I wanted to celebrate my recent complete recovery from a n illness by indulging in something I haven't had in 20 years - a banana split. If i'm going to indulge in such a treat, I'm going for the best I can get. I had heard there is at least one real old fashioned soda fountain left locally, in South Pasadena. Somebody here helped me - it's the Fair Oaks Pharmacy. I wanted to visit South Pas again, so I made the pilgrimage.
First I visited Bristol Farms, one of those upscale goor-may supermarkets. Nice place, but seemed overall rather small to me. Half the space seemed to be cookbooks and pots and pans and potato peelers and such. WHat food there is is top-notch if expensive; USDA Prime steaks at $23/lb, etc. I didn't see anything there you couldn't get at Gelson's if not Whole foods. The Whole Foods near me in Glendale must be at least 3 times as big. Had a very nice, cheap lunch at a Japanese place in the same mall as the Bristol. Forgot the name, something like "Happy Maki"; good Japanese food.
So I went on down to the Fair Oaks. Nifty place, tho as it is filled with kitschy, overpriced holiday crap for sale, it doesn't feel authentic enough to be truly 'old-fashioned'. Place seemed filed with locals who knew each other. I sat down at the counter, and told the kid to make me my first banana split in 20 years, hold the whipped cream. It tasted fine; the CC Brown hot fudge was especially good. But you know, it was just too indulgent; I couldn't eat more than about half. The kid said, "See you in another 20 years!", and I thought, You got that right. I'll probably go back soon for a milkshake, about all I can handle, but no fancy ice cream dishes for me.
On my way out, I noticed a place across the street, "Gus's B-B-Q", that looked interesting.. The old-fashined (1940's?) sign made it look like an old-time local's favorite. I stopped in to pick up a to-go menu, and I loved the interior. Can anybody tell me how the 'cue is here?
Next I hit Europane. It was my first visit to this somewhat famous bakery, on Colorado just east of Lake. I had heard the croissants were to die for. I got there about 4pm, and I was afraid they had sold out. The place was small, with a few picked-over items in the small display case. Sure enough, "We sold out of croissants at 10 am." Oh well, I know 4pm is late for a bakery. I had a blueberry brioche to go, which was quite good.
Last stop that day was the Taste of Bangkok Thai restaurant nearly next door. Had some food to go. It was good, but I've been hitting the Hollywood Thaitown restaurants a lot lately, and Taste pales next to them. OK, nothing special for me.
But I was still intrigued with Europane, based on glowing reviews I've read. Owner Sumi had previously worked making croissants for La Brea Bakery, and had struck out on her own. Last week I took a few vacation days to take care of business, and decided to take the opportunity to visit Europane on a weekday morning. The earliest I could get there was 10:15am on a rainy Thursday morning. Guess what. Sold out. Sh"t outta luck. I hate to get into such arguments in restaurants, especially with the minimum-wage help. But I couldn't help myself. "This is the second time I've been here, and you're sold out each time. Can I ask you, Why don't you just MAKE MORE CROISSANTS? That way, you'd sell more, and you wouldn't disappoint customers such as myself", I asked the gal at the counter. She recited,"Sometimes we have so many left at the end of the day, we have to throw some away, and we hate to do that".
You know what? I don't believe her. I don't believe they EVER have so many they have to throw them away. I believe that's what Sumi tells them to tell guys like me when they've sold out. Both days, they had sold out by 10 am, and that's probably the story every day. It's her business, and I don't like to tell other people how to run their business. But I've been in business for 25 years, and there's really no excuse for that. If she makes, say, 200 croissants in the morning, and they sell out by 10, she can make 400. And if she sells out 400 by noon, then she can make 600. and if she makes 600 and has to maybe thtow a few away at the end of the day occasionally, it is better that than to sell out 400 by noon. Even with a few tossed, she would both make a lot more money, and wouldn't dsappoint customers like myself. And I don't believe she has to "keep up the quality" or "the freshness" or whatever. She used to make croissants for the La Brea Bakery. I can buy La Brea stuff at my local supermarket, at Trader joe's, I can hardly walk out my front door without tripping over La Brea goods. They know how to produce artisan breads on a large scale daily. IF SHE WANTED TO, SHE COULD. If she just wants to serve the 9am and earlier customers, and disappoint me and turn up her nose at my money, fine, I'll go elsewhere.
Since I was there, I went ahead and had a coffee, an apple cobbler and a 'cheese pocket'. The coffee and the pocket were good, nothing special. The cobbler was much too soft and goopy. It spread into a flat mess on my plate, and wasn't that good. On leaving, I spied a much larger artisan bakery right across Colorado, I forget the name. Popped in, and bought a couple of croissants there with no BS. Best croissants I've had in years, even a day later. Europane? I won't bother to go there again.
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