Berkeley: Masse’s Pastries and Berkeley Bowl Marketplace

I did some research on almond croissants prior to coming up to Berkeley. You see, I have soft spot for croissants but recently I‘ve noticed that I’ll start to dreeeeam about them at random times. And not even about plain croissants, or chocolate croissants, but specifically ALMOND CROISSANTS. My cravings got so bad that during midterm-interview-presentation-hell-week, I dragged my dear roommate, Meg up at 5:30 so that we could get walk down to the local Some Crust Bakery right when it opened. My talks (and perhaps sleep talks) on the subject of almond croissants was enough to get her out of bed and walking in the dewy dark morning.

Some Crust is a very American bakery, and proudly so. It’s boasts cookies, scones, muffins, in addition to danishes and numerous other rolls and twists. They also have croissants. They don’t try to make their croissants in the French manner – instead you’ll find a heavy, buttery dough. This is not bad. They intend to make it heavy and buttery But nor is it good. It actually makes me sad to a certain extent. Some Crust is why Americans are so fat. Everything is so BIG. SO excessively buttery. So overly SWEET. So wrong. But I come here anyways because, as you probably figured our from my complaining (hehe), food options in Claremont, CA are LIMITED without a car. This is the only bakery within walking distance. How I survive with only one bakery, I do not know. But I get by. Don’t worry about me.

Check out the chocolate croissant. It is a good croissant by average standards. A dark brown top, not quite flaky enough. Not shattering effect when you bit into it. Layers of dough so heavily buttered that they seem to sink into one another till they meet at the middle in an oozy rich tube of dark chocolate. But if your expectations are set any higher than a good ol’ fatty American rendition of the French classic, you’ll leave disappointed.

The almond is covered in ICING. Icing? What they heck is cookie icing doing on top of a croissant? Blashphemy! Same heavy limp dough with just a wee strand of almond paste. It was a sad sad discovery. Light years away from the discoveries Robyn has been making in Paris and beyond recognition from the creations on on C&Z. Their photographs make my tummy groooowl. After this under whelming experience at Some Crust, I started researching. Ok. Going to Berkeley. Will find AWESOME CROISSANTS. MUST FIND awesome croissants. So I chowhounded, food blogged-ed, googled.

I came up with two names: La Farine and Masse’s Pastries. Ok, now fast forward. We’re in Berkeley, Sunday morning. The plan? Early breakfast of almond croissants at Masse’s, followed by a visit to the Berkeley Bowl and then a midmorning breakfast of more almond croissants at La Farine.

Christine and I got woke up around 7:30 in the morning, took our sweet time, cause I was on vacation after all and walked down to Masse’s on Shattuck. We entered through the doors at precisely 9 am, tummys about to burst with excitement, eyes wide open. Searching. Searching…searching…searching but not finding. My eyes glazed over rows of beautiful pastries, plain croissants, brioches, butter roll, tart, cakes, pies. What? Where were the almond croissants? I donned my most hopefully smile and kindly inquired with the curly haired counter lady about the obvious lack of their famed almond croissants.
“Sold Out”
“What?!” I let out a quiet gasp. I checked my watch. Take that back, I don’t own a watch. I checked my cell phone. “But, but you just opened an hour ago!”
“Usually happens, they’re pretty darn good.” Crap. Ok then, I’d come back tomorrow morning. “Check back with us next weekend, come early!”
“Next weekend?” What? why not tomorrow? I was leaving on Tuesday.
“Only on weekends, just make sure to come early.”
“Oh. ok,” it was a mournful moment.

But you cannot be sad forever, so I took a seat at one of the four small tables, collected myself, reassured myself that one day I would be back here on an early weekend morning, then walked back up to the counter. Almond croissant or no almond croissant, I was going to start off my day with a pastry!

Any signs of distress over my lost croissant quickly whittled away at the sight of the Fig & Goat Cheese Brioche Tart. Heaven in five words? You bet. It’s like all my favorite foods were combined with the utmost care and baked to a sweet, savory, buttery round. The brioche dough was baked in a single sized tart pan, filled with rich goat cheese custard and topped by tender sweet figs, ready to melt at the touch of your tongue.

