Best Thing I Ever Ate

2 Nov

Golden Gate Bridge
Today I head to San Francisco to run in the U.S. Half Marathon with my lovely friend Al. It’s a good thing I’m going to be running 13.1 miles because San Fran happens to be my favorite food city. This means I get to carb load on Saturday night (likely more than I really need to) and have a celebratory meal after burning 1300 calories. That is, if I don’t blow it all at the post-race party. Have you ever noticed how much bad food is at those things? Oh wait.. I should stop running in races that advertise “chocolate and champagne” or “free frozen yogurt” at the finish if that really bothered me.

This seems like a good time to tell you about the best thing I’ve ever eaten, because it occurred earlier this year in San Francisco, the day after my last half marathon.  Now, it’s hard to claim something as “the best” I’ve ever eaten, because I like to categorize things: best cake, best pasta, best pancakes, best ribs etc. But as I love dessert over all other foods, this would probably trump any of my other favorites if you waved them in front of my face (and why are you waving food in my face anyway? It’s going to spill. Or get in my eye).

The weird thing about this is that it’s NOT chocolate. It’s also not peanut butter or pumpkin or carrot or mint. It’s just bread. Bread pudding. And even more curious, it’s a style of bread pudding I’ve never previously enjoyed. It’s dense and custardy, the kind you can slice into neat squares. I like my bread pudding warm and chocolate with large chunks of bread that are a little crisp on top. The kind you need to scoop into a bowl or  ramekin. Bonus points for a chocolate sauce or vanilla ice cream.

La Boulange Bread Pudding | Adventures of a Hungry Redhead
I bought a slice of this bread pudding at La Boulange Bakery near Union Square. It was early afternoon and I just wanted a snack to tide me over until dinner. This brick of awesome was eyeing me from the pastry case and was an impulse buy.

Me: I’ll have the apple pie.
Clerk: The what?
Me: The apple something.. this one right here.
Clerk: You mean the bread pudding?
Me: Um. Yeah sure.

I was pissed when I sat down at a table with my mom and realized it a)didn’t have any apples b)was cold c)was, as I said, the dense and eggy style of bread pudding I don’t like. I ran 13.1 miles for this!!? I knew I should have gotten the cream puff.
La Boulange Bread Pudding | Adventures of a Hungry Redhead
But one bite – and the world stopped. It was the very best things about vanilla – the middle of a Boston cream pie, real vanilla bean ice cream, the inside of an éclair, fresh whipped cream – all encased in a cool, soft but firm, gigantic slice of bread pudding. It was then that it occurred to me why I never like this style of bread pudding before: all the other attempts were failures because I could taste the eggs, where as this bread pudding tasted like vanilla custard. This bread pudding was also unique because it had an almost pie-crust like top and bottom.

This was a GIANT piece of bread pudding and it was only supposed to be a snack, but I couldn’t stop myself from inhaling it. Even when my stomach said stop, I kept going (ok fine, that’s a common occurrence). I was torn about whether to offer any of it to my mom, but decided to ignore my only-child instincts and share, because I needed another witness to this bread pudding from the Gods.

Of all the coincidences, I learned that very day that Starbucks bought La Boulange Bakery. I’m OK with Starbucks, but if they in any way kill off my bread pudding, I will be one sad redhead.

I did find an LA Times article that replicates the recipe, but have not tried it, mainly because I don’t have a place where I can get good croissants, but also because I don’t have high hopes for it based on the picture which doesn’t resemble what I ate at all. If you’re so brave to try it, let me know how it goes.

Here’s hoping Al will indulge me this weekend with a trip to La Boulange and that their bread pudding isn’t seasonal and missing from that beautiful pastry case.

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