Cafe Dulce – Little Tokyo

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

Tucked into a cozy corner of the Japan Village Plaza (日本村プラザ) of Little Tokyo in Downtown LA are all sorts of bakeries, cafes, souvenir vendors, even mochi ice cream. Our most recent discovery, however, was Cafe Dulce. We just could not resist the bright yellow umbrellas beckoning us inside.

Cafe Dulce in Little Tokyo

Cafe Dulce in Little Tokyo

And once inside, I was floored by the baked goods on display. Martin pulled me over to the glass case and pointed out one magical word: BACON. (Which of course, immediately brought to mind that good ol’ commercial for dog treats… IT’S BACON!!!!)

It's BACON!

It’s BACON!

That’s right, folks. Cafe Dulce is home to a delicious, salty-sweet bacon doughnut. Available in both whole doughnuts and doughnut holes, the fluffy fried dough is topped with a basic white sugar icing and sprinkled generously with flecks of smoky bacon. Though it was the first to catch my eye, it was not the only impressive item in the display case…

The Glass Display of Goodies

The Glass Display of Goodies

Behold the beautiful treats. I wanted to buy one of everything. Especially intriguing was that colorful tray on the second shelf, filled with doughnut holes topped with Fruity Pebbles cereal. What’ll they think of next??

Green Tea Brick Toast

Green Tea Brick Toast

Of course. Matcha-flavored brick toast. Brick toast is traditionally a Taiwanese boba shop dessert consisting of a hefty slice of bread soaked in sweet syrup or condensed milk or other flavorings, served warm. Just seeing those two words brought back memories of driving out to Guppy’s Tea House in high school just to dig into a giant brick toast (and shaved ice, but that’s a story for another day). Since we were planning to bring a few doughnuts home, I ordered one of these as well to heat up later.

Green Tea Brick Toast - the middles

Green Tea Brick Toast – the middles

Dissecting the brick toast reveals a fluffy center and a crunchy exterior from the sugary glaze. The matcha flavor and gorgeous pale green color was present throughout the toast. We heated it up for just a few seconds in the microwave and it was good as new. I meant to eat only half but I polished that off with a quickness. Pictured above is the second half, the one I had fully intended to save for later. But, it was delicious and I have no regrets.

Bacon Doughnut Hole

Bacon Doughnut Hole

Ahh the bacon doughnut hole. We thought these little puffs of dough would be cuter and easier to portion-control than the full-sized doughnuts. Personally I think they photograph better as well. I loved the doughnut itself – light, fluffy, and not at all greasy. Like a little deep fried cloud. The icing was simple which helped the bacon stand out better (usually I see bacon doughnuts with a maple glaze). This was unadulterated sweet & meat goodness. The bacon could have been crunchier, but then again, I like my bacon so crispy that they crumble when you look at them. It was a nice little artery-clogging treat and certainly a great novelty item if you’re looking to pick up dessert to bring to a party. Give it a try – you just might like it!

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Check out Cafe Dulce: cafedulcelosangeles.com

134 Japanese Village Plz
Bldg E
Los Angeles, CA 90012

See their Yelp reviews here!

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Copenhagen Pastry – Culver City, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

Ever since we moved out of Palms and into the Mar Vista area, we have been spending less time on Venice Boulevard and more time on Washington Boulevard. One day, a few months ago, a quaint little bakery caught our eye. A very small storefront with a modern look, hardly more than a display case of pastries followed by a cash register. We made a mental note to look up Copenhagen Pastry… and boy, were we impressed! Few places on Yelp manage to maintain a solid 5-star rating over 150+ reviews, so Martin and I knew we just had to check out this adorable little bakery that had recently opened so close to home.

Photo courtesy of Copenhagen Pastry

Photo courtesy of Copenhagen Pastry

We were welcomed by the women behind the counter as soon as we walked in and they kindly offered us samples of their two most popular must-try pastries: the Copenhagen (a flaky pastry topped with vanilla custard and chocolate – no nuts!) and the Kringle (a similarly flaky pastry but topped with an almond paste & custard blend). On our first visit, we ended up taking home a Kringle, a Chocolate Pastry, and a Cinnamon Pastry… all for just over $5 (which is perfect since we needed to meet the $5 credit card minimum). We have since purchased the “party kringle” on multiple occasions, which, for just $10, feeds 6-8 people.

