It’s been a banner year for Valerie Gordon and Stan Weightman Jr., the husband and wife team behind Valerie Confections. The dynamic duo, who first introduced L.A. to their outrageously good toffee, jams, and petit fours in 2004 with their storefront in Silver Lake, have expanded to Downtown’s Grand Central Market and most recently, to Echo Park.
Valerie GCM opened in late May with weekday breakfast and lunch service, and introduced weekend brunch a few weeks later.
Whereas the Silver Lake shop is squarely focused on sweets, with the occasional savory hand pie available on weekends, Valerie GCM offers an updated take on the classic lunch counter slash coffee shop experience, fitting of its vintage environs.
On the two occasions that The Astronomer and I visited Valerie’s, the counter was humming but not bustling, which made finding a seat a breeze and service very much on point.
Continue reading ‘Valerie Grand Central Market – Los Angeles (Downtown)’
Randy’s Donuts is famous for the gargantuan, doughnut-shaped sign perched atop its building on the corner of Manchester and La Cienega Boulevards in Inglewood. Designed by Henry J. Goodwin, the shop was originally part of the now-defunct Big Donut Drive-In chain.
For the past four decades, brothers Larry and Ron Weintraub have owned the 24-hour drive-through operation, maintaining the iconic signage with each passing year.
The shop offers deep-fried classics like old fashions, twists, and jelly-filled, as well as “Fancies” like apple fritters and bear claws. All are reasonably priced in the neighborhood of one dollar a piece.
For my inaugural trip to Randy’s, I brought along my friend Nastassia. Her passion for doughnuts rivals mine, so it was fitting that we visit this Los Angeles landmark together.
Continue reading ‘Randy’s Donuts – Los Angeles (Inglewood)’
Inventive sweets that aren’t too sugary are what it’s all about at this Downtown bakeshop. The lovely lady behind the operation is Sharlena Fong, a one-time New York City consultant who left the corporate world to pursue her true passion: desserts.
After refining her palate and techniques at Eleven Madison Park, Per Se, and Bouchon Bakery in New York City and at Nickel Diner in Los Angeles, she teamed up with Dennis Hunter and James Gonzales to open Semi Sweet Bakery.
My first visit to the bakery coincided with an early morning photo shoot. I’d been snapping away since the wee hours and wanted nothing more than to be comforted and re-energized with a suite of sweets.
Quite predictably, I zeroed in on the doughnuts first. Semi Sweet’s cake doughnuts are baked rather than fried, and the results were damn good. The “Strawberry Shortcake” had a delicate crumb and terrific texture; I didn’t miss the deep-fried oil bath one bit. Fonuts: take note.
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Donut Bar, San Diego’s first and only gourmet doughnut shop, has been on my to-eat list since it debuted this past March. However, pulling myself out of bed on a Saturday morning early enough to grab these highly coveted wares has thus far proved to be impossible.
Recently though, the shop added Sunday hours, which fortunately suits The Astronomer, me, and our dedication to nine hours of snoozin’ much better.
Owned and operated by Santiago Campa and Wendy Bartels in downtown San Diego, Donut Bar is open on weekdays from 7 AM until sold out, and on weekends from 8 AM until sold out. The Bar’s first floor is dedicated to doughnuts, while the second floor lounge is for lingering and waffles.
The shop’s ever-changing offerings are posted out front daily, as well as on Instagram (if you swing that way).
Continue reading ‘Donut Bar – San Diego’