If there was ever a moment in which L.A.'s community of small-scale artisanal food and coffee makers located east of Vermont spontaneously coalesced, it would be hard to rival the soft opening at Sqirl café featuring G&B coffee service this morning. If someone looked vaguely familiar, odds were strong that he/she has been responsible for your morning caffeination and pastry needs at a café, and/or operates some sort of food business within a few miles.
With a team of expert pros including sous chef Ria Wilson, formerly of Canelé, jam maker/food preserver extraordinaire Jessica Koslow has stylishly refashioned her production space at the corner of Virgil and Marathon in East Hollywood (some call it Silver Lake, whatever) to accommodate a coffee bar and compact kitchen serving breakfast and lunch items. Meanwhile, the exceptional sweet and savory preserves she's known for will continue to come from the same facility.
“We are doing all levels of food preservation here. We are dehydrating cab franc grapes, and making yogurt,” Koslow says. She's designed the small menu to incorporate these specialties into dishes such as brioche toast from Atwater's Proof Bakery (again, more local simpatico) served with greens, tomatillo puree and lacto-fermented hot sauce topped with an egg. Or get a slice of brioche slathered with house-made almond and hazelnut butter and your choice of Sqirl fruit preserves.
Koslow is especially pleased to offer Kukoho Rose rice from Koda Farms, a proprietary varietal bred during the mid 20th century. (Read about the history of this family farm. Really, please do. It's fascinating.) “I've never had anything like it,” Koslow says. She's serving the grain as hot or cold porridge underneath a dollop of seasonal jam and a sprinkle of toasted hazelnuts, or in a savory version with sorrel pesto, poached egg, blistered San Marzano tomatoes, preserved Meyer lemon and feta.
David Freeland of FreelandBuck (Café de Leche, Maximiliano) inserted clever design details, most notably a series of bright blue and blond wood triangular panels underneath the counters inside, and a billowing Mylar ribbon installation that shelters the corner outdoor patio. Stools at a high counter mounted on the front wall provide additional exterior seating. Indoor is standing room only. You could say this specific characteristic is a bit of Italian café culture imported to Virgil Village.
Under their G&B brand, Kyle Glanville and Charles Babinski, both Intelligentsia alums, are running the coffee and tea component. Which, given the spatial limitations, uses up a significant chunk of the room and forms an intriguing partnership. There's a three-group La Marzocco on site, along with an impressive array of pour-over equipment. Cold brews are available, as well as other, deeper-coffee-niche beverages likely forthcoming. No paper cups were witnessed, which jibes with talk about Glanville and Babinski's other plans. Beans are sourced from a range of roasters.
As with any new or recently adjusted operation, hours might be subject to change, but Koslow plans to be open Thursday through Tuesday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. She's already plenty experienced and focused about how best to use precious resources, whether it's highly perishable produce or limited square footage. “It's amazing what a small number of things we can make that have amazing flavor. But it takes time,” she says.
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