Earlier this week, while pondering the ethereal concha roll (why is perfection so out of reach?), I suddenly had an epiphany. Why am I limiting myself? I could be searching for the best bakery, while I’m searching for the best concha. The best bisquet. The best cuernito. The best… pan de muerto.
The list might be longer than I thought. I’m gonna need a bigger pair of pants.
Suddenly fueled up about having a purpose in life, I hit the streets on Tuesday with a taxi driver I like, Memo. We hit seven bakeries in three hours, and finished at my friend Julie’s house for the final taste-test.
Did anyone best Bondy, La Reina de la Concha? You’ll have to find out.
First Stop: Pastelería Suiza, 7 Parque Espana, Col. Condesa
The good: Suiza leans on the semi-fancy side, with trays of cream-frosted cakes, pastries with cherries on top, pies, cookies arranged in pretty cellophane packages, and even chocolate Dia de los Muertos skulls. Out of the sweet bread, I picked a pan de muerto and a muffin stuffed with cheese.
The bad: When I asked for the conchas, an employee told me they’d be coming out of the oven en “un rato.” I said, How long? She got snippy and said, “It isn’t a question of how long. They’ll be out soon.” Ooookay lady. Turns out they weren’t coming out until later that afternoon, so I didn’t get to try one.
Overall concha score: N/A
Overall bakery score: 2.5 out of 5. The pan de muerto, while it looked good, was flavorless, like eating fuzz. Somehow the muffin managed to have no personality either, despite being stuffed with cheese.
Second stop: Pastelería La Gran Via, Amsterdam 288, esq. con Sonora, Col. Condesa
The good: Even smaller than Suiza, you pretty much choose bread or bread here. I asked the employee about the conchas, and she said they’d just come out of the oven at 9:30. I arrived at 10:30 and bought a concha and a cuernito.
The bad: You can’t buy a chocolate skull here, but who cares.
(As an aside, I was so enamored of the somewhat-lumpy concha, I forgot to take a picture of the cuernito.)
Overall concha score: 3.5. Gran Via’s conchas had a dense, sweet crumb that actually tasted like something. (Butter, maybe?) Julie’s take: “I would actually eat this.”
Overall bakery score: 3.5 stars. I’d go back, if I wanted to pick up some special sweet bread for friends. The cuernito was light and buttery too. Mmmm.
Third stop: La Casa del Pan, Avda. Mexico 25, Col. Coyoacán
The good: Oh god, I adored this place. (Sorry I didn’t get closer — felt extremely conspicuous with my camera.) They had a neat little bohemian logo, and tables spilled out over the sidewalk. Inside the tiny cafe area, the bread — most of it whole-wheat! — sat comfortably in linen-lined baskets. I wanted to buy everything, but I picked a cuernito stuffed with blackberries and cheese, a whole-wheat bisquet and a whole-wheat chocolate concha. Willfully ignored the whole-wheat sweet potato empanadas.
The bad: When we got back to Julie’s house to try the concha, we discovered… it was odd. Like, chewy. And cinnamony. Props to Casa del Pan for creating a whole-wheat concha, but this thing was a whole other species. And the cuernito was stuffed with plain old cream cheese. I’d hoped for something thicker, like what’s inside a danish.
Overall concha score: 3.5 for creativity. If we are talking true concha compatibility, probably 2. Julie’s take: “This would dip well with coffee, and not fall apart.” And it’s less calories.
Overall bakery score: 4.5, just because I dig their style, and the whole-wheat thing. I’m a hippie, I admit it.
Fourth stop: La Casita del Pan, Miguel Angel Quevedo 951, before Division del Norte and in front of the Office Max, Col. Coyoacán
The good: A super friendly employee patiently explained to me what I was buying: A “vela de novia,” or pastry tube stuffed with cheese; a “delicia,” or cookie filled with butter and slathered in chocolate on one side; a pan de muerto (I knew what that was) and a concha.
The bad: The concha tasted like a hamburger bun. Nice and fluffy, but not meant to exist on its own.
Overall concha score: 2.5
Overall bakery score: 3, with maybe an extra half-star for the surprisingly stunning pan de muerto. It was thick, orangey, moist. I want to buy all my PDMs here.
Fifth Stop: Pastelería Elizondo, 963 Ejército Nacional, Col. Polanco
The good: This place is huge, and one of those spots where bakery-porn lovers want to spend two hours. (Yes, I wanted to spend two hours there.) Row after row of pan dulce, cakes, bolillos and doughnuts stretched across the store. They even had a case full of gelatin creatures, in various animal shapes. I bought a ladrillo, which I think is some type of molasses cake, frosted in chocolate; a concha and a pan de muerto.
The bad: Lovin’ the chocolate on the ladrillo, but the cake itself was so boring, I could have practically fallen asleep. What about some spices up in here? Ever heard of clove? Cinnamon? The concha was okay. The topping had the right crunch. Julie: “Above average, but not amazing.”
Overall concha score: 3 stars
Overall bakery score: 3 stars. The pan de muerto was amazingly soft, and I wanted to lay my head against it. Too bad it had a weird, slick-butter aftertaste.
Sixth stop: Saks, Lamartine 526, esq. con Campos Eliseos, Col. Polanco
The good: Friends have recommended Saks’ conchas, but I wasn’t sure if the place offered sweet bread to-go, since it’s a restaurant. Luckily, the friendly hostess showed me to the back counter, where rows of sweet bread rested on baking sheets. Julie raved about the corn muffins, so we picked two of those, a sugary twisty thing covered in nuts, and a concha to go.
The bad: Back at Julie’s, we tried the concha first, and part of me wanted to spit it out. (Sorry, I’m juvenile.) The topping hinted of something I’d clean the floors with. I think there was anise in there somewhere, but I didn’t want to take another bite to figure it out.
Overall concha score: 2. (Julie gave it 1.5.)
Overall bakery score: I don’t necessarily know on this one. The sugary twisty thing had a strange smoky, meaty taste (Julie said: “This tastes like Totinos sausage pizza”), but the corn muffins rocked. It was like corn pudding in a muffin shape — spongey, hefty, and intensely corn-y.
Here’s one more photo, because you seriously have to see.
Seventh and last stop: Da Silva, Oscar Wilde 12, in the Centro de Polanco, Col. Polanco
The good: DaSilva is a sophisticated, French-inspired bakery boutique. Women with Tori Burch shoes shop here. (I saw one.) They’ve got all kinds of crusty artisan breads, and baguettes, pretzels, macarons, chocolates. And conchas.
The bad: The space is the size of a Polanco mansion’s walk-in closet, so be careful where you wield those tongs.
Overall concha score: 4. The topping was unusually crunchy, almost cracker-crunchy. I liked it. And it had a light, subtle taste. It’s didn’t bop you over the head with the fact that it’s made with butter. Actually, if this was French-made concha, I’m sure it was bored with this entire, banal contest. I’m sure it sighed and said, “Here I am. Love me or not. It’s your choice.” We chose love.
Overall bakery score: 4.5. I adore stylish bakeries. Whenever I get some faux Tori shoes, I am so going here. (Or next time I want some really good, crusty bread. And a pretzel.)
Best concha out of the places visited: By a sliver, DaSilva; 2nd place, Pastelería La Gran Via
Honorable mention for creativity: Casa Del Pan
Best bakery: DaSilva by a hair, then Casa Del Pan
Not visited today, but still the winner of them all: Bondy, Galileo 38, Col. Polanco
Pics of the two winning conchas, who are clearly exhausted after such a long day:
Ok, so help me, you guys. Where should I go for round 3? You know this ain’t over.