Since Junior’s arrival, our weekend routines are a tad different. In the past, when we found ourselves local for the weekend, we might make plans for a leisurely brunch, perhaps trek over to Marin for a morning run or hike, take a jaunt to Aquatic Park for an open water swim, consider a stop at Hog Island Oyster Company for some grub, or pop into any one of the many local brew pubs for some music and conversation (I’m e-staring at you Lagunitas). However, with the addition of the little tyke, things have – well – changed.
First of all – although we were never late risers – Junior puts a whole new spin on early. In his world, sun’s up, he’s up. In the winter, this is manageable; in the summer, brace yourself. Given the early hours that we now embrace, we’ve discovered the valley’s best early morning haunts. Sometimes this includes feeding the sweet goats down the road, other times it includes hikes to scout the best landing places for the hot air balloons, but more often than not, it means a trip to the local bakery. The place that makes the flakiest and lightest croissants this side of the Atlantic. The place that makes even the strongest gluten-free devotees waver in their steadfast commitment. This magical place? Bouchon Bakery.
Yes, yes, we know. It often gets a rap as a yuppi-fied wasteland. A place where the name on the side of the bags and cup holders is viewed as important as the contents stored securely within; the culinary equivalent of lululemon and Vineyard Vines. But despite this reputation, the real merit does lie within the product. Trust us. And trust Junior. A toddler doesn’t lie when it comes to food.
Given our proximity to this bakery, we’ve been frequenting the croissant counter since Junior was a tiny tot. Although the little man does not care for sweets outside of fresh fruit and Kid’s Z bars, croissants are his weakness. The buttery, flaky goodness that is a well-made croissant is hard to beat. Perhaps I, as his mother, am to blame. During my third trimester, we spent much of the last haul in France, traversing a wide swath of the country (from Paris to Bourgogne to Provence to Cote d’Azur) in search of the perfect croissant (Michael claims that it was a wine trip, but no one ever bothered to tell that to his obscenely pregnant traveling companion). As such, much of the final stint of Junior’s in-utero experience consisted of daily morning treks to the local boulangerie in search of perfection. So yes. Perhaps I really am to blame.
Regardless, Junior has an obsession with croissants. When we are local, we pop into Bouchon for his weekend morning treat. And when traveling, we scour Yelp in search of an adequate place in which to secure this pastry. Wherever we are – Illinois, British Columbia, Oregon, Idaho, Wisconsin, etc. – we make it happen. In some, more rural settings, this means driving to a separate town. And in some instances, this even means trying multiple spots before we’ve finally selected the winning item. But at this point in this journey, it’s about the art of the chase that keeps us looking for – at minimum – a comparable product to what we have down the road from our house.
Consider this: When Junior bites into a Bouchon croissant, its delicious goodness sheds everywhere. Perfectly browned flakes of buttery, baked flour literally sprinkle his face and onto the plate in front of him. The little pockets of air are light and delicately spaced. Nowhere is there a sign of hardness or denseness. It is light. Airy. Perfect.
At three, Junior can already tell if a croissant is frozen before it is baked. In the rare instances when this has been our only option, we’ll nonchalantly put it front of him, with the hope that he will be none the wiser. But having been raised on the best, his senses are sharp. He notices the difference immediately. He’ll poke and prod at the offending item. He’ll gamely take a bite, just to see. Sometimes, if he’s hungry enough, he’ll even take a few bites. But if he doesn’t feel that it lives up to his standards, the leftovers are generously – and promptly – stuffed into Michael’s mouth (complete with a little voice squawking, “All done.”).
We are raising a culinary monster.