BY JOHN BIRDSALL
From now till May 18, when our Best of San Francisco 2011 issue hits the free boxes, SF Weekly's food blog is counting down the 92 best things to eat and drink in San Francisco, culled from fine-dining restaurants, food trucks, bars, pastry shops, and neighborhood dives. Here's a taste — No. 70, Earl Darny's blackstrap molasses gingerbread from Lotta's Bakery. To see more of our favorites, go to SfoodieSF.com, and click on the icon for SFoodie's 92.
Blackstrap Molasses Gingerbread
By JOHN BIRDSALL
Small, owlish Earl Darny does American baking like few pastry chefs in San Francisco: flaky, butter-crust pies with fruit he sources from Heart of the City farmers' market; spiral cinnamon rolls; plump layer cakes. But in the four years since Darny opened Lotta's Bakery, he's gotten almost exactly zero notice from the local food press.
Maybe it's because so much of what Darny bakes has the throwback feel of the well loved. "Nobody does stuff about you unless you're the hot ticket," Darny says in a matter-of-fact voice, and Lotta's — which takes its name both from famed S.F. personality Lotta Crabtree and Darny's drag alter ego, Lotta Lust — is definitely not the hot ticket. The dominant color here is a grandma shade of cake-box pink. And because Darny shares the place with Sweet Antiques, which belongs to his life partner, Richard Pullano, one side of the room is crammed with shiny Deco toasters, a sleek ceramic panther from the 1940s, and scores of other vintage chotchkes.
Darny's amazing blackstrap molasses gingerbread, too, is grounded in the past. The recipe comes from alpha blogger David Lebovitz, who developed it when he was pastry chef at long-defunct Monsoon. The inch-and-a-half slabs Darny cuts from the loaf are sticky and black, minutely whiskery with fresh ginger fibers, and with a snarly, nearly smoky taste of the blackstrap, the dregs of sugar refining. The thing is almost savage in its depth of flavor and the dankness of its crumb, served up in the city's frilliest pastry shop.
Lotta's Bakery: 1720 Polk (at Clay),359-9039.