At Mariposa Baking Co. You Can Have Your (Gluten-Free) Cake And Eat It Too (San Francisco)
I’m five months into my “from Cairo to NYC” transition and I can’t the fact that I’m loving every minute of this expat journey. I’ve adored settling into a new place and making it my own. I relish hopping on my bike, or slipping on my walking shoes, and spending hours exploring this city that never sleeps. It’s been a trip getting reacquainted with cultural nuances that seem all too familiar, but have been far removed from my vernacular for over a decade.
All that, and we haven’t even gotten to the food. Glorious food.
Luckily for this Intolerant, I’ve found that a fair number of places in the United States either serve great dairy and gluten-free options or that are fantastically good at modifying dishes to make them riotous and worth celebrating. Aside from the restaurants that make their kitchens accessible to the Intolerants who walk among us, there’s also countless cafés, bistros and specialty bakeries that are specifically geared towards the organic, the local, the vegans and more.
My two-week sojourn along the coast of California helped me understand three very important things about the state: 1) it has amazing landscapes, 2) it has very friendly and outdoorsy people and 3) the food (we’re talking Mexican, traditional American, Asian-fusion, etc.) is mouthwateringly good and reflects the diversity found in this coastal state.
Last weekend was spent exploring Napa Valley and San Francisco, and Sunday was all about meandering up and down San Francisco’s rollicking hills. Towards the end of the afternoon I found myself traipsing along the bay and past pier after pier of lavish yachts, hip cafés and small eateries where every last chair was spoken for. Finding myself a little bit peckish after all that walking, I popped into the San Francisco Ferry Building at the South end of the Embarcadero (near Market Street) to hopefully come across something sweet and dairy and (fingers crossed) gluten-free. This building is filled with shops that sell food made by local artisans, stalls that offer specialty goods (organic mushrooms and truffles, or a kingdom of herbs anyone?) and weekend markets filled with local and organic produce. It’s a place where any gourmand or foodie is sure to squeal with delight.
Located at the far end of the SF Ferry Building is Mariposa Baking Company, a gluten-free bakery that makes some of the most delicious allergen-free confections I’ve had in a long time. Selling a variety of baked goods – both sweet and savory – Mariposa is about taking some of the stigma away from gluten-free patisserie and breads and making them more delicious than you could ever imagine.
Founded by Patti Furey Crane after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she altered her diet in a bid to better her health. From this change in lifestyle Mariposa was born and the bakery’s concept centres on “health and well-being and the start of a transformation that’s possible through food.”
Damn, I love a good mission statement.
All of Mariposa’s baked goods are gluten-free. Close to 80% are dairy free and several others are also free of soy, egg and nuts. Ingredients are locally sourced where possible and items are made fresh daily. A fantastic perk of arriving towards the end of the day is that prices are slashed by 10 – 20% in order to avoid having to freeze or bin unsold items. Some of the pastries and breads contain agave, honey and cane sugar, but it’s usually – in the case of the breads specifically – to add a requisite touch of sweetness and help activate the yeast so the bread will rise.
I walked away with a baguette, a slab of the focaccia, a chocolate chip cookie and a box of the biscotti. Though I haven’t sampled the biscotti just yet, the chocolate chip cookie, focaccia and baguette have all been spoken for and they were delicious. Gluten-free breads are notoriously tricky to “get right” as they lack the elasticity that gluten provides. This means bread either winds up being incredibly dense and filling or crumbly and disappointingly cake-like. It takes many tries to get the dough just right.
Mariposa’s baguette, while missing the elasticity that the French variety is notorious for, came dangerously close to tasting like the real thing. The exterior was slightly crispy and browned just like a baguette should be, while the interior was spongy without crumbling between my fingers. Though nothing gluten-free can ever match a “real” French baguette, Mariposa’s gluten-free version easily avoided the fate of being to cake-like. It was close enough to the real thing that I employed a bad habit that I picked up in Paris, which involved eating half the baguette before I’ve even made it home.
*averts gaze and shrugs*
The chocolate chip cookie was fantastic: it was moist, tender and chocolatey without being overly sweet. There was a butter-like richness to them and they reminded me of the cookies my mother used to make. The ones that would be laden with all the things I can no longer have.
The focaccia was the pièce de résistance and it not only blew me away, but it also impressed three very “we’re wary about the whole gluten-free movement” men, all of whom concurred that this focaccia came stupidly close to being as good as a wheat-filled slice of the real thing. I – admittedly – went to town on that focaccia to the point where a mild stomach was the only thing that stopped me from devouring the whole thing.
In short, The Mariposa Baking Company was a fantastic find, and though I’ll still indulge in the occasional piece of sourdough or artisanal baguette (the type that’s so good that I’d fight you to the finish for it) I’ve learned it’s possible to find delicious tasting pastries, breads and desserts that are health/diet conscious, Intolerant-friendly, and can even placate the fiercest skeptics as well.
Mariposa Baking Co.
SF Ferry Building
Tel: +1 (510) 595-0955