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3-HOUR TOUR

2 Places to Pass the Time, One to Pass the Scones

October 27, 1994|BENJAMIN EPSTEIN | Benjamin Epstein is a free-lance writer who contributes frequently to The Times Orange County Edition.

You can pass time at the Environmental Nature Center, then watch time pass at Buck's Clocks in Newport Beach. And fat-free bear claws? It was only a matter of time.

8 to 8:40 a.m.: How fresh is fresh? You can pick up a complete schedule outlining availability of dozens of breads at Sun Flour Bakery; call in the morning to find out what time your favorite will come out of the ovens, then allow two hours for the bread to cool before slicing.

All of the breads are free of fat, processed sugars and dairy products. The bakery also offers nonfat pastries including raisin-pineapple scones more moist than most non- nonfat scones; its regular scones include chocolate chip pecan.

"We truck in organic grains from Montana and mill them right here so even our flour is fresh every day," owner Craig Clayton explained. "The moisture in the nonfat products comes from fruit or, in the case of the scones, nonfat yogurt."

Cheddar jalapeno onion bread and challah (Jewish egg bread) are available every day; pletzel (flat onion bread) and orange pecan are among those offered occasionally. Walnut spice bread is reputedly good for French toast and turkey sandwiches. Fat-free bagels include ones called 3 Seed and 9 Grain.

Sun Flour is a busy place, and communication isn't always easy.

"What's your oddest item?" I asked with a reporter's curiosity.

"The focaccia, " said the clerk.

"That's not odd."

"Oh, I thought you meant hot as in good . Our jalapeno Cheddar bread is the hottest."

"Oddest! Oddest!"

"Oh, that kind of hottest. The cinnamon rolls go like crazy, so do the tea cakes, and we never have any focaccia left."

"Never mind. How's the chocolate chip bread?"

"Oooh, that's gooood. . . ."

The chocolate chip is made with cinnamon, chocolate chips, walnuts, apples, raisins and raspberries, and it is good.

But the focaccia--with rosemary, basil, onion, two kinds of olives, two kinds of peppers, two kinds of cheeses--was too good to be true. And perfect with a cup of Huehuetenango coffee from Guatemala.

8:40 to 10:30: The 2.5-acre Environmental Nature Center is both a conservation area and outdoor classroom for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.

Given the intimate scale of the center, the trails through a dozen native plant communities provide a considerably longer walk than you would imagine.

Right now there are autumn leaves on the ground. It is the nature of brooks to babble, and the one here is no exception. Look for frogs in the pond and trapdoor spiders in the chaparral. Also watch for the occasional spider web. The place is delightfully overgrown.

"We built the whole center over 23 years," explained Susan Clark. "It was a dump site. That's a recycling stream and pond and a static pond from the overflow. That's not algae, that's pollen. It looks funky, but it's meant to be that way. It's a pond in transition."

By the time I noticed the discreet markers along the path, I was making a transition from "southern oak woodland" to "redwood forest . " There are also views over the fence of some very nice yards, apparently reciprocal: Treehouses seem pretty popular in this neck of Newport Beach.

10:30 to 11: If you think time flies at the Nature Center, check out Buck's Clocks. At any given time, there are more than 1,000 clocks at the shop, and no two faces are alike.

Sun Flour Bakery has been in business one year; Buck's family has been in clocks for 102.

"My great-grandfather William Buchmeier Emenger was called Buck for short," Bob Emenger said. "Now everybody refers to me as Buck, and when my son Bill takes over, he'll be Buck, too."

The range in cost and age of items at Buck's is considerable. Watches not reclaimed after repair are priced just over repair cost. New clocks are on one side of the shop, antiques dating to 1689 on the other.

Grandfather clocks start at $850; an example by Endicott--the other two famous London clockmakers were Elliot and Elicott--recently fetched $35,000.

So if all those clocks are busy keeping time, how come they all strike at different times?

"So many people ask to hear this clock or that, what you do is move the hands around," Emenger said. "It's too much bother to set them all at once."

On a dog clock, circa 1926, the pup's stationary eyelashes mark the hours, the moving eyes indicate the time ($275). A National Time Recorder time punch dates from 1920 ($1,550), and an Art Deco clock from 1932 features three elephants on a tres moderne triangular clock ($5,000).

A gold clock featuring Cupid looking through the wrong end of a telescope took a prize at the 1855 Paris Expo ($9,750). A new clock called "The Rhythm" ($339) has toy men that rise up on the quarter hour, strike up Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" on little bells with little hammers, then slowly sink back into the base.

3-HOUR TOUR

1. Sun Flour Bakery

427 E. 17th St.

(714) 646-1440

Open Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

2. Environmental Nature Center

1601 W. 16th St.

(714) 645-8489

Open Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

3. Buck's Clock Shoppe

1735 Westcliff Drive

(714) 631-3215

Open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Parking/Buses

Parking: There is ample parking in lots at each location.

Buses: OCTA Bus 45 runs north and south along 17th Street, Westcliff Drive, Dover Drive and 16th Street.

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