in the breakfast sweet, cookie, and cake categories. I chose the muffin ($4.35) because hey, vegan and gluten-free muffins aren't easy to pull off, and this is both. But Jane manages, creating a breakfast sweet that's not only GF, but also does right by the banana. Instead of a heavy, cloying muffin, this actually tastes "fresh", which I don't think I've ever said about banana-flavored anything. In addition, the chocolate chips are nice and bitter, there's a heavy dose of cinnamon, and lots of lopsided muffin top (because we all know that's the best part.)
Brownies at Mariposa Baking Company
If you're eating gluten-free in San Francisco, you definitely can't miss Mariposa Baking Co. All of their sweets are gluten-free (and many are vegan), so there's no worry about what to choose. My favorite option? Definitely the brownies ($3) which are incredibly rich and fudgy. If you're a fan of chewy, chocolately, almost truffle-like brownies then these are for you.
Italian Pistachio Macaron at Chantal Guillon
Macarons should be small bursts of flavor with a chewy, satisfying texture. The Italian Pistachio macaron ($1.70) at Chantal Guillon in Hayes Valley is exactly that—like the essence of pistachios with an extra touch of sweetness.