Review: Zest Gluten-free Bakery and Deli in San Carlos, Ca

June 27th, 2011 yum Posted in Bay Area, Ca, California, Gluten Free bakery, Gluten-free Deli 6 Comments »

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!

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*The AntiCupcake Company also makes and sells delicious gluten-free mini-cheesecakes through Zest Bakery. I have to try one next time!

Other Reviews:
Get Allergy Wise Reviews Zest

*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.

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Gluten-free Oakland: Mariposa and Scream Sorbet

March 10th, 2011 yum Posted in Baked Goods, Bay Area, Ca, Gluten Free bakery, Mariposa Bakery, Oakland 5 Comments »

mariposa baking company
5427 telegraph ave, unit d3
oakland, ca 94609
tel: 510.595.0955
Every so often I go on a gluten-free pilgrimage to Oakland to see what’s up at my favorite bakery, Mariposa Baking Company. I am happy to report that they are still the home of the best Gluten-free pizza I’ve ever had. They have been developing many new recipes, too, and I was delighted to see some new items on the menu.

They now have more vegan gluten-free breads than ever! These breads are dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, and soy-free:
- rustic long baguette
- 2pk baguettes
- sandwich bread
- cinnamon raisin bread
- 6pk dinner rolls

The little kid in me loves their “Polar Bear”, a cream filled counterpart to the Twinkie. Don’t laugh! I was diagnosed at three and don’t remember ever having a Twinkie- these lightly orange flavored cupcakes may be very bad for me, but they taste so good! Those who miss Ho-Ho’s or Ding Dong’s will love their Penguino, a chocolate cupcake filled with cream that my DH says tastes just like its gluten counterpart. He loves them! (I don’t care for chocolate cake, but I’m weird like that.)

The grown-up in me adores Patti for developing a gluten-free veggie burger option with their new beetloaf sandwich. I’ve never had a beet-based veggie “burger” before! Paired with their amazing sandwich rolls, and with a side of cabbage salad, this burger made my mouth very happy. Baby Yum even got in on the action! The burger contains egg so is not vegan, but it is dairy and nut free. Next time I must also try their panini, but my stomach is only so big. If only Mariposa were closer!

Other standout savory options at their bakery include a cheese quiche, cheese or butternut squash ravioli, and gnocchi. And thank goodness they still have their nutmeal cookies, which I am personally obsessed with. Every time I go, I pick up at least five, and jealously hoard them from my husband. They also have new gluten-free pop tarts that are truly a thing of beauty. The flavor of the crust somehow didn’t appeal to me, but the texture was excellent and the novelty of it kept me entertained. I still am kicking myself for not trying their gorgeous apple galette, but I had already racked up quite a bill and had a hard time justifying the purchase. What’s your favorite Mariposa gluten-free product?

The bakers at this little bakery are baking their hearts out for their gluten-free clientele and it makes me so happy to see what a huge success they’ve become. At our last visit, almost every table was full. A college student was sitting studying and enjoying coffee and gluten-free food, girlfriends were gabbing and sharing yummy gluten-free sweets, a gluten-free grandmother was sharing food with her family, and we sat at a table with Baby Yum in a highchair and fed her bites of Mommy’s veggie burger. I looked around the room and thought that this was the perfect place to spend a Saturday afternoon. It can’t get much better than this warm, comfortable place with safe food where gluten-free folks can come and relax with their family and enjoy a delicious lunch just like any other family on a Saturday afternoon.

*If you can’t make it to Oakland, Mariposa has a permanent booth at the Ferry Building in downtown San Francisco as well as a new booth at the Palo Alto Farmer’s Market on California Avenue or at their booth at the San Rafael Farmer’s Market- both on Sundays.

Another recent review of Mariposa Bakery

Scream Sorbet
5030 Telegraph Ave,
Tuesday through Sunday, 12pm – 9pm
(510) 394-5030

While I know it is hard to avoid absolutely stuffing yourself at Mariposa (maybe this is just my problem), I would like to recommend that you save a little room in your stomach for the absolutely best dairy-free sorbet I’ve ever had in my life. Scream Sorbet began offering their divine flavors at local Bay Area Farmer’s Markets some time ago. I became completely obsessed with them when I was on my every-allergen-free diet for breastfeeding. When I couldn’t have much else, I could still indulge in some farmer’s market fresh flavors of sorbet. A few flavors contain dairy, and some flavors contain nuts. There are plenty of vegetable or fruit-based flavors that should be gluten-free and allergen-free!

Their mission statement:
Each week, we walk our 27 farmers’ markets in search of the best local, organic, and seasonal produce available, head back to our lab to experiment, and then finish by making our sorbet one quart at a time the evening before every market. We want our sorbet to taste exactly like the fantastic ingredients that go into it.

Their sorbet really does taste just like the fresh ingredients they use, in the most unexpected ways. I was especially excited when they had one of their dairy-free chocolate flavors like coconut milk-chocolate. Mint-lime sorbet or one of the fresh fruit flavors are fabulous as well. If you can tolerate nuts, their macadamia vanilla or pistachio are probably my hands down favorite flavors. In fact, I like pretty much all of their flavors for their creativity. If you’ve always wanted to try snap pea sorbet, chipotle chocolate sorbet, popcorn sorbet, coconut thai basil or coconut kale sorbet, this is the place for you. Some of their more outrageous flavors may be a bit much, but they are all fun to try and you may be surprised at how palatable an unexpected combination of ingredients can be.

When I planned a trip to Oakland to visit Mariposa, I knew I had to visit the new Scream Sorbet storefront, which is just down the street from Mariposa. Literally. Look at the address! It was fun to see their dreams of a retail shop finally come to fruition, and I loved the cool, friendly coffeehouse vibe of the place. I never thought I liked sorbet until I had Scream Sorbet, and now I can’t get enough of the stuff! I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. What is your favorite Scream Sorbet flavor? Mine changes almost every week!

If you can’t make it to Oakland, you can enjoy Scream Sorbet at Bay Area Farmer’s Markets including the Mountain View Farmer’s Market, Palo Alto Farmer’s Market, and the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmer’s Market.

Other fun gluten-free friendly destinations in the Oakland/Berkeley area include the Berkeley Bowl Health Food Store, as well as Cafe Gratitude in Berkeley. What are your favorite Gluten-free spots in the Oakland/ Berkeley area?

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