Hollywood folk soon will have a new place to get their espresso fix, along with a dulce de leche croissant or a concha.
In other words, La Monarca Bakery opens soon at the corner of Sunset Blvd. and Gower Street. This will be its first branch in the heart of L.A. The others are outliers, in Commerce, Huntington Park, South Pasadena and Santa Monica.
Ricardo Cervantes, La Monarca's founder, had been scouting a new location in the area. Then, lucky break, a "for lease" sign went up just as he drove by. Red Ribbon Bakery, the previous occupant, had moved out after 27 years.
Back in August, the Depressed Cake Shop held its first event in Los Angeles, selling bakery items to raise money and awareness for the National Alliance for Mental Illness. The doughnuts and cakes and pies and cookies are all colored gray, via the happy art of pastry decoration and a judicious use of buttercream frosting, a metaphor for the depression that affects so many of us and that is so often stigmatized. Of course, the interiors of the baked goods remain their original vibrant colors, so every time you bite into that lemon meringue pie, or your dinner guests do, you're extending the metaphor along with your sugar rush.
The next Depressed Cake Shop here in L.A. will be in a few weeks, just in time for the holidays. On the evening of Friday, Dec. 13, from 6-9 p.m. and all day Saturday, Dec. 14, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., there will be not only a lot of monochrome baked goods but also a cupcake decorating station, a mini holiday bazaar, free wine -- and a photo booth, so that you'll have pictures of yourself happily eating doughnuts later, when the sugar high is gone and you need a reminder.
There are many holiday indicators in this town, maybe because we don't have all those falling leaves and snowstorms, but over the years one of the best of them has been the holiday baked goods from Hans Röckenwagner and his team. These are not your average Christmas cookies, so don't expect silly shapes and garish frostings.
Instead, the German-born Röckenwagner has made it something of a personal mission to re-create German holiday recipes with a particular historical significance. Seasonal stollen, for example, laden with fruit and dusted with a heavy sugar snowfall, based on the original Dresdner stollen from the 15th century. Elisen lebkuchen, made with a special spice mixture and formed atop imported wafers called oblaten. Glazed spice bars called Basler leckerli. This year he's debuting spekulatius, crunchy, spiced shortbread cookies that are made by pressing the dough into molds carved with figures, like ornate animal crackers.
This year, and available now, you can get all these lovely things at Röckenwagner's two bakery-cafes and his Venice restaurant 3 Square, at the many farmers markets they attend, at Gelson's and Whole Foods -- and, possibly as soon as mid-December, at the new Café Röckenwagner opening at the corner of Barrington and Wilshire in Santa Monica. As of today, they're hoping to open it on Dec. 16.
If you're a Joan's on Third junkie, as many of us in this town are, then news that Joan McNamara was finally expanding to a second location was cause for celebration. Like serious celebration, the kind where you mark off the weeks on your calendar and maybe consider rerouting your daily commute just to be closer to her cupcakes and croissants, her Chinese chicken salads and PB&J on pan de mie and whatever was going on in those deli cases and candy baskets.
For a time it seemed possible that the new Joan's on Third, which is in Studio City in a former post office on Ventura Place, might be open in time for the holidays. McNamara, who was busy behind and in front of the counters at her Third Street location yesterday morning, as she often is, says we'll need to wait until early next year.
If you aren't familiar with Dia de los Muertos, you really should be. Arguably one of the most badass holidays on the planet, it featured dancing skeletons before Social Distortion played their first chord or Tim Burton picked up his first Super 8. This life-affirming Mexican celebration is so aesthetically spellbinding, so unparalleled in originality and so spiritually nuanced, it's no wonder Disney tried to steal the holiday earlier this year. Right.
All throughout Los Angeles during the days surrounding Halloween, there are Dia de los Muertos celebrations bringing in Mexicans, Mexican-Americans and everyone else to witness the beautiful pre-Colombian tradition that honors the dearly departed with ginormous altars (ofrendas) covered in candles, photos, marigolds, sugar skulls and plenty of pan de muerto, or bread of the dead.
The holiday officially lands on the first two days of November -- Nov. 1 traditionally celebrates the spirits of children (dia de los inocentes) and Nov. 2 celebrates the adults.
When Little Flower Candy Company's pastry chef Cecilia Leung was eleven years old, she participated in a school bake sale and bought her very first box of Betty Crocker cake mix. Fast forward a few years -- and time spent in the pastry kitchens of Grace, Spago and Jiraffe -- to the much-loved Pasadena bakery, cafe and candy shop.
You may know Christine Moore's Little Flower Candy Company for the distinctive sea salt caramels and perfect marshmallows -- but you may not be familiar with Leung's exotically complex curry-pineapple scone or her revelatory out-of-body experience-inducing milk and honey cake with sea salt caramel. If you do not, then a visit to Colorado Blvd. should be the very next thing on your to-do list.
Let's play a game. What can you buy for 35 cents in Los Angeles? Not the L.A. Times, not a first-class stamp -- maybe a gumball in one of those machines outside of Ralphs? Your options are pretty limited on this piddly budget, unless you head over to Diddy Riese, a hot cookie spot in Westwood that has flourished since opening its doors in 1983.
When those doors swing open at noon on any given Saturday, the infamous line has already curved out of the shop and down the sidewalk. The gathering crowd is as assorted as Diddy's cookie menu: parents with small children, cliques of UCLA students, well-dressed couples in their 40s and, well, food writers. Everyone stands at ease, perfectly willing to wait 15 minutes for a 35-cent cookie or the famous build-your-own ice cream sandwich for $1.75.