Category Archives: Bakeries

Great Cheap Eats in Los Angeles

Finally -- the elusive fresh strawberry donut at The Donut Man!

Finally — the elusive fresh strawberry donut at The Donut Man!

 

On a recent trip down to Los Angeles, I had a chance to try some new favorite eats. All satisfying. All affordable, too. The best kind, don’t you, think?

Donut Nirvana

I’d heard about it, seen pics online and salivated over it on the Food Network. But try as I might, I never seemed to be in Los Angeles at the right time of year to snag a fresh strawberry donut at The Donut Man in Glendora.

Until this trip.

Let me tell you, it was definitely worth the wait and lived up to all the hype.

Imagine a fresh brioche donut split in half, then stuffed to the gills with fresh, juicy whole strawberries that have been macerated in just a smidge of syrup.

What I love is that it’s not overly sweet at all, thanks to the fact that the donut, itself, is not glazed. As a result, the flavor of the berries shine through.

It’s sort of like strawberry shortcake. Only better.

Of course, after making the drive, you've got to get more than one donut. You've got to get a box-load.

Of course, after making the drive, you’ve got to get more than one donut. You’ve got to get a box-load.

A beloved institution for more than 40 years, The Donut Man is sort of in the middle of nowhere. It’s essentially a humble kiosk with a walk-up window in a parking lot shared by a martial arts school, of all things.

If you’re anywhere in the vicinity, do make the drive.

Now, if I can only make it back one later in the summer when the fresh peach donut is available. Yes, same as the strawberry one, but with fresh slices of yellow peaches instead. That’s definitely worth making a return trip.

Grand Central Market is Plenty Grand

Think the Ferry Building in San Francisco — but a version that keeps it a little more real.

That’s Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles, a market arcade that originally opened in 1917, but was infused with new life two years ago.

Sure, there are upscale food vendors now such as Belcampo Meat Co., and Bombo, esteemed Chef Mark Peel’s seafood-centric cafe.

Inside Grand Central Market.

Inside Grand Central Market.

But there are also old-school, ethnic outposts such as China Cafe, which dishes up chop suey and egg fo yeung; Valeria’s, which offers a well-stocked Latin pantry of items, including fresh mole pastes to take home to cook with; and La Casa Verde, a large produce market with very down-to-earth prices.

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A Taste of Luxe at Alexander’s Patisserie

Presenting L'Orange from Alexander's Patisserie.

Presenting L’Orange from Alexander’s Patisserie.

 

From the lighted, jewelry-like display cases to the tony, studded white leather wingbacks to the French marble tabletops, Alexander’s Patisserie oozes luxury.

The patisserie, which opened last year in downtown Mountain View, is by the team behind Alexander’s Steakhouse in Cupertino and San Francisco, and The Sea by Alexander’s Steakhouse in Palo Alto.

Executive Pastry Chef Dries Delanghe honed his skills at Pierre Herme in Paris before joining the team at Joel Robuchon Restaurant in Las Vegas.

Designed like a high-end boutique.

Designed like a high-end boutique.

Taking a load off in style.

Taking a load off in style.

His pastries are exquisite looking. Individual domes and tarts, perfectly formed and flourished, are displayed like little works of art.

Fortunately, they deliver in taste, too, as I found recently when I purchased a few goodies to take home.

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The Goods on Manresa Bread Bakery

A selection of Manresa Bread specialties: levain (back), kale scone (front left), and chocolate croissant (front right).

A selection of Manresa Bread specialties: levain (back), kale scone (front left), and chocolate croissant (front right).

 

The South Bay’s most anticipated bakery, Manresa Bread, finally opened a week ago, in downtown Los Gatos.

If you think that means bypassing those long, long lines at its stands at the Palo Alto and Campbell farmers markets on Sundays, guess again.

The queue may be shorter at the new bakery, just around the corner from Michelin two-starred Manresa restaurant, but there likely will be one no matter what time you go.

When I got there at 11 a.m. last Friday, there were already half a dozen people in front of me. And the baguettes were already gone.

If you think that was bad, on opening day on Feb. 21, the bakery sold out in just five hours.

Inside the bakery.

Inside the bakery.

All of that speaks to the quality of the artisan products being turned out by Manresa head baker Avery Ruzicka, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute who also trained with master baker Ben Hershberger of Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery and Per Se restaurant.

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Just Try to Resist Huckleberry Bakery’s Chocolate Chunk Muffins

Nothing says "I love you'' like a basket of fresh-baked muffins loaded with chocolate.

Nothing says “I love you” like a basket of fresh-baked muffins loaded with chocolate.

 

There are times when I con myself into thinking muffins are just a smidge healthful.

After all, if I choose one with bran or whole wheat or carrots or blueberries, it’s not so very bad, is it?

I mean, it’s not as indulgent as eating actual cake, right?

Forgettabout it.

Yeah, with “Chocolate Chunk Muffins,” I’m not going to attempt to play that game.

HuckleberryCookbook

That’s because there’s no getting around it. These muffins are rich, tender, and super chocolatey.  They are like chocolate-chip cookies in muffin form.

And they’re every bit as good as that sounds.

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A Visit to Butterscots Bakery in St. Helena

Feast your eyes on the butterscotch-lime croissant at Butterscots.

Feast your eyes on the butterscotch-lime croissant at Butterscots.

 

If you’re a baked-good fiend like I am, Butterscots Bakery in St. Helena is definitely worth a stop when you’re in Wine Country.

It’s part of the Cairdean Estate, which took over and repurposed the old St. Helena Outlet mall. When I dined at the wonderful The Farmer & The Fox restaurant on-site a few months ago, my only regret was that I was there in the evening, when Butterscotts Bakery had already closed.

On a recent trip to Napa, I made up for that by making a beeline to the bakery to buy a couple of goodies. The bakery is overseen by Joseph Humphrey, who is also the executive chef of The Farmer & The Fox. Humphrey, who earned two Michelin stars at The Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena, knows his baked goods. His popovers at the restaurant are the stuff of dreams.

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