Cinnamon Pastry, Chocolate Pastry, Kringle

Cinnamon Pastry, Chocolate Pastry, Kringle

The Copenhagen is a teeny bit on the sweet side for me, but I love the smooth texture of the custard. The Kringle stole my heart at first bite with its garnish of toasted almond slices and crystals of granulated sugar shielding a silky and creamy almond filling underneath. The Cinnamon Pastry (which has no nuts or dairy) resembles a cinnamon roll in appearance with its dollop of white frosting in the center, but it is flaky and crunchy like a cinnamon twist. Another favorite is the Chocolate Pastry — an adorably round ball of puff pastry topped simply with a round dollop of chocolate ganache. The puff pastry is so incredibly flaky that I could hear the layers crackling as I remove it from its paper bag. While all of the pastries are excellent in flavor, I have to say the Chocolate Pastry is the most satisfying to sink my teeth into! The ganache is dark and velvety but not in the least bit grainy or bitter. Perfection!

Kringle, Raspberry Pastry, Copenhagen

Kringle, Raspberry Pastry, Copenhagen

Martin has worked Copenhagen Pastry into his morning routine, relentlessly making me jealous with his picture texts of his beautiful flaky breakfast. They are open from 7AM to 5PM on weekdays (closed on Mondays) and 8AM to 4PM on the weekends, and they are definitely worth squeezing into your busy schedule. I’m already looking forward to my next visit – and to working my way through the beautiful display of pastries.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Copenhagen Pastry!

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PS: Check out this awesome mini-documentary about Copenhagen Pastry: vimeo.com/61140766. As if the pastries themselves were not enough reason to plan a visit to Copenhagen Pastry, hearing how passionate owner Karen Hansen and head baker Henrik Gram are about high-quality, authentic, nostalgic Danish pastries made with love definitely seals the deal.

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Check out Copenhagen Pastry: copenhagenpastry.com

11113 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232

See their Yelp reviews here!

Tout Sweet Patisserie – San Francisco, CA

Food Adventures, San Francisco

My apologies for the delay of this post! Life has been absolutely crazy for us, but we’re back to blogging. I can’t believe it’s been exactly one month today since Tout Sweet had their official grand opening.

Smack in the middle of a Macy’s department store

We were so excited when we heard that Yigit Pura of Top Chef: Just Desserts was finally opening up his dream bakery in his hometown of San Francisco the weekend after Labor Day — the same weekend we were planning to be in SF for the Late Night Alumni show at Ruby Skye and the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival. Call it destiny! Tout Sweet Patisserie is situated on the third floor of the Macys in Union Square and is just the most adorable storefront. Cute IKEA-fied cafe area, beautiful display of plated desserts, piles of pastries, colorful rows of macarons, and of course, very friendly staff working behind the counter.

This photo does not do justice to the alluring display.

We wanted to try everything but ended up with 5. It was our first stop of the day, so what follows was technically… the breakfast of champions.

Florence – citrus vanilla panna cotta with grapefruit Campari gelée

The one that stood out to me was the Florence — a citrus vanilla panna cotta topped with a grapefruit Campari gelee. It turned out to be Martin’s favorite – so much so that we ordered a second one before we left! The panna cotta was creamy and not too sweet, and the gelée added a slightly bitter note. Wonderful flavor profile!

Petit Tout Sweet – a layered chocolate cake with fluffy chocolate mousse

We also got a slice of their namesake cake – the Petit Tout Sweet, a flourless chocolate cake layered with chocolate mousse and topped with a dark chocolate glaze. The layers were decadent and light at the same time, and the glaze… oh the glaze… It had a uniquely velvety texture and we both agreed it was our favorite part of the cake.

Chocolate chip cookie sprinkled with sea salt

Martin inquired the girl behind the counter about whether they had a basic chocolate chip cookie. If that’s your thing, try the one here at Tout Sweet — it’s topped with fleur de sel and has generous chunks of quality chocolate. Our only regret was not asking for it warmed up so we could enjoy that fresh-out-of-the-oven experience.

