S.F. Rising: Raisin Brioche from West Portal Bakery
|West Portal Bakery's Raisin Brioche isn't overwhelmingly sweet.|
Source: West Portal Bakery, 170 West Portal Ave., 664-0988.
In a neighborhood that still looks like 1950s San Francisco, West Portal Bakery seems like it could be one of those neighborhood institutions that predates parking meters. But it's actually been on the street for 10 years, and for the last five, under the ownership of Mags Facultad and his family.
Along with pastries, pies, cakes, and cookies (SFoodie limits ourselves to two amaretti per visit), Facultad and his crew bake 24 varieties of bread, all reasonably priced. Having tasted our way through a swath of them over the past few months, SFoodie would have to say we prefer his brioches over the crusty loaves ― specifically, the raisin brioche.
There are a lot of cinnamon-swirl-type breakfast breads out there, most of them so sweet the sugars burn in the toaster, masking the cinnamon and making your kitchen smell like you've started up an artisanal charcoal business (note to microentrepreneurs: you're welcome to claim that idea, gratis).
But this brioche is not that kind of breakfast bread: A warm, eggy smell rises out of the toaster as it heats up, and when you lift the airy slice out of its slot, it seems to float out on its own. West Portal's brioche is not a special-occasion loaf like Knead's awesome brioche ― there will be no butter beading up on the surface of your table should you set it down ― but that's not what you want on a Tuesday morning. You want a smear of butter, maybe a thin gloss of honey, and the occasional sweet pop of sugar. Most of all, what you want from a toasted piece of brioche is that feathery, crumbling sort of crunch when you bite into it, and a drift of crumbs on the table when you're done.