Huckleberry – the Best Bakery in LA

1 Dec

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Apologies to my ones of readers for the lack of posts lately. I have a little breathing space for a couple weeks, so you should see more douchey comments via this outlet.

I have been meaning to update with posts about some of my favorite places, rather than just places I’ve been to for the first time. Which brings us to Huckleberry, the place I wind up comparing all other pastries in LA to.

I’ve mentioned Huckleberry a number of times before. Zoe Nathan worked at Tartine, one of SF’s most beloved bakeries, and brought her baking magic to LA. With her husband, Josh Loeb, she runs a string of highly successful farm-to-table places in Santa Monica, from the flagship Rustic Canyon, to the pizzas and brunch Milo and Olive, and the sublime ice cream shops Sweet Rose Creamery.

Although Nathan and Loeb are LA natives, the sensibility of the restaurants is very Bay Area. Seasonal, local, farmer’s market-driven — although SaMo is full of places that follow the current Chez Panisse-inspired zeitgeist, no one in LA does it better than them. While Rustic Canyon is the show-stopper, Huckleberry was set up to highlight Nathan’s skills as a baker.

Let’s just start with a fact: LA baking overall stinks. People in LA view carbs as sinful and the quality of the bakeries reflects that. People have no idea what a proper baguette is supposed to be like, and the croissants are, frankly, embarrassing.

Huckleberry stands out as an exception. The pastries are not gimmicky or inventive. They are classic. And perfect.

Here is the pain au chocolat. Glistening outer shell, layers and layers of flaky goodness, and a streak of dark Valrhona chocolate in the middle.  Incredibly airy and rich, it’s beautiful.
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Here’s the croissant done with prosciutto and gruyere cheese.
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The maple bacon scone is also great. Niman Ranch bacon bits and a light touch with the maple syrup make this slightly dense scone tasty.
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The simple powdered doughnut hole is a great example of Nathan’s talents. Fresh and straight-forward, there is nothing unusual about this but it is very nice.
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Huckleberry has a version of the kouign amann that has become so popular around town. This is a crustier version than the Bread Lounge’s, and less caramelized than Bouchon’s.
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Besides the baked goods, Huckleberry is a serious meal destination. It’s my favorite brunch place in the city. Although, let me qualify that by saying that it is a huge pain. You wait in a long line to order (the same line as you suffer for ordering the baked goods), and then you lurk and pounce on any table that opens up. There’s no order to the chaos, other than the rule that you can’t claim a table until you order. It’s kind of a stressful headache and wouldn’t be worth it if the food weren’t so good. But then you find a table and the food comes and all is forgiven.

Here is the fried chicken plate. Done Ad Hoc-style with the chicken dredged in buttermilk and then coated with an almost Shake ‘n’ Bake crust. Served with a little side salad of arugula and a homemade biscuit.
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Next is the fried egg sandwich. This is a real achievement. It reflects classic Huckleberry sensibilities — top-shelf ingredients prepared simply to highlight the ingredients. Niman Ranch bacon, sunny side eggs, gruyere, arugula, a smear of aioli, served on Nathan’s country bread (stolen from Tartine, I’m sure). It’s generous and perfect.

A similarly awesome plate is the green eggs and ham — prosciutto, arugula, pesto, eggs, served on homemade English muffins. Just incredible.
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Last are a couple pictures of Nathan’s blueberry coffee cake, made from a recipe I got from the UCLA Food and Science Pie Lecture. The only innovations are a scoop of ricotta cheese and some cornmeal. Otherwise it’s a pretty simple cake. But wonderful.
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Huckleberry Bakery and Café
1014 Wilshire Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA
310-451-2311

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