St. Honore – three profiteroles glazed with caramel

Very pleased with our first round of selections and not yet ready to leave, we asked for a suggestion for a light and interesting dessert. They immediately suggested the St. Honore, essentially a cluster of three profiteroles sitting atop a triangle of puff pastry, dipped in hardened caramel filled with vanilla custard and served with vanilla Chantilly creme. We were given very good advice also – don’t be afraid to dive in! Taking a bite of a whole cream puff and its base of phyllo yielded a wonderful crunch enhanced by the crystallized cracking glaze. The gold flakes were an interesting touch but really didn’t add anything in terms of flavor.

Colorful macaron display

Our fifth dessert that morning was a second Florence. Yup. It was that good. However, we brought home some very colorful macarons (my favorite was the MeMe – the cookie part was a swirl of hot pink and neon green!). Unfortunately we can’t speak to the flavors of the macarons as we gifted them to our friends and family as souvenirs.

Nutella brioche – I should have gotten more than just one!

I also grabbed a lone nutella brioche that had called out to me as soon as we walked in. Despite a long journey being jostled around in my backpack as we trekked up Lombard Street (yes, on foot), it survived the flight back to LA and still tasted delicious! It’s like a chocolate croissant taken to the next level. Plus, it’s adorably round in shape and really, chocolate hazelnut spread makes everything better!

We went the second morning after they opened, missing the crowd of media and paparazzi (yay!) as well as the presence of the owner Yigit (boo!). While the prices were a bit steep (especially if you order as much as we did!), we felt the quality and the flavors were well worth it. Definitely a go-to spot for the next time we return to San Francisco! If you haven’t checked it out yet, please do — they’ve had a month now to iron out the kinks, plus I hear they’ve build upon their menu and now feature savory brunch-y items as well.

By the way, take a look at the back of the staff shirts if you see someone turn around :) We had a “you know you’re nerds when…” moment when we were surprised and excited to see sucrose!

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Check out Tout Sweet Patisserie: toutsweetsf.com

Macy’s Union Square
170 O’Farrell St, 3 Fl
San Francisco, CA 94102

See their Yelp reviews here or follow them on Twitter @toutsweetsf!

Day Two: Seattle – Dim Sum and Henry’s Taiwan for Christmas

Food Adventures, Seattle

What we hadn’t anticipated about holiday travel was just how many places would be closed on Christmas Day. We asked around for ideas on what to do, and the general consensus seemed to be “Go to Chinatown.” Sounds like a plan!

Christmas morning, while children around the world are eagerly tearing up wrapping paper to uncover their presents, we stood outside of a cramped doorway packed with others who apparently had the same idea that we did – DIM SUM. Harbor City Restaurant and its neighbor Jade Garden Restaurant are local favorites for this weekend brunch of sorts. Did you know that dim sum is thought to have given rise to the Western concept of brunch? Who would’ve thought that thousands of years of traditional ‘yum cha’ with hot tea and dumplings would one day evolve into pancakes and French toast. But I digress.

Dim Sum Staples: Cha Siu Pao, Chicken Feet, Har Gow

Harbor City has one cart that holds most of the steamed items, and the waitstaff brings out the stirfried, fried, and baked items on trays in batches as the kitchen rotates through its repertoire. We ordered the staples: har gow, cha siu pao, chicken feet, turnip cake… oh my! The har gow had a nice and sticky wrapper the way I like it, and the shrimp filling was moist and succulent. The cha siu pao, touted as some of the best you could find in Seattle, were hot and fluffy. The barbecue pork filling was a little sweet for my liking, but the texture was perfect. And the chicken feet, if that’s your thing, were flavorful. The turnip cake (below) was crispy on the outside and had bits of lap xuong (Chinese sausage) throughout the turnip dough/paste.

Turnip Cake and Bor Lor Bao

We noticed a lack of our favorite steamed dish – xia chang fun (steamed rice noodle sheets with shrimp, served with a generous drizzle of sweet soy sauce), so we asked our server and she very eagerly brought out our request straight from the kitchen. Ask and you shall receive, indeed! It was warm and fresh with the familiar slippery texture.

