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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Golden Gate Bakery's Cult of the Custard Tart

Posted By on Thu, Jun 10, 2010 at 4:43 PM

click to enlarge This? This is an object of worship? - FLEM J./YELP
  • Flem J./Yelp
  • This? This is an object of worship?

You know how, when you hear too many times that something is the most AMAZING dish EVER, the hyperbole becomes a white noise? And how when you chase down this most AMAZING dish EVER, you're so deafened by the hype that the anticlimactic pretty-good-ness of the actual, physical substance leaves you distraught? The garlic fries at AT&T Park did that to me a few weeks ago. I've always feared the egg custard tart (dan tat) at Golden Gate Bakery would do the same. In fact, I've been meaning to go try it for so long that it finally slipped out of mind.

Today I was having lunch on Jackson ― more on that in a day or two

― and passed by the bakery on my way back to the car. There was no line,

and I thought, meh, I'll see what the fuss over this damn thing is all about. As I waited in

line, zoning out on the white noise of a half-dozen Cantonese

conversations, I noticed a middle-aged woman

standing in the back corner by the hot boxes. She had her hands cupped

around her mouth, and when I did a double-take to see whether she was sobbing, she turned out to be eating something guiltily, greedily, looking at the

floor to shut the rest of us out. I turned away to give her some privacy and inspect the cakes in the

window, and when I snuck a second glance, she'd been replaced by another woman doing the exact

same thing.

It was finally my turn to order, and so I asked the counter woman for a

custard tart. "Just one?" she asked me, as if she was Jenna Jamison Jameson

asking a straight guy if he really just wanted to see her ankles. So I tacked on a coconut tart (fast forward: pretty good, too), paid my $2.50, and walked back

to the car. 

Once I strapped myself to the seat, I gingerly pulled out the paper-wrapped tart to have a

look before I drove off. Oh, it was still warm! Of course I had to bite in while it was still warm. The pale,

shivery egg custard had no density to it ― it was like a panna cotta,

or a foam ― and the crust shattered into translucent, tissue-thin

sheets. (Turns out the process involves folding

two doughs together to form these layers.) I found myself focusing

more and more tightly on the tart, unwilling to even pull it away from

my mouth.

"Are you leaving soon?" I suddenly heard through the window. I

turned, with hands cupped around my mouth, probably looking like I'd been caught sniffing panties I'd stolen out of a locker room, to see a car pulled up next to

me, hoping to park.

So, okay, I get it, this cult of the custard tart. Next time I return, I'll buy two.

Golden Gate Bakery 1029 Grant (at Jackson)

781-2627.

Follow us on Twitter: @SFoodie. Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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Jonathan Kauffman

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