South End Buttery

Originally published 03/01/2014

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You may stumble upon South End Buttery Bakery and Café as you wander through streets lined with idyllic brownstone townhouses in the South End neighborhood of Boston.  I’ve visited it about once per year over the past four years – once for dinner and three times for their weekend brunch.  It’s always bustling with people.

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Buttery Bakery Basket brimming with banana walnut bread, butterscotch scones, and blueberry muffins
Today was a brunch day.  I started with the Buttery Bakery Basket, since I can’t resist a triple alliteration.  It came with pieces of banana walnut bread, blueberry muffin, and butterscotch scone, as well as butter and raspberry jam to spread.  The muffin was full of plump blueberries, the banana bread had whole, crunchy walnuts on top, and the scone contained sporadic* pockets of butterscotch (I wish they had been more frequent) that added staccatos of brown-sugary flavor and richness to an otherwise mild dough.  The butterscotch scone was definitely the most surprising of the three items, and it took several bites to identify it.  I’m a huge fan of butterscotch and recently experimented with making the sauce from scratch, so I would definitely love to see this flavor offered at bakeries more often (or ever)!

*This adjective is brought to you by the movie, Clueless (1995).  As if I would consult another source to expand my vocabulary.
Cher: Sporadically.  It means once in a while.  Try to use it in a sentence.
Josh: [later] Be seeing you.
Tai: Yeah, I hope not sporadically.

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Strawberries and Cream Brioche French Toast

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Chocolate Chip Banana Pancakes (they should really title it, “Pancakes Topped with Bananas and Chocolate Chips” though)

I tasted two of the brunch “entrées” (read: socially sanctioned desserts as a meal), and both were generously portioned and well-executed.  The brioche french toast was topped with strawberries, strawberry-flavored whipped cream, sliced almonds, and powdered sugar, and the pancakes were topped with sliced bananas, chocolate chips, whipped cream, and powdered sugar.  Both were served with a side of real maple syrup to pour as desired.  I was very happy to see that they used real, homemade whipped cream, since many establishments opt for variations of oil-based whipped topping and spray whipped cream.  South End Buttery took it to another level by actually flavoring its whipped cream with strawberries to accompany one of its dishes.  I will say that incorporating the bananas and chocolate chips into the pancake batter would have really kicked this second dish up a notch.  The plain pancakes were fluffy and perfectly acceptable, but cooking the pancakes on the griddle with the bananas and chocolate chips already inside would have given them a stronger banana flavor and assured that all of the chocolate chips began to melt.

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Shelves once stocked with pastry!  (Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes – 2nd row, center)

After I finished my late brunch, I headed up to the bakery area to get a treat to go.  They were sold out of most items by this point, so I had no trouble selecting the salted caramel cupcake.  The chocolate cake was moist and flavorful and the chocolate buttercream was good as well, but the best part by far was the homemade caramel sauce and the sprinkle of sea salt to complete the contrast in flavors.  It would be a great idea to fill the cupcake with salted caramel sauce in addition to the caramel well within the icing swirl, because the caramel is just too good not to be included in every bite.

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Each time I dine at South End Buttery, I notice little changes.  A new location pops up in the South End that confuses me as I walk to the original (Nota bene: it’s conveniently close by if the Shawmut location runs out of your Pastry of Choice).  The cream on the french toast shows up tinted pink and flavored with strawberries even though it was plain the last time I was there.  The cupcakes that were topped with heaps of piped Swiss Meringue Buttercream the last time I checked seem smaller and simpler.  Most of these changes are welcome (Expansion – yay!  Adventurous uses of whipped cream – double yay!), but it is always a disappointment when you return to an old favorite only to find that the elements that made it so special and memorable have been replaced.  For now, South End Buttery has not veered too far from the food and baked goods that keep me coming back.  I’m curious what differences I’ll notice during my next annual visit though!  I suppose that gradual evolution is a natural (and desired) part of a restaurant’s life cycle – even if it’s sometimes to my dismay!
South End Buttery: http://www.southendbuttery.com
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