Some Of LA’s Best Mexican Baked Goods

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We continue our exploration of East LA with El Gallo Bakery. In business since 1949, they have perfected their craft and the Latin community has come to love and embrace this neighborhood gem. Get ready to explore the amazing world of pan dulce (sweet breads). The sweet Mexican pastries/breads come in a variety of forms and shapes including seashells, animals, flat cookies, round puffs, stuffed crescents, and all manor of classically beautiful baked goods.

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Originating in Spain, pan dulce made its way to Mexico where they are eaten for breakfast, often dipped in hot chocolate or served with coffee. They are also a popular midday snack.

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El Gallo has a reputation as one of the best spots in Los Angeles to get these delectable bakery items. The lines attest to the quality and assure fast turn over, making these some of the freshest treats around.

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The bakery also sells packages to make hot chocolate and inside huge vats are freshly made tamales of pork or cheese.

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Not to mention a small smattering of Mexican candies, sweets and coconut macaroons.

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The proceedure is simple. Take a plastic bag, grab some tamales from the enourmous silver pots near the front door and get in line. When it’s our turn we ask questions and point to the most attractive sweets, which are then piled onto trays and scooted along the counter top to the register.

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A lovely bakery attendant packs the goodies and then we were presented with a small bill, under $10 for a tray full of deliciousness.

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We were barely out the door when we had to sample the pineapple stuffed crescent which is a light, super supple, sweet pastry topped with toasted almonds. Everything melts together on the tongue and we fell hard for these beauties that we could eat all day long.

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Our empanada was filled with extremely sweet squash that tasted like fresh baked yams. We heated this one up at home to bring out the flavors even more.

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El Gallo does a wonderful pan de elote, also known as Mexican corn bread. This bread differs from American corn bread in that it has an almost pudding-like consistency.

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The velvety interior is sweet and creamy against the more sturdy, scorched edged crust with whole pieces of corn dotting the cake. This is the most delectable “bread pudding” we’ve had the privilege of eating.

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The corn masa encased tamales are stuffed with either cheese and mild green pepper that come in a yellow wrapper or

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stewed pork that can be found inside the white wrappers.

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Whatever you choose, El Gallo Bakery will set you up with some of the best Mexican bakery goods that we have in our fair city and that makes them one of our top stops for party treats and other celebratory indulgences.

El Gallo Bakery, 4546 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90022
Phone – 323-263-5528          web site – elgallobakery.com

Overflowing Italian Market

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Claro’s Italian Market has been serving Southern California for almost 68 years. Joe Claro, started the business with his wife Mary. He soon became partners with his son Frank and wife Geraldine. In 1958 Joe retired and his son took over the business. Today, the tradition continues with their two daughters, Rosemarie and Mary Linda, along with their husbands, Bob and George running the stores.

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They have grown to six retail outlets and import many items from Italy. The vast array of products provide everything needed to prepare Italian meals, with a little Greek, French and Argentine thrown in for good measure.

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Be sure to allow ample time to wander and peruse the shelves piled high with delicious ingredients.

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The deli case is a wonder to behold and the place to order slices of cured meats, cheese and their famous sandwiches.

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A long list suggests some of their best meat and cheese combinations or guests can custom order sandwiches that bring them the greatest joy.

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We went with the two most popular sandwiches. We had to try their beloved  Grandpa Joe, which unifies lettuce, tomatoes, pepperoncini, mortadella, capacollo, dry salami and provolone. We were also attracted to the Spicy Mike, a soft roll topped with capocollo, casalingo salame, hot calabrese salame, hot pepper cheese, sliced pepperoncini & oil dressing. Both subs are very meaty and satisfying with a small being more than sufficient at $5.99, or for big eaters they have a large for $6.99, which looks to be almost twice the size.

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In house whipped up deli salads, marinated vegetables and olives take up a portion of the deli case.

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While the far end houses a hot food bar, all well within reach price-wise.

