Friday, August 01, 2008

late July culinary wanderings

After a few days off from work, I've ventured all over the map for some summer bakery hunting. A visit to my hometown brought me to Marukai, our local Japanese market. Though I was there to investigate baked goods, I had to resist the strong temptation to take advantage of Daikokuya's new Orange County location. If you have not yet sampled their food, know that they produce the ramen dreams are made of-- pure ramen magic if I've ever tasted it! For those of you wanderers who food hunt back and forth between San Diego, Orange County, and LA, their location in Little Tokyo is no longer your only option! Tucked into a strip mall off the 405 freeway, Marukai also offers a food court that includes Beard Papa's notoriously indulgent cream puffs. Beard Papa's is also attached to MamMoth bakery, which features a truly cavity-inducing honey bread among other treats. I could write more about their offerings, but blogger ChubbyPanda has already done so for me in his very thorough blog post.

During my visit home, I took advantage by utilizing the ample kitchen space of my parent's house for a baking opportunity! It's much more spacious than my little studio. After thumbing through my mom's arsenal of cookbooks, I went for an obvious, but classic choice-- recipes from New York's Magnolia Bakery.
While whipping up a batch of chocolate chip almond cookies, I listened to my brother talk about the ten year high school reunion he just attended the night before. The night was full of nostalgia coupled with the reality of ten years passing by-- i.e. classmates faced with a plethora of marriages, trouble with the law, good fortune, high paying salaries--the unpredictability and predictability of life all at once, the stuff of Romy and Michelle. As the stories continued, I thought to myself "This calls for another recipe." Ten years of marriages, jailtime, childbirthing, and career opportunities could not be captured with brevity. I eyed a molasses jar and decided to whip up some random molasses cookie recipe from the label on Grandma's molasses. These cookies were simply delicious and unsophisticated in all of the right ways. (Perhaps a nod to the three for $1 cookies my brother and I once enjoyed from our high school cafeteria. Often slightly undercooked, you could taste the sugar granules in those chocolate chip cookies, but there was something so perfect about them. Grabbing a few at the end of the day meant you were on your way to freedom. It was a little bit of decadence in our bland world of rigid dress codes-- a sweet break from the khaki, navy, collared shirt monotony.)

Walks down memory lane aside, I eventually headed back to my apartment. In efforts to check out a new bakery, I traveled towards Brentwood to give the Belwood bakery a try. Sometimes when I stray from Santa Monica towards Brentwood, I'm a little unsure of what I'm getting myself into. Such was the case that day, when I sat down with my pastries and listened to two stockbrokers arguing over their stance on cell phone etiquette, talking business, and complaining about the youth "with their long hair." Pigeons circled around our crumbs, also noticeably irritated by their loud argument. Can't us Santa Monicans enjoy our pastries in peace?

At least I had happy reading--As I was nibbling on some fluffy bread with chives, I caught an article about Paris bakeries in LA Times magazine, a literal ode to bakery hunting across Paris.
Oh, to be a sweetheart of the freelancing world! If only I could jet set to any pastry of my choice. If only!
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