The custard brioche was equally delightful. I mean, really, what’s not to like. A brioche ball baked golden brown with spots of sugar sprinkles, split open and filled with an eggy sweet custard, a delightful mouthful. Rich in flavor, but light as bite of cool whip (you know you love that stuff! – as a kid at least :)). The contrasting textures of buttery baked dough and vanilla scented custard made it so that this treat could have been offered as a dessert in any restaurant with great applause.

I was quite content with my breakfast (despite the fact that they sold out of the almond croissants just ONE HOUR after opening) I walked back along Shattuck, stopped by a bookstore to purchase a used copy of Schott’s Food & Drink Miscellany (will tell you about it after I find time to read it – should be on college assigned reading lists!), then walked and walked. Ho boy, my feet were tired. Anyhow, I was almost there. And too cheap to take the bus. Soon enough, the grand Berkeley Bowl was in sight.

Tadah! It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but think of it as Berkeley’s version of NYC’s Fairway Market. Only with a better produce section. And Acme bread.

I’ve never seen Brussels sprouts sold like this before!

Carrots can be classified as mouthwatering! or maybe not…hehe

And just cause it’s almost Halloween (the holiday I fear the most)
I didn’t buy too much, knowing that it was a long walk from Berkeley Bowl to La Farine (VERY long walk). Just some dark chocolates and three packages of McVities Digestive Biscuits. I’m addicted to these and have no explanation. It is just so. And they are so damn good. I’ll pass out if I have to go a day without them. Sigh. Woe is me. Biscuits can add up to be a remarkably expensive habit.

Haha, guess what? Want to know what happened when I got to La Farine?
I didn’t know whether to burst into teats or laugh. So I did both. I think the guy behind the counter thought I was psycho. If only he had known…if only! He was kind enough to tell me that they don’t usually sell out an hour after opening (like Masse’s), but approximately four hours after opening. Chee. People in Berkeley really do like their croissants. I was defeated. For today at least. Check back tomorrow. Kathy gets her almond croissant in the end!

Ooooh yea. You betcha she gets that croissant!

Masse’s Pastries
1469 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94709
(510) 649-1004

Berkeley Bowl Marketplace
2020 Oregon St.
Berkeley, CA 94703
(510) 843-6929

  • Robyn
    October 25, 2006

    I’m sorry your search for an almond croissant went so badly. :( WHY DON’T THEY JUST BAKE MORE OF EM?! You can get em here all day! Duurh..well, they’re easy to get. Bu jeez, is it hard to make more croissants? :P

  • elmomonster
    October 25, 2006

    Aw. Sorry Kathy. I’m also a fan of croissants. Just about the only breakfast pastry I like. I hate donuts, and anything that is just too chock full of sugar you end up needing a gallon of bitter tea to wash away the sickening sweetness. The croissants most bakeries make are unfortunately just as you describe, ladened with butter and not light or airy in the least. The only time I’ve had sublime croissants was at fancy hotel brunches and cruise ships. SIGH. And from the sound of things, it’s a hard thing to come by in Berkeley too!

  • Kathy YL Chan
    October 25, 2006

    Hey Robyn!I know! You’d think, seriously…man…grr. If you run out an hour after opening, JUST BAKE MORE!!! drives me insanse! :)Hey Elmo!No worries Elmo, I’ll get that croissant! Croissant are also my favorite breakfast pastries but excellent ones are so difficult to come across, especially in SoCal. But we got pretty darn good Vietnamese, don’t we? :)

  • anonymous
    October 26, 2006

    Ouch! Just looking at that Almond Croissant makes my teeth hurt…

  • Chubbypanda
    October 26, 2006

    I couldn’t post a reply earlier because the internet cut out at work during my lunch break. =( By the time they got it up again, it was time to go back to the coal mines.This post had me on pins and needles. Did Kathy get her croissant? How? Da dum duuuuuuu~!- Chubbypanda

  • La Vida Dulce
    October 29, 2006

    That is sad news about Some Crust. I lived in Claremont back in the early 1990’s, before the current owners took over. Their almond croissant was my mom’s favorite. And I noticed the Tea Room is gone, replaced with a sandwich take-out. (sigh)

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