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Strategically placed counters on the way out, house pastries and desserts cases.

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We couldn’t resist the dense, almond rich wedding cookies.

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We asked about cannoli and they were happy to fill a shell for us with the freshest ricotta, studded with chocolate chips and candied fruit. The cannoli are creamy, thick, dense, mildly sweet, cheese filled crisp shells that should not be missed.

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For old school, ready made Italian delicacies along with an impressive selection of imported and locally sourced Italian goods, Claro’s is an amazing go to and to go resource.

Claro’s Italian Market, 1003 East Valley Boulevard, San Gabriel, CA 91776     Phone – 626-288-2026 web site – claros.com

Middle Eastern Market Extraordinaire

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Duarte is home to one of the most comprehensive Middle Eastern markets we have encountered.  The clean, bright, expansive space satisfies all our needs.

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Colorful produce and an abundance of herbs grace the stands.

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Armenian, Persian and other cultures of the region rely heavily on fresh radish, onion, scallion, mint and other greens which are an integral part of meals.

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Traditional and exotic fruits are also on display.

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Reasonable prices and a wide variety of hard to find beans and grains make this a must stop shop for ingredients essential to the Mediterranean diet.

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The dairy section is loaded with wonderful creamy offerings such a shallot yogurt dip, mascarpone and a multitude of yogurt and cheese products.

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Hibiscus flower, a challenging item to locate, is found along an entire wall devoted to dried herbs and spices.

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Appetizers from stuffed olives to sausage fill a refrigerated deli display.

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Nuts and seeds are piled high, a must at every Middle Eastern party and an integral part of the dining experience.

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We were intrigued by the colorful packaging and beautiful script.

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One entire wall is dedicated to their service deli.

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Smoked fish, deli meats and cheese are just the tip of the iceberg here.

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A butcher section makes life easy with seasoned meats and chicken for forming onto skewers when making kabob.

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We took home one of their famous basturma sandwiches and it re-toasted beautifully. The mild cheese poured out and had to be scooped back onto the thin slices of cured meat heavy laden with spice and garlic. Green pepper and tomato brought everything together in  heavenly unison on a crisp crusted, chewy, middle eastern flat bread.

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On top of the deli counter we found labneh in oil.  We chose the za’ atar spiked one which incorporates thyme and other dried spices into the thick yogurt balls. Spreading easily on crackers for a tart and exciting snack or incorporated into a sandwich, melted into an omelet, we love brainstorming all the options for this exciting yogurt product.

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At the check out counter we found cheese or spinach stuffed pastries called panos that remind us of Turkish borek.

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We have to say that Tropicana Market was one of our most pleasant, diverse and delicious Middle Eastern shopping experiences and that we recommend it to everyone we know and love for a journey deep into the savory and sweet secrets of Middle Eastern cooking and culture.

Tropicana Market, 1406 East Huntington Drive, Duarte, CA 91010
Phone – 626-357-4580        websitetropicanamarket.com

Our Dream Fish Market

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We love fish and are always looking for the freshest fish markets.  We think we have found a winner in Seafood Paradise.

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We were thrilled with the colorful Sea Worldesk tanks which are pristinely clean and loaded with lively fish and shellfish.

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Beautiful shelled creatures lounge under fountains of crystal clear cascading waters.

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The infinity pool concept abounds along the western wall, constantly circulating and purifying the watery enclosures.

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What looked to us like very happy shrimp and oysters do what they do best in their spotless homes.

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We also love the prices and saw such as Maine lobster for $9.99 a pound and Dungeness crab at $12.99 a pound.

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If exotic is your thing, sea snails are abundant.

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As are live frogs at $4.99 a piece.

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Besides the numerous tanks with live sea creatures they also feature fresh seafood on ice.

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All looking bright eyed and ready to go these beauties were also well priced.

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Eel and squid glisten, packed on ice and ready to become part of our favorite Asian recipes.

