Café Demitasse in downtown Los Angeles has always had outstanding coffee. But recently, when a superior chocolate chip cookie arrived with the cups of siphon coffee and tea and hot chocolate - and a certain 13-year-old kid pronounced it not only "better than yours, sorry," but the best she'd ever had - we thought we'd track down the cookie in question. A very large cookie, by the way, loaded with Guittard chocolate, baked to a crisp amber exterior, yet still happily chewy inside.
Follow the cookie crumbs up past Pasadena into the foothills of Sierra Madre and under the looming San Gabriels, where Poppy Cake Baking Company has been baking cookies and bread and cakes and chocolate croissants and many other items since December, when it took over the former Wildflour Baking Co. operation.
Brittainy and Matt Turnquist, who met while they were in cooking school at the CIA in New York, bought out the owner of Wildflour, who retired at the end of last year. The Turnquists took over managing the previous bakery toward the end, so the turnover was a pretty seamless one. As for why the bucolic foothills of Sierra Madre, it's Brittainy Turnquist's hometown.
Although the physical space is the same neighborhood favorite, what's coming out of the ovens is new. Brittainy, who worked in the pastry kitchen of Thomas Keller's Bouchon in Yountville and helped open Farmshop in Brentwood, brought pastry chef Ashley Jacoby with her from Farmshop. They're baking breads daily, including baguettes, sourdough boules, ficelles, rosemary lemon boules and an earthy multigrain boule. For the country white, rosemary lemon and mulitgrain breads, Jacoby is using rye flour milled by nearby Grist & Toll, whose flours are for sale in the shop.
Other than trays of cookies - including the chocolate chip, which are exceptionally good - and baskets of bread, Poppy Cake bakes decorated cakes on order, muffins, scones, Danishes, croissants - including a Valrhona chocolate croissant - brownies, date-bran muffins and lemon bars.
If you spend some time lingering over your cup of Demitasse coffee (also on sale in bags, maybe in a cookie-for-coffee barter system), you'll probably hear the loud engines of the bread-slicing machine, which is not to say that you should get your bread sliced for you (no), but that you can order a sandwich, as the bakery makes a number of them, including an Italian iteration made with Fra' Mani salumi.
The bakery opens every morning at 8 a.m. (hours soon will be even earlier). There's free street parking, a spacious front room and a counter by the huge windows to eat, as well as cases of both pastries and prepared foods, and other things to buy, like Rancho Gordo beans, flour, coffee and tea.
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And then there's that freshly baked bread, which is no small thing considering that the closest alternative is Sumi Chang's Europane in Pasadena, or maybe Bread Lounge downtown. If you like to hike in the San Gabriels, baguettes fit nicely in backpacks and Poppy Cake has terrific dog biscuits up by the counter.