Zest Gluten-free Bakery and Deli
1224 Arroyo Ave
San Carlos, CA 94070
phone: 650-241-ZEST (650-241-9378)
This weekend the DH and I went on an excursion to San Carlos, California in the hopes of buying the dear Toddler Yum a play kitchen that we found on Craig’s List. There are so many little towns here in the Bay Area that I can’t keep them all straight, and I’d never had any particular reason to go to San Carlos, which is near Redwood City. We acquired our little play kitchen and stuffed it in the trunk of our car, at which point I decided I was STARVING. I did a random search on the DH’s Iphone for “gluten-free San Carlos, Ca” and I found myself coming up against all these references to a gluten-free bakery called “Zest”. What? A gluten-free bakery in my neck of the woods that I had not visited? You’ve got to be kidding. I’d dragged the DH to Oakland, California, which is a heck of a drive from Sunnyvale for countless nutmeal cookie and pizza runs- but there was one half as far getting great reviews on Yelp? How did I miss this one?
The DH and I parked in the little downtown in San Carlos, which is absolutely adorable and full of excellent shopping opportunities. I only wish Toddler Yum had been with us, although then I couldn’t have scampered down the street as quickly in my quest for gluten free goodies.
We went down the side street to Zest Bakery and I found myself facing a bright, modern and cozy deli that would put any gluten establishments to shame. The sunny yellow walls and bright logo welcomed me, and the server was smilingly patient when I, completely overwhelmed by the variety on the entirely gluten-free and cross contamination free menu, waffled when placing my order. I think they get that a lot.
To my delight, rather than just offering sweet baked goods, they function as a deli and offer a wide variety of gluten-free sandwiches on their sandwich rolls. I felt like such a rock star, being able to choose from so many sandwich options and even customize my vegetarian roasted vegetable sandwich with a slice of cheese and house made pesto spread. They also make their own pickles and mayonnaise, in case you weren’t jealous enough already. The only mild bummer was that they don’t have pizza… yet. Patrick, the super-nice and welcoming gluten-free owner tells me that they’ve started producing pizza crusts that they are selling faster than they can make them, and he has plans to shop at local farmer’s markets to make local, seasonal hot pizza slices for the deli soon. Be still my heart! But being able to watch the server get out my bread and whip together the sandwich right before my eyes just like at (completely inferior) Subways made my day, and I’m happy to wait for pizza. The sandwich is pictured above with their pesto, pickles, and delish grilled veggies. I don’t always like grilled squash, but they did it right, and the grilled carrot was unconventional and completely delicious. Arugula topped off one of the best simple veggie sandwiches I’ve had in a restaurant, and made my taste buds sing.
Because I am a greedy girl, we tried a bunch of things. The DH got a wonderful peach-mint lemonade that reminded him of international trips and that I absolutely loved! He also insisted on trying a chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting and a blueberry garnish. It was a fine chocolate cupcake. If only I liked chocolate cake! I know, I’m a freak. However, in the interest of fairness I got their chocolate chip cookie-based ice cream sandwich. It was lovely! I didn’t try the chocolate chip cookie by itself, but it seemed quite tasty. I think more taste-testing is warranted. I’ll get right on that.
I asked the server what her favorite treats were, and she recommended the triple berry muffin. I don’t usually get that excited about muffins, but this muffin was wrapped in fancy paper, sparkled on top in that “sprinkled with turbinado sugar” way, and had a gorgeous assortment of berries peeking through a golden muffin exterior. I was digging this muffin before I even tried it. And when I did… well, I haven’t often found a muffin that I thought was worth an artisan’s bakery price tag (in this case $3) but this muffin was worth every penny. Gorgeous, delicious and fun. Baby Yum approved as well. I carefully fed her a bite sans red-berry in case they had strawberries, and she gobbled it up. The DH also gave it a thumbs up, although I only gave him a bite because I am stingy with my yummies like that.
The other recommended treat was an almond cake. Not only did the server recommend it, but a visiting family with a toddler ordered them and said their daughter enjoyed them. I thought that they were perfectly delicious. They were light with a faintly crunchy exterior and had a gorgeous almond-infused flavor without being too strong or too sweet. Perfect! I would buy these again, anytime.
I didn’t need any urging to snap up their gorgeous french apple cakes in an individual serving size. Just one look at that apple cake dusted with powdered sugar had me at hello. I bought two and the DH and I fought over them. Another winner that I would buy again.
When we went out on that sunny Saturday morning I had no idea that I was going to stumble onto a wonderful gluten-free bakery. Finding it truly made my afternoon! I was also delighted to meet the husband-and-wife owners Patrick and master baker Charissa and chat with them about their vision for the future of the bakery. I really appreciated Patrick’s interest in local, farmer’s market fresh ingredients and Charissa’s clear passion and talent evident in their wonderful baked goods. Charissa runs their lovely blog, which caught my eye during the recent Ratio Rally when she contributed the internationally-inspired Koshi An Filled Cream Puffs. Not only that, but they are genuine, friendly and nice people that I would love to hang out with sometime with a gluten-free beer or Chardonnay! How often can you say that about people you have just met? I wish them the very best and I think their bakery has great things ahead.
Business seemed to be booming and it reminded me of the early days of Mariposa when the buzz was still catching on. I can’t wait to see how things develop. If they get in a toaster oven or other heating device, I would just about swoon over the option to get hot, toasted, or grilled bread for a sandwich. I’m big on hot food from a deli. And I’ll be first in line for a slice of their hot pizza! They also have high quality locally-sourced gourmet coffee and espresso beverages if you need a little pick-me-up, so you might skip picking up a cup of joe on the way to the bakery until you see their offerings.
If you find yourself anywhere near San Carlos, which is between San Mateo, Foster City, Belmont and Redwood City, you owe it to yourself to check this place out. It is on your way from the San Francisco International Airport to the South Bay (Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, San Jose). You can’t get more convenient than that!
*The AntiCupcake Company also makes and sells delicious gluten-free mini-cheesecakes through Zest Bakery. I have to try one next time!
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*I didn’t bring my camera, so the sandwich and interior photo were taken on the DH’s Iphone. Handy, but not so great for photos. I’ll have to bring my camera next time to really do the place justice. I took the almond cake, berry muffin photos at home with my regular camera.