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A tiny produce section carries some essentials to enhance the fish dishes. All in all we found Seafood Paradise to be immaculately clean, with beautiful live and fresh on ice seafood. They are happy to take care of the challenging task of dispatching our super fresh dinner which we greatly appreciate, and they do it all with prices that make the drive out to Rosemead a no brainer.

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Seafood Paradise Fish Market, 8955 East Garvey Avenue, Rosemead, CA 91770
Phone – 626-288-2088

Killer Banh Mi

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Always on the lookout for the consummate banh mi, Vietnam’s perfect melding of cuisines with the French baguette in sandwich form, we have definitely found a top contender coming out of the tiny kitchen at Banh Mi My Tho.

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The space is minuscule but mighty.  The counter is lined with a selection of dishes to go, if something calls don’t hesitate to grab it.

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A heated case displays egg rolls, pork loaf, fried chicken and pork meat balls threaded onto skewers all reasonably priced under $2.00.

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Stacks of sweets offer a delightful way to complete your meal.

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This family run business established in 1993, offers charming and dedicated service with the intention of making  customers happy and that they do in spades.

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This is a takeout only set up and if you are not going to be eating your banh mi immediately it’s best to have them wrap the vegetables separately to keep the ingredients in their most pristine state.

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We arrived home and cranked up the toaster oven where we heated up the sweet and savory, juicy marinated pork with caramelized edges.  We also toasted the soft yet sturdy French baguette before stuffing it full of the cilantro, cucumber spears, pickled radish and carrot, with the final addition of jalapeño slices for a pop of fresh heat. The resulting sandwich is perfection in our book. Warm toasted bread and tender fragrant pork flecked with roasted peanuts are a sublime contrast to the tang of picked and fresh herbs and vegetables.

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The meat balls are light, gratifying, sweet, porky goodness that also reheat extremely well.

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For one of the best banh mi in the San Gabriel Valley and some seriously memorable Vietnamese dishes for your next picnic, party, event or meal, Banh Mi My Tho is a do not miss Vietnamese hidden treasure.

Banh Mi My Tho, 304 West Valley Boulevard, Alhambra, CA 91803
Phone – 626-289-4160         web site – banhmimytho.com

Frozen Popcorn Is An Inspired Idea.

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We love California for embracing all cultures, lifestyle choices and new ideas, especially in edible delights.

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We heard about California Mad Poppers, also known as California Frozen Poppers and were so intrigued we had to stop by. Inside we found an ice cream case housing bins of frozen popcorn. Yes, frozen, popped and flavored popcorn. The point is to keep the well loved snack as fresh as possible and freezing does just that. Who knew?  We were informed that after snacking we can slide the zip lock bag shut and toss it back in the freezer as many times as we like, keeping the popped corn as fresh as the day we purchased it.

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The attributes of this popcorn are impressive. First it’s air popped, then handmade daily, with zero preservatives, it’s gluten free and crafted with a 100 year old secret family caramel recipe.

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If all that doesn’t impress, then sampling some of their concoctions should do the trick. Generous in allowing customers to savor the flavors, we tasted the famous family recipe Caramel, rich Peanut Butter, Garlic Breath for serious garlic lovers, a variety of the cheese flavors and the Nutty Midnight Madness.

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First thing that hits is how fresh, crispy and delightful frozen popcorn is. Then their dedication to flavor intensity shines through. The best selling spicy popcorn called Aztec Gold, seduces with a quick snap of spice, before revealing its sweet carmel undertones and then sliding down the throat with a slow burn. This heavenly balance of sweet, salty and spicy is a flavor profile we adore and exactly what Aztec Gold delivers.

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They have a buy 3 get one bag free deal at the moment and a slew of special flavors for the season. We left with a big bag of Aztec Gold and a promise to ourselves to try more flavors and bring some to our next party so we can turn our friends on to the joys of frozen popcorn.

