Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ladies Who Lunch: Remembrance of Bakeries Past

A few weeks ago, I was home in New York and stumbled upon a childhood favorite that I had not thought of in years: Black & White Cookies!!  I realized that as the the old adage goes, “out of site out of mind”, I had not seen a Black & White Cookie in ages.  I attributed this to being on the West Coast a lot and not seeing them everywhere like you do in New York (even at the corner delis).  So, I am in New York and go into one of those corner delis to satisfy a late night sweet tooth and low and behold I confronted a Black & White Cookie.  I immediately bought one and once back at the apartment, devoured the long forgotten sponge cake cookie covered half with white ganache and the other half with chocolate ganache.  MMMMMMMMM!!! It was like hooking up with a love of the past. My best friend, amused by my B&W Cookie mania went to the deli and bought the last 3 that they had for me.  Like a heroin addict who doesn’t know when he will be able to get his next fix, I packed them in my suitcase with care and smuggled them away to the Left Coast.
Flash forward to Greenblatt’s in West Hollywood.  I had just had an amazing lunch at Greenblatt’s Deli in West Hollywood.  The satisfying of my New York deli craving set off a stream of consciousness that waltzed me through many long forgotten (and some newly remembered) cravings.  I caught out of the corner of my eye a Black & White Cookie at the deli counter.  I almost ran to buy it, but then remembered my internet search for B&W Cookies had led me to Yelp, where many reviewers extolled the virtues of the B&W Cookies at the Beverlywood Bakery.  I knew right then and there where I was heading.
Walking in the door, I took note that the bakery was not fancy or cleverly decorated, just a good old fashioned bakery.  With no other visual distractions, my only focus was on the display cases.  Picture Homer Simpson drooling and you have a good idea of what I looked like.  I had come for the B&W Cookies, but now that i was here I knew that I would have to get so much more.  Not knowing if the baked goods were as good as they looked, I was judicious and made the effort not to over order.
I had noted on a good deal of Yelp reviews that people complained about the surly service.  While the women behind the counter were not necessarily “friendly”, they were not unpleasant and helped me very well.  I believe they were originally from Russia and one just has to understand that it is a cultural thing :)
Anyway, I ended up ordering the following:  1 Poppy Seed Hamantasch, 1 Apricot Hamantasch, 1/2 pound Rugelach (mixed Cinnamon/Nut and Chocolate), 1 Lemon Nut Streudel, 1 Walnut Strudel and 3 of the small B&W Cookies (after all, they were what I had originally come for).  Now don’t judge!! I wouldn’t eat it all myself.  I would share......though grudgingly.  I was just so overwhelmed with things I had not seen for so  long that I just couldn’t help myself.  And I did say that I “made the effort not to over order”, not that I actually was able to do it.  All of my goodies went into the trunk of my car, while I continued my days roster of events.
That night when I returned home, I had a quick dinner and then broke out my booty from Beverlywood Bakery.  My first bite into a piece of the Poppyseed Hamantasch put me in heaven and I knew I had discovered a personal gold mine.  I rabidly tested all of the other goodies and kept falling more and more in love.  All of the pastries were just like my grandmother’s, not overly sweet and intense flavoring.  The final test was the B&W Cookie.  I bit into it and audibly moaned with pleasure.  I know that B&W Cookies are kind of juvenile, but just label me a big kid!!  I can’t resist.  And just like my earlier find of the day I knew I had found another keeper.
I am looking forward to going back and getting more of the same, but also trying the Babka’s, Challah, Black Bread and on and on and on................................................

