Wednesday, June 23, 2010

No gluten, no dairy: My search for the perfect éclair

Recently I met a doctor who told me, "The first thing that I do when I get a new patient is to take him entirely off gluten and dairy for a month. And chances are good that, if the patient takes my advice, whatever symptoms he has will improve." I also read where autistic children do better without dairy products or gluten.

Okay. I've got digestive problems. I'll try it. It works.

But then I ran into a really big snag -- Solvang. You just can't visit the Danish pastry capital of America without having an
éclair. And what an eclair it was too! Seven inches long, covered with chocolate, with both custard AND whipped cream for filling -- and with a yummy cherry sauce in there too.

Sometimes you just gotta break down and go off your diet.

Even back home in Berkeley and safely back on my "no gluten, no dairy" diet, I still kept having dreams and fantasies about that perfect Solvang
éclair. What to do? You really can't justify driving 250 miles just to score another éclair. Can you?

So I started Googling around for a list of bakeries in Berkeley. Berkeley has everything, right?

Andronico's had an
éclair on offer but it was one of those fancy gourmet eclairs and just wasn't squishy enough.

Telegraph Avenue's famous Eclair Bakery had gone out of business -- and the Pastry King across from the Med only sold muffins and donuts.

"Love At First Bite" only sold cupcakes. Sweet Adeline didn't carry eclairs. Crixa, that fabulous bakery around the corner from me where visual masterpiece cakes are lovingly created by hand, also didn't carry eclairs. Rats.

Hopkins Street Bakery only carried
éclairs with custard filling. I was only interested in ones with whipped cream.

Then there was Massa's. Their entry into my
éclair sweepstakes was GREEN. It was a very interesting éclair, with pink marzipan flowers on top and flavored with lemon zest. I'm glad I bought it. However, it was NOT a real éclair.

Virginia Bakery scored triumphant points with a good-looking, good-tasting traditional old-fashioned whipped cream

And Toots Sweet? I almost forgot about Toots Sweet but we were driving back from touring the Red Oak Victory ship that is part of the Rosie the Riveter Home Front national park in Richmond and we drove by Toots Sweet. "Have any
éclairs?" I asked.

"We're sold out now but will have some tomorrow. Our customers say that they are very good."

Even the Berkeley Bowl offered a yummy-looking mini-éclair -- but it too was only custard.

But the winner of my grand search for the perfect éclair? This will come as no surprise to residents of Berkeley. It was La Farine. OMG. They used both whipping cream and custard. But what really tipped the scales in their favor was that they used dark chocolate -- even better than Solvang!

PS: I'm currently reading some books by futurist James Howard Kunstler, including "The Long Emergency" and "World Made By Hand". In the future, Kunstler predicts, the demise of oil and gasoline will produce a society with no cars and no electricity. The Industrial Revolution will have become merely a small blip in the time-line of human history.

Also, the London Daily Mail has just reported that, "A solar superstorm could send us back into the dark ages -- and one is due in just three years: Within an hour, large parts of Britain are without power. By midnight, every mobile network is down and the internet is dying. Television -- terrestrial and satellite -- blinks off the air. Radio is reduced to a burst of static." And this black-out could go on for two or three years.

What does all this mean for the future of civilization? It means that we all need to run out and stock up on éclairs right NOW -- while our refrigerators are still running. At the very least, we need to start stocking up on our MEMORIES of éclairs.

PPS: The Free Palestine Movement (, famous for organizing the first boats to relieve Israel's brutal and illegal blockade of Gaza, just asked me to help them man their table at the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit. So I'm there now. Stop by my booth and I'll hand you a brochure.