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What we first imagined was a novelty has us now convinced that this is the future of fresh popcorn. We are excited to experienced the next incarnation of one of the worlds favorite snack foods. Thank you Mad California Poppers for the brilliant fresh storage idea, your commitment to healthy, chemical free snacks and tantalizing flavors, you’ve got a winner.

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California Frozen Poppers, 7138 Shoup Avenue, Ste 1, Canoga Park, CA 91307
Phone – 818-888-4767           web site – camadpoppers.com

 

Rainbow Acres Brings Health And Wellness Home

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Always on the lookout for exciting options, we find Rainbow Acres, a local institution since 1981, to be a great education. They are a locally owned, full service food and lifestyle store offering healthy options for almost every area of life.

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The body care section is staffed with trained team members to assist in sorting through products, ensuring customers choose the best remedies for their needs.

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By purchasing from manufacturers and businesses dedicated to raw, vegan, gluten free, organic, healthy, wholesome and sustainable products, we are able to contribute not only to our own health but also the health of the planet.

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A certified organic produce section beams with colorful fruits and vegetables.

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Bulk items allow us to purchase just the amounts we need from canisters of grains, nuts, cereals, snacks, coffee, spices and more.

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We are also excited by the concept of cleaning products that are all natural and do their job without harming us, our family or the environment.

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A full service deli provides breakfast Monday through Friday plus a daily juice bar, salad bar, sandwich bar and hot food case. Everything is clearly labeled if gluten free, free range, etc, and lists ingredients so patrons can make informed choices.

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We love the juice bar which is always busy cranking out wheatgrass shots, fresh juices, smoothies, milkshakes and non dairy shakes.

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We couldn’t resist a kale, green apple, ginger and cucumber juice that radiated hot and spicy from the ginger and pure refreshment from the organic greens.

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For a serious immersion into the world of health and wellness for home and daily life, Rainbow Acres is a great spot to ask questions, try products, learn about healthy brands, eat fresh and nourishing cuisine and drink a shot of wellness in a cup. Not a bad way to spend an hour of our time.

Rainbow Acres Natural Foods, 13208 West Washington Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90066
Phone – 310-306-8330           web site – rainbowacresca.com

Succulent Rotisserie Chicken Near LAX

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A little yellow, orange house on South Inglewood Avenue, just a hop, skip and a jump from LAX, echoes with the aroma of roasting chickens. The cacophony spills out onto the sidewalk, drawing guests in. Although most customers already know what to expect when they enter Lennox Pollo.

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Two tables and eight chairs are the extent of the eat-in options. The rest of the casita is devoted to preparing, roasting and serving the fresh-off-the-spit fowl.

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The menu is in Spanglish, with the only important question being, how many chickens do you want?  We chose number 2, the mini pak, which is not so mini.  An entire chicken is served with both a pint of pinto beans and one of rice, warm tortillas and salsa.

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Behind the counter they grab a chicken and have at it with a serious cleaver. “Whap, whap, whap”, and you’ve got yourself a beautifully cut bird.

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The sides are basic and mix well with the flavor-packed chicken.

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The potato salad is an add on at the lower end of the menu, but they are happy to give you a taste of this carb load of potato, mayonnaise, and a pickled tang that cuts its richness.

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We wrapped everything in the tortilla and bit through the warm, soft, corn casing, past the mild cool salsa, through tender layers of chicken meat, beans and rice, down to the final crunch of long cooked crispy skin, extracting a flavor, texture and temperature bomb of delightful proportions.

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The staff is constantly preparing more chicken for the rotisserie, as the brisk take out business here is key and the need to keep up with demand paramount.

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The fire slowly licks each marinated caracas with a steady flame while the fat drips down on the lower birds. The mechanism then has them rising again in a circular motion, keeping all the meat juicy, tender and flavor-filled.

