Posted on November 21 2011

MY TARTINE BAKERY TOUR (part 1: Serendipity)

My first morning adventuring in San Francisco started the way every San Francisco morning starts for me – a trip to Four Barrel.  There’s a lot of great coffee places in this fine city, but Four Barrel wins my heart.  Besides having perfect coffee, it’s a great pull that our dear friend, Brett Walker (if you’ve been in there, he’s the one with the beard), works there, and we’ve gotten to know other employees pretty well over the years.  So, I was heading there to grab a coffee, say hey to people, and eat a ham and cheese croissant.  On my way to the back of the coffee shop where my friend Kathleen was sitting (Brett’s wife), a familiar face caught my eye as I passed him.  Rather than crane my neck with an embarrassing double take, I surprisingly maintained my composure and waited to stare until I was a safe enough distance away so I could pretend I was looking at the art.  Yes, that guy is Chad Robertson – the guy behind Tartine.  I immediately started sweating, and if I was going to go over there I had to act fast before I was a gross, sweaty mess.  I should say that I now totally get those people who camp out to meet the cast of Twilight.  Those people are such fans – like melt down in tears, scream, wave, beg for pictures, etc. – all for their favorite vampires.  They’ve read the books, they’ve seen the movies, and meeting those people means the world to them.  I’d like to think I can reel in the excitement more than those Twilight people though.  (Though if I’d walked in Four Barrel to see Liz was with him, I couldn’t promise such restraint.)  The thought of not going over to say hello crossed my mind, but I knew that I would totally regret not doing it for a really long time.  I had to mask my “Team Chad” level of admiration with a goal of “enthusiastic nonchalance” as I approached him.  Be calm, don’t scare him.

I introduced myself, completely unsure of anything I was going to say after that.  Once he said, “Oh yeah, Emily.  You’re from Michigan.  Everyone is sending me your blog,” I had to keep it together.  Don’t hug him, that’s weird.  Stop smiling like an idiot.  Listen to what he’s saying!!!  He then introduced me to his friend, David, who’s the owner of Outerlands.  As a connoisseur of brunch, his place is at the top of my list of favorite spots.  I think I started rambling about how much I love their brunch, and that I look at a picture of the last one I had there because it’s pretty magical.  Not joking there, I was starting to sound like some crazy super fan of these dudes.  But, he didn’t pretend he was getting a call or excuse himself from the conversation.  He actually said that means a lot and encouraged me to head there for their dinner.  I almost made a joke like, “Let’s go catch a wave, guys!” because I’d watched a short documentary about Chad’s bread making and his cookbook, and I saw that these guys regularly surf together.  No!  No surfing jokes, Em.  They don’t know you, or know that you’re joking.  That’s really weird to say and they will probably ask you to leave.  I rambled on about how my dad is on a grand bread-making adventure using his other cookbook about bread.  Reel it in, Em.  Reel it in.  Basically, this serendipitous moment was a test of all adult will-power I have in me.  Pulling up a chair is not something a sane, normal, admiring fan would do.  No, I didn’t really think that, because I’m not that crazy. 

One of the last things I clearly remember, before I let sheer excitement cloud my brain, is the point at which he gave me his email and said he’d show me around Tartine the next day.  Game over.  That’s all I heard.  I think I said something like, “Yeah, I think that should work,” as if I had some sort of busy schedule that needed to be checked before I set these Tartine tour plans in stone.  I realized that I should then leave them alone, so I thanked him a lot for being so amazing and letting me crash their morning coffee, then I went back to my own coffee (without asking for a picture, because that could wait until tomorrow), and I didn’t let myself turn around to look at them as I recounted the entire run-in with Chad and Dave to Kathleen.  I think I did let out a tween-esque “Ahhhh!!!” sort of squeal, but it was pretty quiet and I think the coffee grinders ensured no one else heard it, other than Kathleen.  I even waited until the evening before I emailed him, and in so doing, I made a point once again to be brief, while giving my my vibe of enthusiastic nonchalance. 

Honestly, it was such a crazy, fun moment where a few of my favorite things about San Francisco collided – Four Barrel, Tartine, Outerlands.  (I even mentioned all these places in the post I made before I left – proof of my sincere adoration of all these people and places!)  I walked around all day scared that a piano was going to drop on my head, because I kind of think this sort of thing happens to people before they die.  Usually things don’t just fall in my lap like this.  I’m the person who walks into a room and people are like, “You just missed it!  Someone just gave all of us a hundred dollars!”  So, the stars lining up or however you want to explain it, truly was beyond exciting!    

Four Barrel, Thursday morning.

I’ll share all about the Tartine visits (yes, that is plural) on Wednesday!

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