The Sweet Life
The Sweet Life
Despite its commitment to looking good, LA has always had a sweet tooth: bread pudding for breakfast, cinnamon on everything, blueberry muffins to go, ice creams on the sidewalk and malt shakes in the car. There’s a lot of interesting stuff happening on the sweet side of things – chocolatiers are more of a thing than they’ve ever been. Patissiers, too, are newly in the limelight; there’s a renewed commitment to good bread and pastry, while a lot of the best restaurants in the city source their baked goods from Gjusta, the city’s loveliest and most esteemed bakery.
In 2008, Natasha Case and Freya Estreller started Coolhaus – another truck that came early to the movement. They wowed hot Angelenos with their architectural ice cream sandwiches, making ice cream in flavours like balsamic fig and mascarpone, coconut negroni, or pizza (!). They now have a shop in Culver City, trucks in New York and Dallas, and pre-packed ice cream sammies in shops across all 50 states.
The city has enjoyed a bit of a cocoa boom over the last few years, and though Compartés has been around since 1950, it has recently been given a new lease on life by chocolate genius Jonathan Grahm. Everything about Compartés has been overhauled – the flavours, the toppings, the branding – and the results have to be seen (and tasted) to be believed.
Jonathan’s chocolate reflects the city’s art, design, fashion and food. His truffles come in flavours such as browned butter, cactus, pear cardamom and honey rum, and are hand-painted with intricate zigzags, flamingos, swirls, or palm trees. And the bars are oblong works of art, too – the birthday cake bar is carved into triangles and covered in sprinkles, and tastes like cake batter. The S’mores bar is wrapped in a gorgeous photo collage of water, mountains, trees, flowers, and Jonathan’s two dogs.
The Pie Hole
You’ll wish you could be a regular at The Pie Hole, which is all about good coffee and sweet, seasonal pie by the slice. Organic brews are served in thick, hefty, diner-style mugs, while pie slices appear on paper plates and brown paper napkins. This pie-centric bakery is run by mother and son team Becky Grasley and Matthew Heffner, who had long dreamed of putting their sizeable recipe list to good use. They opened their first location on Traction Avenue, Downtown, and they now have three more shops – in Pasadena, Orange County and Hollywood.
It’s not all sweet. For breakfast, there are bacon, sausage, egg and cheese hand pies - the ideal, flaky breakfast companion for your morning cup of joe. Or, at lunchtime, the savoury side of the menu features pasty-style hand pies and cute individual pot pies, filled with Mac ’n’ Cheese or Chicken ’n’ Cornbread. Sweet is where this place really comes alive, however, whether you keep it simple with a slice of Mom’s Apple Crumble pie, or go all the way with Salted Caramel Pecan. The specialty lattes are delicious, too – try the horchata (a Mexican drink made of rice milk, almond milk and cinnamon), delicious hot or iced.
Los Feliz is a relaxed, Eastside neighbourhood just below Griffith Park and next to trendy Silver Lake. And Churro Borough is the ideal place to stop and take it all in – it’s a bright, open, mural-filled space with sunshine-yellow chairs. The mural on the façade was done by LA-based artist Hueman, one of the first artists commissioned to paint outside after the city lifted its street-art ban in 2013.
Churro Borough’s owner, Sylvia Yoo, makes beautiful small-batch ice creams every day, in ‘classic’ flavours such as Spanish Latte (espresso, condensed milk), vanilla custard and spicy hot chocolate. She develops seasonal flavours, too, like caramel peach cobbler, brown butter cookie and blood orange sorbet.
Yoo started as a “guerilla catering operation” in 2011 – a path taken by more and more LA food entrepreneurs – and in 2014 she opened the store. Her hero dessert is the churro ice cream sandwich, which she makes by piping churros into tight swirls to form discs in the fryer, so that they work as sugary, cinnamony vessels for ice cream. If you’re after something a bit more refreshing, there are a few select paletas up for grabs – in spicy mango, guava lime, or Kingswell Sucker Punch, a heady, sunny mix of passion fruit, guava, pineapple and orange.
Once you’ve tried all the chocolate and churros the city has to offer, you’ll need somewhere to sleep off the sugar rush. Whilst the rooms at The Line are undeniably beautiful, this big, brash mid-century modernist building is less of a hotel and more of a buzzing cultural hub. It’s a collaboration between Roy Choi of Kogi BBQ fame, twin nightlife and cocktail experts the Houston Brothers, designer Sean Knibb and homeware & design brand Poketo. The idea is that the hotel captures the 24-hour energy of its neighbourhood, Koreatown, and while there are a lot of bare concrete walls, particularly in the huge lobby, there’s also a lot going on behind the scenes: from Roy Choi’s Pot, a dark and sizzling take on a Korean restaurant, to the cute pool with cocktail service, and the big, bright greenhouse-like restaurant, The Commissary, which is ideal for brunch.
The rooms are perfectly formed little oases, with floor-to-ceiling windows that reveal the city in all of its glory, or a view of the Hollywood Hills, Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood sign out the back. These are the sweetest suites in town.