Tuesday, March 24, 2009

La Provence, Los Angeles CA

Like any aspiring fan of all that is delicious I did my research – someplace that opens before 7am and has great baked goods and is near enough to Cedars-Sinai so that I can find parking and make my 8am interview. After a recent trek of the French bakeries of San Francisco the name “La Provence” stuck out like a sore thumb, the reviews were solid, it opened at 6:30, and it was located on Olympic only 4 miles from the Medical Center…sold! An early morning run and lift at Bally’s (5am,) a quick shower, and throwing on the black Versace suit I made my way over to La Provence and saw the sign “no pictures” clear as day on the door……sigh, another bakery that thinks it is somehow “better” than the French Laundry, Alex, or Charlie Trotters. Ignoring the signs I proceeded to snap pictures both inside and out – nothing was said by either clerk.

Quite empty for so early in the morning I browsed the cases and must admit that aside from the enormous $28 Red Velvet cupcake there wasn’t too much “unique” about La Provence’s items, but all looked nice and fresh. After approximately 2-3 minutes of browsing I was finally asked by a clerk if I would like to order and I said sure, selecting 4 items. “For here or to go?” said the clerk. “For here.” “You are going to eat all of this alone? You are too skinny.” I laughed…I’ve eaten more….their portions weren’t exactly supersized. “Take a seat, I will bring it to you shortly.”

Confused because the items were all plainly available in the case, I took a seat…and 5 minutes passed before I was brought the items and a bill – odd. My first taste of the goods was a $2.95 Almond Croissant – appropriately crispy on the outside I waited for the soft inside to give way to some Almond flavor or compote…a flavor that never came. On examination this was simply a plain croissant with approximately 2 almonds chopped into small pieces on top.

Disappointed in the Croissant I next moved onto the $1.75 Pistacchio Macaron. Soft on the outside and creamy sweet on the inside, this cookie was appropriately formed but certainly not on par with that of Keller, Paulette, or Boulangerie. Average at best.

My next choice, the Cinnamon-Custard Roll, another disappointment. Similar pate a choux style pastry to the Croissant the buttery roll was tasty enough and the cinnamon/powdered sugar appropriately sweet, but the custard was largely flavorless and added nothing to the cinnamon roll aside from some moisture. Yawn.

Finally, having read allegations that La Provence’s Red Velvet Cupcake was the best in LA I decided to give it a chance…and was disappointed yet again. The frosting was not cream-cheese or fruitfully accented but merely a thick sugary buttermilk and as such not even remotely authentic. The cake itself was moist but lacked the cocoa punch of Yummy or Vanilla and wasn’t even close to the versions at Sweet Lady Jane or Jack n’ Jills.

All told I found La Provence to be off the beaten path and perhaps “undiscovered,” but at the same time I can’t really name any item that was worthy of discovery. Perhaps in the future I’d return to try their modestly priced $7 Croque Madame…but probably not.

1 comment:

lien said...

If you like plain croissant i like to recommend Anisette Brasserie
http://www.anisettebrasserie.com/, very buttery and flaky