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Black China Bakery & vegan-oriented shop in Santa Cruz

Carb Lover | Jul 13, 200503:00 PM

I noticed a new business in my neighborhood of Seabright last week and popped in yesterday afternoon to have a looksy and taste. Black China Bakery and Cafe has been open for 5 wks. now and already has a following from their ongoing wholesale business that includes clients like Whole Foods and Rainbow Grocery. I learned this from last week's article in the Sentinel (see link for address and hours). The article says that 2/3rds of their offerings are vegan, which sets them apart from many other bakeries in the area. Even though I'm skeptical about vegan baked goods, I'm not one to dismiss a new bakery.

The shop is connected to Ironwood, an artsy boutique home store that has many beautiful (but pricey) wares. I was told that the owners of each business are friends and wanted to have such a partnership. If one doesn't want to be tempted by Ironwood's enticements or feel guilty for not buying anything, then Black China has a separate entrance from the back that connects to the public parking lot just west of the locale.

Upon entering the narrow doorway, I was struck w/ how light and airy the small place was. There's one small counter w/ baked goods displayed on covered cake plates and one fridge case that houses delicate iced cupcakes and cakes. The counter is where you place your order, pay, and all the food is prepped. The eating area is mostly an outdoor courtyard that is shaded by undulating marigold cloth swaths. There's an indoor nook w/ a banquette that would be perfect for a bridal shower or small private party. Bamboo decor gives it a Zen garden feel, and the urban casual ambience reminds me of something that would be on Melrose or Montana Ave. in LA. It def. has more of a "chick" vibe, but don't most bakeries?

I was there around 2:30pm so the bakery pickings were slimmer but they had scones, shortbread cookies, pumpkin choc chip cookies, choc and vanilla cupcakes, carrot cake, and sour cream cake w/ raspberry icing. I'm forgetting one or two things. About half of the bakery items were vegan. Prices ranged from $1-3.25.

In addition to baked goods, they have a small breakfast and lunch menu that I was told would be gradually expanded. They had one soup of the day and about 4-5 different sandwiches; I believe they were mostly (if not all) vegetarian but not necessarily vegan. Prices ranged from $4-7 and sandwiches come w/ a side salad. Soup of the day was tomato bisque.

I didn't feel like having a full lunch, so settled on two baked goods to go. Pictured below is a vegan cranberry scone (opened up to reveal the crumb) for $2 and pumpkin choc chip cookie for $1. I was surprised at how tasty the scone was and would have never guessed it was vegan. Ok, maybe vegan baked goods can taste good. Light and somewhat flakey crumb w/ a hint of orange zest and sweetness. The pumpkin cookie wasn't vegan, but I didn't care for it at all. I realize I don't like that combo of flavors, and it reminded me of a healthy power bar or something.

I would buy the scone again if in a scone mood and want to try the non-vegan scone for comparison sake. Also want to return for their food one day when I can have a leisurely brunch/lunch in their sunny courtyard. They obviously use good ingredients, and I have a feeling that they can balance the healthy w/ tasty pretty well. The women working there were also very inviting and helpful.



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