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Most orders are prepared to go and Lennox Pollo does a great packing job. One of the things we like best about about this establishment is that they have a formula for one thing that they do exceptionally well and they stick to that. We enjoy it immensely when the only decision we need to make is, how many of the specialty do we want.  There is something very nostalgic and heartwarming about a singly minded business not trying to do everything under the sun, when they have their product down pat.

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If you happen to be near LAX and in need of half a bird or 20 of the browned beauties, then Lennox Pollo is worth a serious look-see.  You will however want to call ahead on that 20 chicken order, just to be sure.

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Lennox Pollo, 10822 South Inglewood Avenue, Inglewood, CA 90304
Phone – 310-672-4850

Hidden Chinese Cookie and Noodle Company

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A light grey building located downtown, between Union Station and the Los Angeles River, with minimal markings houses Amay’s Bakery & Noodle Company.  You may not know them by name, but you have most likely eaten either their fortune cookies or almond cookies in a Chinese Restaurant.

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Primarily a wholesale outfit, Amay’s is open to the public and they sell small to jumbo quantities of cookies, crispy soup noodles, wonton wrappers and fresh noodles. A price list on the wall states the cost of commercial size products for restaurants or those planing on doing some major cooking at home.

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Not much to see here, just a small entry and an order window where we picked up a container of 27 super fresh almond cookies for $3.65. They also have the same crisp, buttery cookies in lemon or pecan for a change of pace.

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A fortune cookie grave yard just past the delivery area is loaded with those lost souls that didn’t make the grade.

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A look down on the ground offers random fortunes and advice to those called to heed the message.

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The debate over who invented the fortune cookie appears to have been won by the Japanese, who have a block print dating back to 1878 depicting a man using a hand operated cookie grill. The system is now automated and has been taken over by the Chinese with whom the fortune cookie is more commonly associated. We find no Chinese meal complete until we have had a bite of this crisp folded wafer and share the enclosed wisdom with our dinner companions.

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To procure super fresh fortune cookies, almond cookies as well as the basics for any Asian gaterhing, Amay’s is a great spot for the best priced basic ingredients. Be aware that they are open 8 AM to 4:30 PM Monday through Friday and are closed on weekends, please plan accordingly.

Amay’s Bakery & Noodle, 837 East Commercial Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone – 213-626-2713      web site – amaysbakery.com

Airy Danish Pastry in Culver City

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Copenhagen Pastry opened its Culver City doors three years ago with a commitment to Danish recipes, traditional baking methods and the finest quality ingredients, resulting in pastries that are flaky, light and delicately sweet.

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Copenhagen bakes throughout the day so customers can watch the process and always leave with the freshest baked goods in tow.

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One of their signature offerings is a wholegrain rye bread which incorporates whole rye berries, black flax seed, sunflower and sesame seeds into a healthy high-fiber bread that is low in sodium and sugar free.

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The fillings are predominately almond paste, custard, cinnamon, almond flakes and traditional Danish fruit of apples and raspberries.

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Not to be missed favorites include the kringle, a light layered feathery base, filled with a mix of almond paste and custard, topped with almond slivers and a sprinkle of sugar, for $1.95 a slice or as a full kringle cake or line at $11.00.

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The Copenhagen is a puff pastry filled with a stripe of vanilla custard that celebrates the best of flakey danish and rich eggy custard.

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The morning poppy is an extensively multi-layered dream with a butter brushed middle that takes the concept of sublime pastry to new heights of joyfulness.

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While the Napoleon’s hat is stuffed with a dense almond paste that gives the cookie like crust a charming play mate.

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Attention to detail, exceptional customer service, a comittment to freshness and high quality ingredients, make Copenhagen Pastry a stand out in Culver City and now in Pasadena, well worth the indulgence.

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Copenhagen Pastry, 11113 Washington Boulevard, Culver City, CA 90232
Phone – 310-839-8900        web site – copenhagenpastry.com

or

Copenhagen Pastry, 3731 East Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91107
phone – 626-792-7200