In Berkeley: The search for the perfect eclair

By Jane Stillwater

Recently I met a doctor who told me, “The first thing that I do when I get a new patient is to take him entirely off gluten and dairy for a month. And chances are good that, if the patient takes my advice, whatever symptoms he has will improve.” I also read where autistic children do better without dairy products or gluten.

Okay. I’ve got digestive problems. I’ll try it. It works.

But then I ran into a really big snag — Solvang. You just can’t visit the Danish pastry capital of America without having an éclair. And what an eclair it was too! Seven inches long, covered with chocolate, with both custard AND whipped cream for filling — and with a yummy cherry sauce in there too.

Sometimes you just gotta break down and go off your diet.

Even back home in Berkeley and safely back on my “no gluten, no dairy” diet, I still kept having dreams and fantasies about that perfect Solvang éclair. What to do? You really can’t justify driving 250 miles just to score another éclair. Can you?

So I started Googling around for a list of bakeries in Berkeley. Berkeley has everything, right?

Andronico’s had an éclair on offer but it was one of those fancy gourmet eclairs and just wasn’t squishy enough.

Telegraph Avenue’s famous Eclair Pastries bakery had gone out of business — and the Pastry King across from the Med only sold muffins and donuts.

Love At First Bite only sold cupcakes. Sweet Adeline didn’t carry eclairs. Crixa, that fabulous bakery around the corner from me where visual masterpiece cakes are lovingly created by hand, also didn’t carry eclairs. Rats. Hopkins Street Bakery only carried éclairs with custard filling. I was only interested in ones with whipped cream.

Then there was Masse’s. Their entry into my éclair sweepstakes was GREEN. It was a very interesting éclair, with pink marzipan flowers on top and flavored with lemon zest. I’m glad I bought it. However, it was NOT a real éclair. Virginia Bakery scored triumphant points with a good-looking, good-tasting traditional old-fashioned whipped cream éclair.

And Toots Sweets? I almost forgot about Toots Sweets but we were driving back from touring the Red Oak Victory ship that is part of the Rosie the Riveter Home Front national park in Richmond and we drove by Toots Sweets. “Have any éclairs?” I asked. “We’re sold out now but will have some tomorrow. Our customers say that they are very good.”

Even the Berkeley Bowl offered a yummy looking mini-éclair — but it too was only custard.

But the winner of my grand search for the perfect éclair? This will come as no surprise to residents of Berkeley. It was La Farine. OMG. They used both whipping cream and custard. But what really tipped the scales in their favor was that they used dark chocolate — even better than Solvang!

First published on Jane Stillwater’s Web Log. Photographs courtesy of Jane Stillwater.

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  • http://umhai.com/ james

    Will be thinking about éclairs the rest of the day. Thanks a lot.

  • Phil Price

    Fatapples has a good eclair, too.

  • John Holland

    @james i won’t… i live half a block away! running out now!

  • Christine

    Bette’s makes a pretty delicious eclair too.

  • Jennifer C.

    Next time would love to hear about how you find yummy yummies that are gluten and dairy free in Berkeley.

  • http://jpstillwater.blogspot.com Jane Stillwater

    Bette’s has eclairs? And Fat Apples does too? As soon as I get back from the Social Forum in Detroit, I’m there!

    PS: The Forum is fabulous. Not all of the U.S. outside of Berkeley has gone over to the Teabaggers. There are thousands of progressives here. Plus they showed an Oliver Stone documentary about Hugo Chavez tonight. Don’t think it will ever become a blockbuster but I liked it.

  • yoko

    Mouth, watering, now.

  • Avi Rappoport

    I had a La Farine mini eclair yesterday and it was perfection in pastry! I wasn’t expecting to love it because I prefer mine with custard, but they did something special with the whipped cream, and it was so delicious that I had to stop and eat it mindfully.