Christina Olufson's Favorite Sweets in Los Angeles
At 469 square miles, L.A. can be an overwhelming place to seek out new sweets. To point you in the direction of some worthy options, we're turning to Christina Olufson, Executive Pastry Chef at Luques, a.o.c., and Tavern/The Larder. Christina's picks cover a wide variety of different indulgences, ranging from coffee crunch cake in downtown L.A. to a sticky toffee pudding in Venice.
Cracked Cookie from Red Bread: I love all the different textures in the cookie, and that it's like a granola bar and cookie in one. It's got large chunks of chocolate, walnuts and oats, and the sprinkle of salt on the top makes it really addicting. Their marshmallows are also killer, my favorite has been the Tangerine Dreamsicle.
Brunette with Pine Nuts and Thyme from Shortcake: I'm not much of a chocolate person so an uber rich brownie isn't something I normally crave. The brunette is perfect to satisfy my sweet tooth, having the same texture and chewiness of a brownie with savory notes from the thyme and pine nuts. The buttercups (their version of a kouign amann), if you're lucky enough to get one, are also a real treat.
Salted Chocolate Chip Cookie and Flavored Meringues from Proof Bakery: This chocolate chip cookie is a more "traditional" chocolate chip cookie, with perfectly crisp edges and chewy center. The addition of salt really brings out the flavor of the chocolate and enhances its brown sugar-y notes. Their large, pillowy meringues are crisp and melt-in-your-mouth. My favorites are the chocolate-hazelnut or strawberry. What makes everything here so special is their 50+ year old Dalton oven, with double doors that can fit several sheet trays and over 70 pies!
Sweet Potato Pretzel from Coffee Tomo: This savory/sweet treat has Japanese sweet potato filling and mozzarella cheese. They bake them to order, so they come out so piping hot, with lava-like cheese. The burns are worth it!
Torta Della Nona from Osteria Mozza: Hands down my favorite restaurant dessert in town! This traditional Tuscan dessert meaning "Grandmother's Cake" has a slightly sweet ricotta custard in a tender pastry shell. It comes out of the kitchen perfectly warm, with pine nuts and three types of honey (the small piece of fresh honeycomb being my favorite).
Shaved Ice from Blockheads Shavery: On warm summer nights there is a line down the street, and I'm happy to wait for my black sesame shaved ice with coconut puree, mochi, rice cakes (made fresh daily) and honey boba. It can look a bit intimidating when you get your large cup of shaved ice but once you take a bite, it's the lightest and fluffiest thing you've ever eaten and is easy to finish by yourself. Their flavors also include the original condensed milk flavor, green tea, and strawberry with toppings like sweet red beans, lychee, crushed Oreos and caramel sauce.
Sticky Toffee Pudding with Ginger Ice Cream from Gjelina: When you order this dessert you get exactly that: a square piece of cake covered in toffee sauce and a scoop of ice cream right on top. The cake is served warm and is moist and full of flavor without being overly sweet. It's the best cake and ice cream combo!
Coffee Crunch Cake from Valerie's at GCM: Valerie's Coffee Crunch Cake is her version of the classic cake from Blum's in San Francisco. Although it closed in the '70's, it's left a lasting impression and I've had several requests for it at Tavern. It's true to the original form: moist sponge cake with hints of lemon and vanilla, layered with coffee whipped cream and covered in home-made crunchy "honeycomb" candy.
About the author: Erin Jackson is a food writer and photographer who is obsessed with discovering the best eats in San Diego. You can find all of her discoveries on her San Diego food blog EJeats.com. On Twitter, she's @ErinJax