Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sweet Lady Jane, Los Angeles CA

While some Angelos seem to believe that waiting in absurd lines at Sprinkles for sub-par cupcakes is “the thing to do,” I’ve already experienced Sprinkles and many other LA cupcakeries and been underwhelmed. While some (Vanilla and Yummy) have shined, the rest have been merely okay or largely unmemorable. Arriving in LA mid-day on a Sunday and not wanting to deal with the 20-deep line at Huckleberry I opted to make my first trip to Sweet Lady Jane’s. While many claim that the products have suffered since being sold at Ralph’s and others state the service is often surly, I figured that given the pedigree and focus on fresh seasonal ingredients couldn’t possibly yield anything but impressive results…and I was right.

Finding free parking on Kings street (how ironic) I made my way through the front door and although all the seats were filled I was amazed at the tiny size of the store and the quaint nature and quietness of the neighborhood despite the myriad stores along the street on the way. Greeted pleasantly by one of two ladies behind the counter I told her I needed to browse the selections first and was told to simply let her know when I was ready. While waiting four more people entered the store and were served in a similarly pleasant manner – no surly service noted.

Though everything on the menu looked delectable I was notably having dinner at Providence that evening and wanted to keep it light…so I only made 2 selections - The Summer Bread Pudding and a Red Velvet Cupcake.

Starting with the cupcake I can honestly say that this was, at the time, the best Red Velvet I’d yet experience in LA. Thick and smooth cream cheese frosting with hints of lemon, dense and moist cake that wasn’t “too sweet,” the cupcake was nearly as good as that at Bouchon Bakery in Vegas but vastly smaller, similar in price, and unfilled. Still warm I’m certain this cupcake, like most of SLJ’s creations, was fresh from the oven only moments before being placed out in the storefront for sale – excellent and well worth its $4 pricetag.

My second option, the summer berry bread pudding…it almost isn’t fair…it almost isn’t fair that something so good hadn’t graced my palate until the ripe-old age of 29. At $7 the nearly half-pound slice of cake was a veritable bargain given the quantity and freshness of the berries – there were so many that one could almost pretend this pudding was healthy if it weren’t for the wonderfully decadent layers of buttery croissant in between. With only the natural sweetness of the berries shining through and complimented by the whipped topping this dish was without a doubt the best fruit-based bread pudding ever and reason alone to rank SLJ at the apex of LA pastry shops. Dense, moist, decadent, and absolutely loaded with fresh berries – plus fresh hand whipped cream…sigh.

All told my trip to SLJ cost m $12 and provided two of the best desserts I’ve ever experienced. Combined with the quality of preparation, friendly service, and lack of hipster/trendster lines I can definitely say I’d head back to Jane’s 10+ times before ever making my way to Sprinkles again.

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