As love sometimes does in the Bay Area, it started with Instagram DMs.
In 2016, Paul Feybesse was visiting his wife, Monique, in San Francisco. He was toying with an idea for a tart. Both came from storied kitchens in Europe — the couple met at the highly-decorated Geranium and went on to work for three-Michelin-starred Yannick Alleno — but lacked formal pastry training. Nevertheless, some level of wizardry allowed Paul to construct a sculptured apple tart (nowadays fans know it as the apple rose tart) with thin, crisp slices of apple spiraling over its base. When friends and family started buying it, Monique spread the word on Instagram. “We got big that way,” Monique says. For the longest time, the couple sold their baked goods only through social media and word of mouth, all while working their respective jobs.
But the pandemic came and with Paul on furlough from the Bocuse d’Or and Monique on maternity leave, the couple renewed their focus on the business. They decided to bake bread for neighbors, starting with one bread each morning before expanding into other savories, confectionaries, viennoiseries, as well as an expanded menu of tarts. Tart de Faybesse’s old followers took notice, and the business began to show real promise. “When people were coming all the way from San Jose [to Vallejo] to pick up bread and tarts, we knew it would work,” Monique says.
Here’s another reason: Tart de Feybesse’s tarts are terrific, perhaps the best the Bay Area has ever seen. When I first ordered all their tarts during the pandemic, I marveled at how fastidious the couple’s technique is, the way it mimics high French pastry – a norm where Paul is from – and the ingenuity in recreating delicious classics — all while paying homage to the Bay. One of their tarts, for example, features local stone fruit, the kind that graces farmers markets only fleetingly when in season. “Trying to meet that and putting it in our way is important to us,” Monique says.
The bakery frequently sells out every week. Delivery and wholesale have doubled in the past year, and they’re stretched until they can find retail space to set up shop — hopefully soon.
For a closer look at how a few of the couple’s proudest offerings come together, keep reading.
All the eclairs
Pastry cognoscenti know how difficult it is to perfect eclairs. Paul took months to find the right everything: flour, oven temperature, glaze, even the thickness of the fondant on top. Less fussy ones, according to Paul, look cracked, lack uniformity, or hold a messy glaze.
“Our son and neighbors were overfilled on eclairs for two months,” Paul says. Feedback was swift. “Kids never lie to you. If they don’t like it, they don’t eat it.” But the work paid off. Tart de Feybesse’s eclairs are now perfect, I can attest, with a nail-polish-like glaze, sturdy exterior, and smooth filling. They sell upwards of 500 of them a week.
Another secret: quality. The matcha eclairs rely on ceremonial-grade tea from Asha Tea House, while the tiramisu one uses coffee beans from Ballast, which specializes in Moroccan varietals that are particularly nutty.
Monique’s favorite? The ube or pandan eclairs, which are inspired by the Southeast Asian flavors she grew up on.
Chouquettes resemble miniature cream puffs, though they are more accurately crunchy, hollowed pate a choux covered with pearl sugar. You can find these at some pastry ateliers in the city. But you will not find them in tart form anywhere in the U.S. It’s an original Tarts de Feybesse creation. “One day, Paul was like, ‘We should do a chouquette, but in tart form,’” Monique recalls.
Others may not have made the attempt simply because of how difficult it is to create. Balance is key; if the tart dough is cooked, the choux may not be, given different cooking times. On the other hand, if the tart is removed too early from the oven, the chouquette will collapse. Waiting too long to remove the tart from the oven would also mean the steam won’t release, which results in a less crispy tart.
Paul eventually perfected the timing, and the tart has become a staple original for the couple. It’s filled with salted caramel and cream, with the characteristic swell of crunchy pastry on top.
You wouldn’t guess this tart is made with beer from its appearance — it’s a thing of beauty, with accordion-like piping of cream that encircles the crust. The filling is made with Guinness, reduced by a quarter, then folded into a rich custard.
While most of Tart de Feybesse’s tarts use a pate sucree, made using almond butter, Paul relied on a lesser-known technique from Morocco for this pastry. He uses extra-fine semolina flour, which stabilizes the dough differently and lends a crunchier texture. “We love Moroccan pasties,” Paul says. “It’s not known in the US, but in France, it is common to work with Moroccan people in certain countrysides.”
Tarts de Feybesse takes preorders through the bakery website and delivery partners, Pastel and Locale. Deliveries can be made a maximum of 14 days in advance. Select pastries are sold at Ballast Coffee and at pop-up locations. Follow on Instagram for updates.