The Napa Valley is a hot spot for foodies due to the high concentration of top notch restaurants ad wineries in the area. But in with all the big names are lots of smaller places that are easily worth a stop. I have to include the Bouchon Bakery in this list because, although the bakery is one of Thomas Keller’s eateries, it is often overlooked by visitors who focus more on The French Laundry and Ad Hoc when they come to Napa.
The bakery is in Yountville, just a few doors down from The French Laundry and next door to Bouchon. It started as a production facility, to produce the bread that is served in Thomas Keller’s other restaurants, but soon opened as a full french-style bakery in its own right. The bakery counter opens early in the morning, serving everything from freshly baked baguettes and croissants to cookies and tarts.
The staff at the bakery is absolutely fantastic. The bakery manager, Marie, offered to give us a tour of the kitchen when there was a break in the production schedule. The bakery itself runs 24 hours a day to produce everything served there, in addition to the breads for Ad Hoc and The French Laundry, the breads and pastries for Bouchon and breads for 40 other retailers and restaurants in the area. Janine Weismann, pictured below, is the head pastry chef at the bakery.
Everything is made from scratch on the premises and many of the items feature seasonal ingredients, so the things in the pastry case will change depending on what’s available and what holidays are coming up. It will also change as the bakery experiments with new pastries and treats. Since I visited around Valentine’s Day, they were just starting to bring out some goodies specifically for the holiday, like this incredibly addictive Chocolate Turtle, filled with homemade caramel and crunchy pecans then topped with sea salt. I want to thank Janine for letting us sample these before they were even put into the pastry case to purchase!
The breads are a signature item, to be sure, and they stock a whole variety of them. I’d have to do a side-by-side taste test with a parisian baguette to prove this theory, but I’d wager that the Bouchon baguettes could hold their own against them – they’re excellent. The monkey bread, also pictured below, is more of a breakfast item. It is sweet, gooey, flaky and buttery – and it goes very well with a cup of coffee.
The macarons are always a popular item at the bakery and I got recommendations from several readers for flavors to try. I ended up liking the seasonal lemon curd macarons the best. They were filled with buttercream and freshly made lemon curd for a bright, sweet-tart flavor.
Bouchons are the bakery’s namesake treat, a rich cork-shaped chocolate chocolate chip cake. They sell these by the bagful and they make a great gift for friends back home if you can keep yourself from eating them on the way. They’re bigger than the one pictured here, as I couldn’t resist taking a bite before the photo.
The bakery actually also sells a number of savory items, like this Merguez sausage sandwich. Merguez sausage is a slightly spicy lamb sausage and the Bouchon version, toasted on a panini press before serving makes a fantastic lunch when you’re in the area. I liked it so much, I had it two days in a row, but I would definitely recommend the ham and cheese baguette as well.
The Vanilla Fleur de Sel Caramels are another treat that I would definitely recommend trying. These are some of the best caramels I’ve had in recent memory – and I’m not just saying that because I was able to try some back in the kitchen, even before they had been wrapped (although that didn’t hurt). They’re extremely buttery, soft and chewy and have big, flaky pieces of sea salt sprinkled on top to give you that mouthwatering sweet-savory effect when you eat them.
They even have some foie gras dog biscuits for man’s best friend. I noticed at least a couple of dogs out on the patio enjoying one of these biscuits while their owners sipped coffee and munched pastries.
I liked everything about the bakery and can’t wait to go back. If you’re not in Yountville, you should know that there are Bouchon Bakeries in New York and Las Vegas already, and one is scheduled to open in Los Angeles later this year. The original Bouchon Bakery is easily worth a visit if you’re in Northern California for the fantastic food and equally fantastic people who work there.
Bouchon Bakery Yountville
528 Washington Street
Yountville, California 94599