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[Originally posted on the Flour + Co blog]

My baked goods acumen is finely tuned, but only after years and thousands of calories devoted to sampling these tasty morsels.  Thank goodness R&D is a never ending duty in this business.  What can I say, I just can’t walk by or hear about a bakery opening and not stop in.  I love feeling the buzz, gazing at the eye-popping displays, breathing in the sweet scents, and, of course, trying a handful of their specialties and my standards.

My strategy?  Plan a walking tour, if possible, with bakery stops along the way (must offset the calorie footprint).  Buy the goods – whichever speak to you.  Plus, have two or three things (your standards) that you always get so that you have a baseline for comparison purposes. Try a bite or two of each, share if possible, and discard the rest.  I know, sometimes easier said than done, but moderation is key to regularly taste testing on the bakery circuit (sounds official, doesn’t it?).   Sure, I end up critiquing the treats, but it’s really all in the name of learning…how could this be better…good idea, but I’d maybe try it like this…yum, how do they do this?!…  Most of all, I love it when I discover a superb example of one of my faves.

So, you know you have a supportive and thoughtful sister when she plans a surprise half day tour to 10 bakeries in Oakland and Berkeley (I live in San Francisco, so am behind on the east bay bakery happenings).  Not to mention, she puts aside her gluten sensitivity for the day and indulges along side me, plus she refuses to let me pay for any of the many, many samples.  Yep, that’s my big sis I’m talking about.  We had a pretty awesome Saturday!  Check out our hop stops below.

ps. I love my job.

“After” all of the tasting…and still standing!

Donut Savant – feels like an old school donut shop, but has a fresh look and an updated lineup.  We love the small donut hole size available for each flavor.  Our personal favorite was the chocolate frosted raised donut.  It’s rich and super chocolatey.

Sweet Adeline – this place has it all and was my favorite of the day.  It’s super cute, there is a hum that makes you not want to leave, and they have a really great assortment of baked goods.  I’d go back anytime – maybe for that crisp I was eying.

just part of their baked goods offering

Cinnaholic – you would never guess this place makes all vegan cinnamon rolls, plus many varieties to choose from.  They are warmed and iced to order.  I’d typically be wary of a vegan baked good, but the original roll we tried was tasty.

Mariposa Baking Co – all gluten free.  This is where they do all of the baking so you feel like you are a part of it when you walk in.  We were itching for something savory at this point and so got a toasted bagel with cream cheese, amongst other things.  The bagel hit the spot and the other sweets were quite delicious too.  There’s nothing wrong with eating gluten free if you have access to this stuff.

A small peek into their offerings

Elmwood Cafe – one of the busier stops, this cafe has a good amount of seating and a good looking brunch menu.  I’d for sure go back for some breakfast.  I would call it a cafe first, but they have quite a selection in their pastry case too.  Their chocolate chip cookie with fleur de sel was delish.

Summer Kitchen – I’m not sure how they do it, but it does feel like summer (on the east coast) when you walk in.  The space is airy and comfortable.  While their selection of baked goods is small, their sandwiches, salads and prepared foods are something to check out.

Nabolom Coop – this place was hopping with live music on Saturday morning.  On the crunchy side, this shop felt like a true Berkeley establishment.  They have a big baked goods selection and nice outdoor seating.

Cream – kind of an amazing idea for a college town.  How could this not be good.  You pick your own cookie (out of 12 or so choices), you pick your own ice cream (out of 12 or so choices), then they assemble it in front of you.  And it’s two dollars.  And the cookies are warm.  And I hear that the line often goes around the block.  We were lucky!

Gaumenkitzel – more of a German restaurant than a bakery, but they do have great big refrigerated case with some German prepared foods and treats.  We stuck with the traditional pretzel and weren’t disappointed.  Must go back for dinner.

Sketch Ice Cream – this place has only been opened for about three weeks and is more than just ice cream.  In fact, I’d call it a coffee shop before an ice cream shop (at first glance).  They have perfectly petite baked treats (the best cookie we had all day), Sightglass coffee, and they make their own soft serve.  There’s nothing wrong with that combo!

the cute menu boards