Despite being a food-obsessed culture, Australia has no true defining cuisine of its own. Massive immigrant populations (Asian, Middle Eastern, Greek and Italian), as well as the country's wealth of seafood, have influenced burgeoning New Australian restaurants, but the traditional food of Australia is basically British food: steak, sausages, fish and chips, boiled veggies, etc.
Australia can claim a few things as its own. Because much of the Italian immigration to Australia happened after the invention of the espresso machine (unlike Italian-Americans, who mainly came to the United States before the machine was invented), many Italians brought machines with them, and Australia has its own coffee culture that has developed over the last 100 years. It's close to Europe in many ways but also distinct.
Also, there's a culture of snack food and pastry-related items that are wholly Australian. The most famous of these is the meat pie: ground beef in gravy in a pie shell, usually in an individual-sized serving. There are also sausage rolls, or sausage meat wrapped in puff pastry, and pasties, which are basically another kind of pie, although usually with some veggies in with the meat and shaped more like a calzone.
And, of course, there's Vegemite.
Bronzed Aussie, a new shop downtown, brings the pies and the coffee -- yes, even the Vegemite -- of Australia to L.A. It's a small shop, tucked into the side of a courtyard on the interior of a block on Los Angeles Street. In the morning, they serve breakfast pies (which are basically mini quiches), sausage rolls and Vegemite toast, along with Australian coffee: flat whites (like a latte with no foam and less milk), long blacks (similar to an Americano) and cappuccino.
They also serve lamingtons, the best-seller at any Australian bake sale. A lamington is a square of yellow cake, soaked in chocolate and then rolled in coconut.
At 10 a.m. the savory meat pies come out of the oven, or you can buy them frozen and reheat them at home.
These are the foods of my childhood, and they taste of pure nostalgia to me. I couldn't say how much they might appeal to the greater population, though the coffee is damn good. The regular meat pie was a little less spiced and gravied than the best pies, but it was also far better than the crappy, mass-produced pies you can get at every petrol station in Australia. I didn't try the Vegemite toast, mainly because I eat it most mornings for breakfast at home.
The store is owned by Samantha Bryan, an Australian who has lived in the United States for six years and missed the food of her homeland. She brought in chef Lincoln Smith, also an Australian, to helm the kitchen. Bryan says they may start serving certain iconic Australian pastries that they can't make daily -- like pavlova, the meringue and fruit pie for which I never had any fondness -- on rotating Saturdays.
Los Angeles is home to the cuisines of so many world cultures; it's also home to a ton of Australians. It was only a matter of time before pies and Vegemite found their place in our culinary patchwork.
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