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Bouchon Bakery: A happy place for birds and humans

A peek inside a bakery case at Bouchon Bakery.
Photo by Kevin Nelson

It is morning in Napa Valley and you are in the mood for something tasty, perhaps a flaky and fresh croissant. What do you do?

Get thee to the Bouchon Bakery.

Now it is afternoon. Only now your sweet tooth has emerged and it is craving satisfaction in the form of a cookie…or brownie…or even a…macaroon. Yes, a macaroon! What to do then?

Same answer: Get thee to the Bouchon Bakery!

Of course, this hardly represents news, a travel tip you will find nowhere else. This Yountville bakery, like the bistro of the same name next to it, is one of those lovely flowers in the culinary garden of superstar chef Thomas Keller. (More Yountville blooms of Keller’s: Ad Hoc and the French Laundry.) The place has been, as they say, discovered.

Which means that Bouchon Bakery frequently resembles your local Cineplex on opening night of the latest installment of “Hunger Games.” There is a line out front, sometimes a very long one. To date no one has spent the night camped out in a sleeping bag to be first to sample the next morning’s macaroons, but just you wait.

The bakery’s popularity and its cozy interior also mean that this is not a place for Hamlet-like indecision in choosing what you’d like to have. “What else?” asked the clerk who waited on me one recent Thursday, needing an urgent reply because of the other supplicants behind me. “Is that it?”

“Uh, well, no. I’ll have four bouchons too, please.”

One of the bakery’s problems, if you want to call it a problem, which it isn’t, is that there are so many delicious-looking items to choose from that you tend to order more than you planned when you walked in. My order included a blueberry muffin ($2.75), epi crown bread ($2.75), raisin pastry ($3.25), croissant ($3.25), chocolate croissant ($3.50), chocolate macaroon ($3.50), cheese Danish ($3.75), four chocolate bouchons ($2 apiece)—and I still felt like I shortchanged myself, that I should have bought more and commanded still more of that clerk’s precious time.

(On a personal note, Bouchon Bakery is known in the valley for its macaroons but I personally liked the bouchons—bite-sized explosions of chocolate brownie goodness.)

As shocking as this may be to some, on that recent Thursday morning there actually was no line at the bakery. (The secret may be to arrive early; I was there around 9 a.m.) I more or less walked in and out in a matter of minutes. There are some benches and tables in the patio and sidewalk area outside. A few shade trees, too. I found a spot on a bench and bit into a muffin with berries buried inside like hidden treasure.

Several birds were enjoying a morning snack as well, yakking to one another and strutting under and around my legs in search of crumbs on the ground. Bouchon Bakery has to be crumb paradise in the aviary world. Birds fly in from all over to dine there.

Unless you have feathers Bouchon Bakery is no place to spend the day; it is, after all, only a bakery. But one of its muffins or pastries can help your morning take flight. 6528 Washington Street, Yountville. Daily, 7 a.m.-7 p..m. 707-944-2253.

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