Monday, August 21, 2006

Bakery Hunting...

After a satisfying lunch of bratwurst, sauerkraut, and German-style potato salad at the Globe German Deli in Costa Mesa, I ventured a few blocks over for a bakery hunt. The hunt started out well, since I was able to use my small amount of Danish expertise to convince one of the shop owners that the DanSukker I was holding was indeed sugar and not salt. After attempting to bake in Denmark and going on supermarket adventures in Kvikly to find the right stuff, I was sure of this one. I was proud of myself today, a little too proud. I still have a lot to learn when it comes to Danish. I love the Globe Deli because even if they don't always know whether they are selling you salt or sugar, they give you great German sausage and they do it with a smile! Plus, they have Danish products, which means that I am a happy happy girl when in the Globe Deli.

Anyway, on to the bakery hunt...

I snooped around the greatly anticipated new location of the Sunflower Bakery to take a gander at their fresh digs. According to one of the employees, the store will not be open for another month or so. But if you're a great investigative journalist like me, you can walk around the back and purchase items wholesale (Alright, alright, so there was a sign with an arrow, but it was in a somewhat tinted storefront window people). The new bakery is located off of Baker in Costa Mesa, tucked away on Grace Street, and I am looking forward to sampling its delights!

The genius of the location is clear: It is extremely close to my house, and since close proximity to me gives bakeries an even better chance of more local bakery fiend business, I'd say they are in for a pleasant surprise. Bakers: stick with zip code 92626, you'll be golden. Also, allow me to point out the genius of a bakery located within seconds of a dairy (and a drive in dairy no less)? This allows for a more satisfying bakery hunt indeed. The dairy I speak of is since is Manneh's Alta Dena Dairy, which is within a minute's walking distance of Sunflower, and located on the corner of Baker and Grace.

Where to find it:
Alta-Dena Drive in Dairy
1085 Baker Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

The dairy is also easily accessible after a visit to French's Pastry Bakery, which is on the same street. (French's hold a special place in my heart since their chocolate fudge cake has always been a fixture at different special events and birthdays within my family. It has become such a tradition that we even declared an annual "chocolate cake season" that spans several holidays and birthdays within about a three month period of one another. Basically, it's a good time to purchase a 3-month gym membership).

But back to the dairy, oh sweet dairy of mine in Costa Mesa.

This dairy reminds me of how I am often torn between two of my favorite European cultures. While I celebrate my French background on my mother's side, I am disloyal to my culture in one respect: their attitude towards consumption of dairy products. Growing up in America, it seemed there was no better combination than baked goods (particularly chocolate chip cookies) and a glass of milk.

When I lived in Denmark, Danes seemed to have an equally great appreciation for a good glass of milk. In fact, Danish milk is the best I have tasted yet. (While I never knew what I was missing as a young American child, studying abroad ruined me as far as dairy libations go--Trust me dear readers, once you go Danish dairy, you never go back). In Denmark, it is not uncommon to see Danish business men and women, teenagers, and kids alike drinking oversized cartons of Matilde chocolate milk as they wait for their bus or train ride home after work and school. Matilde chocolate milk reigns far supreme over any Nestle or Hershey's concoction we have in the US. It is a seriously spiritual experience if you like chocolate milk.

However, when it comes to drinking milk in France, I was told it is unfashionable, juvenile, and ridiculous even. I found this out by accident, when I was walking down the street in Paris, pastry in one hand, small jug of milk in the other. Apparently this was so shocking to a local passerby that she did a double take before going on her merry French way. I was not even sure why she did a double take at first, and quickly forgot the incident.

Then I visited Millies Cookie's, a UK-based cookie shop located in the Opera Metro station in Paris which offers a generic but decent chocolate chip cookie (a European quick fix for any American having a chocolate chip cookie craving, which I seem to have quite often). When I purchased three cookies, and then asked the cashier if I could buy some milk, she laughed at me. I knew something was up, and asked my friendly hotel clerk Sasha why French people seemed to think me ridiculous. He told us that milk is something that "small kids" drink, and could not stop smirking, presumably because of our silly American reliance on calcium products. He did explain that his birthplace, Normandy, makes some excellent dairy products, but insisted that one had no place drinking milk in the city of lights if they happened to be over the age of six. (Even six seemed to be pushing it). What gives Paris? You have all of these amazing bakeries and no love for the moo-juice? I was not the only one with milk woes. I also met a lovely American bakery owner from Boston, who had married a French man and relocated to Paris (I wanted to steal her life, but not in the creepy way you are thinking, just in the way that it would be amazing to live in Paris, learn French, and be a part of the bakery culture there. I am one step closer to being a Parisian at this point, because I just enrolled in Practical French at Goldenwest College, and I am pumped up. This will only aid me further when I pursue future international bakery hunts!).

Where to find it:
Mr et Mme Crocher- artisan boulanger
off the Argentine Metro stop in Paris
(her husband mostly does all the baking, but she will offer friendly service, food tips, directions, or any other advice you might need as an American in Paris)

A self-described "milk fiend" (I swear, I quoted her in my travel notebook), she commiserated with me as I told my tales of milk mockery. She explained that she had also noticed the void of milk after growing up in the States, and explained that whenever her family visits the USA, their children cannot get their hands on enough milk. Poor French-American kids, all confused and conflicted over their calcium intake. They need to go on a little "holiday" to Denmark, that's what I'm saying.

Even as my taste expanded to pastries, cakes, and tarts, milk always seems an essential companion to baked goods consumption. And this is why I am disgruntled with French culture. Although I have no Danish blood, I have to say that I side with the Danes on this one. Don't get me wrong, I still deeply love Paris. I just don't love having to search high and low for milk to go with my ever present pastry, only to be shamed for it later. Try it our way Paris, it's not all bad.

In other news, I am now officially connected to Chowhound , an online discussion forum for "people who live to eat". I am hoping to find some good contributions to the Great American Bakery Hunt, and have already began to search the posts with a few good leads.
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