Last night I took a champagne date on a tour of the newest La Boulange café. It’s on the fourth floor of the Westfield Centre, where the fancy eateries (Cupola Pizzeria, Lark Creek Steak, Straits) are, but La Boulange du Dome is right smack under the mall’s spherical skylight, as the name suggests. This is the 13th SF location opened by head baker and founder Pascal Rigo, who started the French cafe chain in 1999.
The evening’s main event was the unveiling and tasting of four desserts which will only be available at du Dome. Not at any Starbucks (more on that later), not at any other La Boulange café. So, let me tell you why you’re not too hipster for a trip to the mall: The wine list, the hazelnut flavor of the choux choux (pronounced shoo-shoo), ice cream stuffed profiteroles drizzled in caramel, the La Boulange sundae with Three Twins Strawberry Je Ne Sais Quoi ice cream, and its signature dessert, le Dome.
Le Dome is very popular in France, but Pascal swapped the traditional heavy butter cream filling for airy, moussy hazelnut cream. It’s coated with Colombian chocolate or white chocolate shavings with a thin wafer and cream center. I took a small bite of le Dome (I was trying to savor it!) and Pascal worried I didn’t like it. No, no, Pascal. So I shoved the palm-sized ball into my mouth. Each dessert is sharable in French, pronounced shove-able, in American.
Back to the Starbucks thing. You’ve probably heard La Boulange was bought by Starbucks earlier this month, and as much as we love to hate the super-chain, I for one, can appreciate them seeking a local mastermind to up their pastry game, and that they’re vowing to introduce more natural pastries in their stores. They gave him no guidelines, just handed over the reigns to Pascal, who, by the way, is one of the nicest proprietors I’ve had the chance to chat up lately. Pascal says he takes the opportunity as a huge compliment. La Boulange pastries, both sweet and savory, will be in eight SF Starbucks by the end of August and will gradually make it into stores nationwide.
La Boulange du Dome opens on Monday, June 25.
All photos by Summer Sewell