Most Angelinos will agree that, compared to the Bay Area, their gastronomic scene can often be as barren as the deserts that surround the city. But, as I've been pointing out these past few days, there are oases in that gastronomic wasteland.
For example, compared to my new home town of San Francisco, the city of my birth (LA) has superior Jewish delis, Indian, Korean and Ethiopian restaurants (although New York bests LA in the first three categories and D.C. reigns in the fourth).
But what really surprises me is that LA has beaten out all contenders in two culinary categories associated with the Bay Area. Today, we'll look at one of these categories: the artisan bakery.
Let me clarify myself. In each of these categories, LA has only one place, well let's be honest, one woman who reigns supreme.
I believe the best artisan baker in the country is Nancy Silverton of La Brea Bakery. I'm not referring to the frozen par-baked bread that you can buy at Costcos all over the country under the name La Brea. These are respectable loaves, but not nearly as good since Nancy and her business partners sold the name and concept to an Irish conglomerate for a reported 55 million dollars (go Nancy!).
I'm talking only about the bread and pastries that you can buy at the tiny shop attached to her and her business partner/former husband's restaurant Campanile. Although I'm more than happy with the loaves I can buy locally (especially those from Della Fattoria and Tartine), you can't beat La Brea for its variety. N, a bread fanatic, won't let me back into our house if I don't return from LA with a bagful of breads and pastries.
This trip I picked up several loaves, including our favorite olive bread infused with thyme, and several varieties of pastries, including a couple of canneles.
I couldn't resist sampling Nancy's take on the famous caramelized bordelais pastry that has been whetting my appetite on several other food blogs. The one other cannelé that I had sampled locally failed to excite me. In fact, I had such low expectations for this new cannelé that I didn't even bother to photograph it. However, I'm happy to report that my new friend from La Brea was spot on, crispy on the outside with an alluringly rich and custardy interior. After the first bite, the thought occurred to me that I should grab my camera and take a photo as evidence of its beauty, but I couldn't refrain from taking a second and then a third and then...well, you'll have to forgive me, but it was just too late. I finally understand what all the hoopla is about.
Yet another reason to continue to visit LA.