Xia Chang Fun

We usually forgo the assortment of entrees and deep-fried offerings, but a pleasant surprise was the crispy shrimp and tofu – a cube of tofu topped with a dollop of shrimp paste, all battered, deep fried, and served with a sweet and sour sauce. Yum! They were wonderful and fresh, but be careful because they come out of the kitchen piping hot!

Crispy Shrimp and Tofu

For dessert, we had the usual – bor lor bao, dahn tat (egg tarts), and mango pudding. After polishing off the last savory dumpling, I dove in a bor lor bao (pictured above). Translated as “pineapple bun”, these baked goodies don’t actually contain pineapple (although some do) but are named for the way the top crust crumbles and looks like the pattern of a pineapple. These were filled with a sweet egg custard. Not the best I’ve had but they certainly satisfied my craving!

Mini Egg Tarts

The dahn tat here are smaller (and cuter!) than those at some other dim sum places. It has a great flaky crust to custard filling ratio. I could eat a dozen more of these!

Mango Pudding

Just as how no dim sum experience for me is complete without bor lor bao, so does Martin feel about ending his dim sum meal with mango pudding. The mango pudding here has bits of a chewier mango jelly, and the main pudding has a more ripe mango flavor and a less from-the-box taste than other places. And of course you can’t go wrong with a drizzle of sweetened condensed milk!

As if that wasn’t enough to fuel us for the rest of the day, we wandered around and ended up stopping by Purple Dot Cafe. Rei had taken me here years ago when I visited, and I still remember her excitement over the black-and-white checkered jello. What brought us in, though, was the Hong Kong style milk tea and a dessert missing from Harbor City: sweet steamed tofu. Freshly made silken tofu topped with a simple syrup and ginger concoction, it’s the perfect way to truly complete a meal of dim sum.

Sweet Tofu

We realized that dinner would be hard to come by later on, so we planned ahead! First we stopped by A Piece of Cake; we had passed it on our walk between the station and Harbor City and marveled at the cake displays through the window. I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go inside and take home a slice! My eyes darted around at the sheer quantity of beautifully decorated cakes, my stomach growled and my mind became increasingly overwhelmed by the choices.

Such a beautiful cake display at A Piece of Cake!

Finally, I saw it — the green tea honeydew mousse cake — and I just knew it would be the one. Martin already had his heart set on the mango pudding cup, so it was an easy transaction. Dessert in hand, we hopped down the block to Henry’s Taiwan, a place known to the locals as serving up some of the best night market style food. I opted for the must-try dish — beef shaved noodle soup. I asked it spicy and for the noodles to be kept separate so they don’t expand and get mushy before I get the chance to enjoy them. Martin perused the menu for some time before settling on the Shanghai wonton soup and an order of sticky rice from the dim sum offerings.

Beef Shaved Noodles

Christmas dinner in the hotel while watching The Travel Channel might sound less than ideal to some, but I think Martin and I made the best of it and ended up having a great evening. Our room came equipped with a microwave to reheat our meal and a set of table and chairs at which to enjoy it. My soup already smelled amazing but wow, I could eat those hand-shaven freshmade noodles with just the broth all day long and be happy as a clam. They were generous with the beef, which was fatty and cartilaginous just like Mom would make. The dessert was delicious as well — the cake was moist and the layers of creme were not too sweet, just the way I like it. Martin seemed to enjoy his mango pudding, but I think it could have used some condensed milk to make it even better.

Green Tea Honeydew Mousse Cake and Mango Pudding

All in all, we had a very merry Christmas with good food and good company. Despite most places being closed for business, we managed to uncover some great finds in Chinatown, a very worthwhile second day in Seattle.

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Check out Harbor City Restaurant:

707 S King St
(between S 7th Ave & S Canton Aly)
Seattle, WA 98104

Their hours are crazy – opening at 8:30am every day and not closing until midnight on the weekends.

See their Yelp reviews here.

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Check out Purple Dot Cafe:

515 Maynard Ave S
(between King St & Weller St)
Seattle, WA 98104

See their Yelp reviews here.

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Check out A Piece of Cake:

514 S King St
(between S 5th Ave & S 6th Ave)
Seattle, WA 98104

See their Yelp reviews here.

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Check out Henry’s Taiwan:

502 S King St
(between S 5th Ave & S 6th Ave)
Seattle, WA 98104

See their Yelp reviews here.