Vegas has a few good French bakeries, such as Manon Patisserie on W. Charleston, and Bouchon Bakery at the Venetian. But if you want great muffins, cinnamon rolls or sticky buns in a neighborhood location, you are SOL. (That’s not a texting acronym as far as I know, but I think you can work it out.)
Imagine, then, a place that has great American pastries AND great French pastries, a place that serves Peet’s as their house coffee, and makes the greatest egg salad in the history of the species. You are at Europane in Pasadena, Sumi Chang’s seminal eatery, a scant three and one-half hour drive from my house in Green Valley.
Sumi, a Korean immigrant, learned her craft under the tutelage of the justly famous Nancy Silverton, founder of La Brea Bakery, bread maker extrordinaire, (and to some cognoscenti, American’s premier dessert chef.) I was a regular here when I lived in this hamlet before moving to Vegas, and it is my first stop virtually every time I drive to LA.
Many are the mornings I rise at 5:30, in order to be at the bakery by 9 am to catch a cinnamon roll hot from the oven. The LA Times, my former employer, may be a rag, but it is like the Magna Carta compared to the RJ, which isn’t fit for kitty litter. So I am now in the bakery, having just demolished Sumi’s latest creation-the Europane donut-really a yeasty bun with a sugary crust, a riff on Madison, Wisconsin’s famous morning bun.
Yesterday, I dragged a friend over here and we split a cinnamon roll, made with dough dripping butter, and a light glaze. He proclaimed it excellent, but maintained that the one served at Tartine Bakery in San Francisco still the ne plus ultra. Perhaps he’s right when it comes to the cinnamon roll. But Europane makes incredible breads, and sandwiches here are works of art.
Take the Croque Monsieur, a Parisian classic, here made with the option of having bacon instead of the usual ham. I always get the bacon, a home smoked product, on either olive or multi-grain bread, with a cheesy Bechamel sauce topping. Egg salad is served on your choice of breads, too, smeared with a sun-dried tomato spread. These eggs are lightly boiled, then finely chopped and mixed with condiments, a scandalous amount of butter, and trace elements of mayonnaise. Sheer genius, totally bad for us.
Many of Sumi’s pastries are state-of-the-art. Muffins are bionic in size, buttery, crusty and moist in their centers. The sticky bun must have two dozen pecans stuck into rich, maple-y topping. (It’s made with that same good dough used in the cinnamon roll.)
Sumi makes her own marshmallows, and long cheese sticks that you can’t stop eating. One of my favorite things to start the day with here is the rustic fruit tart, especially the apple, which has a tangy finish. Sugar is used judiciously here. The bakery is not afraid of it, but there is never too much. One could not make the same argument for butter. I’d wager that no one on a diet will want to be a regular here.
Sumi’s original bakery is at 960 E. Colorado Blvd., a small, funky place where one has to walk through the kitchen to get to the restroom. The newer, more Yuppified version is located down the street at 345 E. Colorado Blvd., across from the tony shopping mall called Paseo Colorado.
The crowds are very different in the two bakeries. The original location is artsy and Bohemian, a tad down at the heels, and the customers are too. The new location draws the more upscale, whitebread clientele Pasadena is famous for, clean as a whistle, and generally quiet at early morning. Either one beats the hell out of anything in Vegas.
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