Ladies Who Lunch Lunches at Greenblatt's

When I am on the West Coast for any period of time, I find that I almost always start craving the comfort foods of my childhood....mostly foods from New York that are hard to find the same type or quality outside of the Big Apple.  Yet that doesn’t stop my seeking them out when abroad.  Let me explain what I mean by abroad.  A teacher once  put the following question to me: since I had spent a good deal of my life in France as well, did I consider myself more French or American?  To which I replied that funny as it might sound, I never really thought of myself as an American, but rather always as a New Yorker.  So from that perspective, anywhere outside of New York is abroad. Note, when I say New York, I mean New York City.  As any true New Yorker will tell you, if I had meant New York State I would have said New York State.
Anyway, I digress.  This last weekend, while in Los Angeles, I had the craving for real New York Deli food.  I can’t believe that in all of the years that I have been bouncing between the East and West Coasts, that I had never gone to Greenblatt’s Deli in West Hollywood.  Opened in 1926 and fabled hangout for many of the Silver Screen’s legends, it’s longevity alone prompted me to give it a try.  Let me tell you, I was NOT disappointed.
The downstairs has a real Deli counter with the glass case full of the goods and wooden booth seating that seems to be the original seating going way back to its opening days (though they have been maintained in excellent condition).  The downstairs space is also shared by a very nice wine shop which when I return and have more time, I will definitely explore.   When we arrived, the downstairs seating was all full, so we were sat in the upstairs area, which is very nice, with the same type of wooden booths.
I started salivating the moment that I opened the menu.  The familiar New York Deli foods were listed there and I knew that I was going to have a tough time ordering sensibly and not overdoing it.  My companion ordered a Grilled Pastrami Reuben on Sourdough.  He said that the Pastrami was perfectly seasoned and not fatty and that he enjoyed it thoroughly with lots of Deli Mustard.  I ordered a TLT (my own name, you won’t find it on the menu).  Being a vegetarian, but still wanting that Deli sandwich flavor, I ordered a BLT: hold the bacon and sub with extra lettuce and tomato.  It came to the table piled high on truly delicious rye bread (why is it so hard to find good rye on the West Coast, and NO, Orowheat doesn’t cut it).  As if the bread wasn’t enough to satisfy my craving, I slathered Russian Dressing on my sandwich and was in heaven.  The sandwiches came with deli pickles and several choices of sides.  I chose coleslaw.  All in all, this meal hit the spot.  And although I knew I should stop, I convinced my companion to spilt a Potato Knish with me ( I hadn’t had one for years).  Yes, that completed my stroll down memory lane :)  While it lacks some of my favorite deli staples (borscht, kasha, etc.) they do offer a wonderful selection and even have a Vegetarian section on the menu.
The servers were friendly and attentive and we had an excellent experience.  As I was leaving and passed in front of the Deli Case, I was tempted to buy a Black & White cookie or some Rugelach for later.  However, inspired by this outing, I was ready to continue on to another spot that I had read about The Beverlywood Bakery.  I will also give Nate & Al’s and Canter’s another shot and will report on them in due time.  What I can say without hesitation is that I have been won over and will be going back to Greenbatt’s.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

That’s How the Cookie Crumbles
Those who know me will tell you that I rarely if ever indulge in sweets.  Those who know me very very well will tell you that I do indulge in sweets after dinner, especially on the weekends.  However, who wants to waste calories on mundane, so-so sweets.  In the spirit of Ladies Who Lunch, I say if you are going to sin, might as well sin big and sin well!! :)
Which brings me to one of my latest discoveries, Sugar Cookie Couture!!!  Yes, I know, some of you will say that it’s the name that appeals to me (I have always been a fan of Couture and the Luxe Life), but it goes beyond that.  Sugar Cookie Couture makes delicious cookies in all kinds of themed shapes and decorates them brilliantly.
These cookies are unlike the cookies with rainbow sprinkles in the diner cases in New York that draw me to them in childish wonder at the colors, only to bite into them and be amazed that the look is deceptive and the taste isn’t that rewarding.  These cookies please the visual side of me and when I bite into them, they satisfy the flavor that I was seeking as well.  Ummmmmmmmm!!
Owner Linzy Kearbey bakes and decorates all of the cookies herself with an intense amount of care.  These cookies are great for a reward to oneself (we all need those rewards!!), as a gifts to our loved ones and friends or to make an event all that more special.  Linzy makes cookies for all holidays, seasonal symbols, special wedding cookies for showers or for the actual wedding and some cookies that are just because they are fun.  And if you have a special theme all of your own, you can talk to Linzy about custom cookies :)
Located in Southern California, Linzy will ship the cookies pretty much anywhere.  And she is promising me to come up with a Vegan version in the near future for all of my Vegan friends out there.
Check out her website and give Sugar Cookie Couture a whirl.  I know you won’t be disappointed.