As we work off the excesses of Thanksgiving dinners and Hanukkah feasts, and anticipate still more over-indulging during the winter holidays, what better time to think about eating less? Specifically, smaller bites of the treats we love. Mary Flaherty set out to investigate local purveyors who offer wonderfully small portions of the ice creams and pastries we can’t live without. (Let us know in the Comments if you know of other East Bay spots that think small. In particular, Mary is still looking for a tidy little blueberry muffin!)
Petit croissants at La Bedaine
The mid-Solano French take-out shop La Bedaine sells sandwiches, tarts and vacuum-packed dinners, as well as pastries.
La Bedaine’s croissant ($2 — pictured above) is about half the size of most American croissants, estimates chef/owner Alain Delangle. It’s also slightly sweet. The pain au chocolate (chocolate croissant) ($2.25) is about two-thirds the size of others in the area, he said.
Asked why he makes smaller croissants, Delangle said, “I’ll show you — it’s very simple.” Reaching behind a counter, the French native pulled out a rolling pin-like device from France that rolls and cuts the croissants into a fixed size. “That’s the normal size for a French croissant.”
La Bedaine, 1585 Solano Ave. between Ordway and Peralta.
Mini scoops at Tara’s Organic Ice Cream
Tara Organic Ice Cream serves a 2-ounce cup ($2) — the tiniest ice cream cup I’ve seen around town — as well as an extra small cone ($2.75). And the flavors are worth the trip: black sesame, basil, saffron and garam masala, among them. (Chocolate and vanilla, too.)
Owner Tara Esperanza says the small size is good for sales – people who came in with someone else, but weren’t planning to get anything, end up going for the little serving. (I was one.) The shop also has small, medium and large sizes (4 oz., 6 oz. and 16 oz.).
Tara’s: 3273 College Ave., at Alcatraz. Also at 4731 Telegraph in Oakland.
Also try: Lush Gelato in the Gourmet Ghetto and IScream on Upper Solano offer a 3-ounce small, and interesting flavors. New gelato shop Caravaggio also offers smaller portions in keeping with the serving sizes in Italy.
Tsunami Dogs’ boba tea
Tsunami Dogs, a tiny stand on Milvia Street in downtown Berkeley, serves Asian-fusion hot dogs and tacos, as well as a 12-ounce boba (tapioca) tea ($2), three-quarters of the average size. In most Berkeley boba tea shops, the smallest size is 16 ounces.
Manager Michael Chau said he offers the smaller drink because he has “a lot of health-conscious customers.” (He serves a 20 oz. too.)
Tsunami Dogs offers black and green tea, with 12 fruit syrups and the option of “milk tea.” (They use half-and-half, not powdered milk.) The only catch is this: they recently switched from traditional black tapioca, to popping fruity bobas – the kind found as a topping in yogurt shops. Personally, I prefer the black tapiocas. Chau said he’s considering bringing them back, so we’ll have to keep an eye on that. Maybe he’ll consider 8-ounces cups too.
Tsunami Dog, 2109 Milvia St. between Center and Addison.
Also try: Asha Tea House at 2086 University (near Shattuck), sells a 14-ounce boba tea, in a variety of flavors. (And if Starbucks would post the fact that they offer 8-ounce drinks, including the dessert-worthy chai latte, I could mention it here. But they don’t advertise it; you have to be in the know.)
Diminutive macarons and more at Masse’s Pastries
The 16-year-old Masse’s Pastries in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto bakes a variety of small cookies. You can get them to go, or enjoy them with a cup of tea or coffee on site.
Masse’s is known for their French-style macarons ($1.25), a sandwich of almond-meal meringue cookies with ganache filling. About nine flavors are offered daily, many of them changing seasonally. The cookies are less than 2 inches across, which is actually a pretty standard size for French macarons in the area.
However, the shop also offers six to eight types of European-style cookies daily (80 cents) – some of the most common ones being apricot pecan, French financiers, and amaretti bianchi. Most of these are also less than 2 inches across. “More for tea-time, more delicate” than traditional American cookies, says co-owner Marcia Masse.
Bite-size cookies at Hopkins Street Bakery
For traditional American cookies, head to the Hopkins Street Bakery. While they offer giant cookies, they also have smaller chocolate chip, ginger snap and coffee-almond cookies, less than 3 inches across. (65-85 cents.)
Why the two sizes? “Because some people just want a little bite-size of cookies,” says owner Frank Zhang. The shop also sells bread, cakes, pastries, donuts and pies.
Hopkins Street Bakery, 1584 Hopkins St., near Monterey.