Oh. Oh you guys. Something wondrous and dangerous and delicious and horrible has happened. William Werner has returned. And I am doomed.
Many of you remember Werner's last venture, Tell Tale Preserve Company. Tell Tale made a splash with its designerly, vintage-inflected aesthetic as well as with Werner's exquisite pastries and confections. While building momentum to open a brick-and-mortar space on tony Maiden Lane, Tell Tale sold their wares via pop-up "trunk shows," at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and via a rather clever CSA program. For me, the standout product was Tell Tale's confiture café au lait, creamy and sweet, solid at room temp but melted like soft butter on warm toast. That is, when I wasn't eating it by the spoonful.
Alas, Tell Tale withered on the vine, the Maiden Lane space never to be, and the world was left devoid of Werner's sweet gifts. On the upside, my trajectory toward 300 pounds was averted at that moment.
Werner's phoenix has risen from the ashes. Gone is Tell Tale's twee retro vibe. In its stead is a leaner, cleaner brand, Craftsman & Wolves. Ladies-who-lunch-ish Maiden Lane is replaced with hipster-centric Valencia Street. And the attention is turned to Werner's core craft: Pastry.
And I am doomed.
Last Friday, the always adorable kitchenware store Pot + Pantry hosted a pop-up for Craftsman & Wolves. I guess it's something about the noun-additive-conjunction-noun affinity, as well as geographic proximity, that brought them together.
I've been to Pot + Pantry many times before. In fact, when they were still in their old space on 22nd Street in Noe-adjacent Mission, I did a quickie infusions and liqueurs demo for another pop-up, that time for my friend Nicole's homesteading one-stop shop FARMcurious. That day, my friend Flynn and I dubbed Pot + Pantry's lovingly curated selection of vintage and covetably contemporary kitchen products "nouveau retro." Recently, she took over the former space of 18 Reasons, right in the gourmet ghetto near Tartine, Bi-Rite and all that foodie jazz. Do go check it out.
As if Pot + Pantry wasn't already a wallet-emptying black hole, with gorgeous kitchenwares at every turn, on this day it was layered with a different kind of temptation. Sweet temptation.
But I was holding out. Sugary treats I can easily resist; I was born with a fairly numb sweet tooth. It's not that I don't enjoy them. Rather, I just gravitate toward savories first. And so I made a beeline to the back, where I caught up with Donna and William. And William's baked goods. My eye immediately tracked to the plate of laminated pastries.
Yeah, that's right, pain au cochon. Shaped like a classic pain au chocolat, only with prosciutto. This man speaks my language. That was the last one of the day, and I had to make it mine, immediately adding inches to my waistline.
But that was not the main attraction. Tell Tale's signature pastry was the Rebel Within, a savory muffin with ham and, as if magically laid by some pastry fairy, an entire, soft-set boiled egg nested inside. I am not making this up.
Obliging my nosy probing, William told me that they boil farm-fresh eggs for five to six minutes, just enough for the soft set, peel them, then set them in the batter, which cooks in an oven that starts hot and cools. All I know is that they are perfect. And maybe fattening. But who cares?
The Rebel Within may have been his breakout pastry, but it served as a lauching pad for his new masterpiece, the Devil Inside. This little piece of evil genius is a rich chocolate brownie with a salty toffee top; inside is a creamy chocolate pudding and foie effing gras.
They were momentarily out of them when I was there, but I pre-invested and patiently waited for the next delivery of devils. And then they arrived. And then this happened.
I think the excitement of anticipating what I was about to put in my mouth actually caused the Heat Miser-esque do you see here. I definitely know that actually eating it brought me several steps closer to my anti-goal of reaching 300 pounds.
But it was so worth it. It's rich, but not cloying. You expect the foie to be the attention-hogging superstar, but it actually plays along nicely, harmonizing with the bitterness of the chocolate and the salty crackly of the toffee. It was more of a light-bulb moment: Of course chocolate and foie gras belong together! Duh!
Meanwhile, William foisted even more treats on me, like a half a caramelized hazelnut financier, some chocolate white shoyu caramels and smoked almond brittle. That is, when he wasn't successfully selling his wares to others.
Now here's the real secret reason why Craftsman & Wolves will damn me to a piano-sized coffin. Remember how I said my sweet tooth is dead inside? C&W's pastries are amazingly, wonderfully undersweet. Of course the Rebel Within is designed to be such, but the Devil Inside, and heck, even the caramels and brittle, harbor just enough sweetness to do their jobs. Think of it: Brittle that isn't tooth-achingly sweet!
Hence, I am doomed. As long as there are gorgeous, delicious pastries and candies that manage to appeal to my savory side, I will not just eat them, but seek them out. I can only hope that his much-deserved popularity will bring crowds so great that my impatience will outweigh my cravings. Only time will tell.
Craftsman & Wolves
746 Valencia St (between 18th/19th)
Pot + Pantry
593 Guerrero St (at 18th)