Sunday, February 19, 2006

Upper Crust Bakery

She: We turned to the Upper Crust Bakery (4508 Burnet Rd., Austin, TX) this morning for a late breakfast. The verdict? It's a great, affordable breakfast option for pastry-loving Austinites.

With two glass cases full of goodies to choose from, we picked the Strawberry Danish, the Cinnamon Roll, and for comparison to Houston's Croissant Brioche, an almond croissant and chocolate croissant equivalent (which go by different, fancier names at the UCB). All were very tasty, especially the Cinnamon Roll, which is apparently their most popular specialty for good reason. Not too sweet, it had a good combination of textures (a bit toasted and crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside) with a great cinnamon taste. He and I are planning on getting a few more in the future.

The croissants were also very good pastries, although not quite as good as Croissant Brioche's. To be fair, the UCB croissants are not really so much "croissants" as they are just really tasty, non-croissant pastries. That is to say, if you order these pastries not expecting them to taste like croissants, they are delicious and a great interpretation of the traditional combinations of chocolate (or almonds), flour, sugar, eggs, etc. I especially liked how the chocolate "croissant" had cinnamon and sugar on top--an interesting twist on the standard chocolate pastry.

The Strawberry Danish was similarly good, although not as interesting as the Cinnamon Roll or croissants. I ordered it primarily because of the fresh strawberries on top. It was a nice pastry, although I'd probably rather eat it for dessert than for breakfast.

The best part? The breakfast tab came up to less than $10 for four pastries and two bottomless mugs of coffee--two thirds the price of breakfast at Croissant Brioche. UCB will definitely get more business from us in the future. On the to-try list: their sandwiches (I'm on a quest to find good chicken salad) and cakes (which can be customized for birthdays and other occasions). If those menu items are even half as good as the pastries, they should be very good indeed.

He: I don't have much to add to this. Their cinnamon roll is an interesting and tasty variation on the usual take. UCB's version is appealing in part because of what is missing: It contains no raisins and instead of the common sugar glazing it has a light sprinkling of granular sugar and cinnamon. UCB bakes the rolls in muffin tins to give the outside its crisp texture. The dough is actually a little salty, which provides a nice counterpoint to the sugar and cinnamon. I will definitely come back for more of these.

The rest of the pastries were necent, but not remarkable in any way. I expect croissants to be flakey and UCB's were not. The cinnamon on the chocolate croissant redeemed it somewhat, but it would be better if they called these things something else to manage expectations better. The Danish was all right, but again nothing special.

I didn't care of the almond croissant very much. It had the same disappointing non-flaky texture as the chocolate one. The filling consisted almost exclusively of sliced almonds. It was a case of 'too much of a good thing.' A whole mouth full of almonds is not my idea of an ideal breakfast experience.

Despite the disappointing almond croissant, there will definitely be a next time. Many of the things on the menu sounded good enough to try and we must have more cinnamon rolls. UCB is a friendly place to spend a leisurely morning. They even have decent coffee that is a little gentler than the usual Starbucks brew.

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